From NBC’s Chuck Todd
My friends at Hardball ask me to keep tabs on the AFSCME forum and share my extraneous thoughts as these folks were speaking. Here you go – random thoughts from the morning so far. First off, what a great show. Forums are usually a bore but this one was fun to watch and Chris kept it moving. These candidates tried hard not to make news, but they certainly fed off the crowd which also kept the energy level up. Overall, it’s a forum format other groups (both left and right) ought to copy. This works. Now, for some candidate-by-candidate chatter … please forgive the stream of consciousness of it. Between morning conference call planning and “First Read,” it was necessary to keep thoughts short and, well, all over the map:
Richardson: He is so much better in a forum format than a debate format. One of the surprises of this campaign has been his weakness at the debates. Today was a better day for him; he looked good and he sounded confident.
Kucinich: He has an amazing ability to not seem like he’s in the same room as other folks on stage. He’s very self-aware, almost too much so that it makes him seem somehow aloof. It’s odd, I wish I were a better writer so that I could explain it better. Bottom line: He’s more in line on the issues with the rank-n-file than anyone else on stage and yet, he’s getting less traction this cycle than he did four years ago.
Clinton: There was an odd standoff moment over Scooter Libby between Clinton and Chris Matthews. Clinton egged on the audience as a way to dodge answering it. But, curiously, she didn’t answer with a definitive no. Why? Seems like a homerun for her. What’s fascinating, though, is that Clinton, once again, (as even Chris admitted to the audience) took control of the format – just like she did at the last CNN debate. She’s a presence.
Edwards: One of the early disappointments for Edwards has to be the lack of unified labor support he’s received. On paper, he should be labor’s first choice. But clearly, both Clinton and Obama are courting various unions hard. It’s likely labor will once again splinter between the top three candidates and therefore render itself less significant. If Edwards becomes the nominee, it will be because labor decided to unify and get behind him. He needs labor’s support more than either Obama and Clinton and if unions think about it, they’ll likely have a bigger seat at the table with Team Edwards than with either Team Clinton or Team Obama. He came across much more well-informed on key AFSCME issues than the other candidates. Thank you David Bonior? (Bonior is Edwards’ campaign manager and the ex-Dem congressman who was labor’s best friend in Congress).
Obama: Somebody ate their Wheaties this morning. He had more passion in his opening statement than he’s had at any of the debates. Nothing like a live audience to get him fired up. Matthews giving Obama the “Bobby Kennedy” treatment had to make the Obama folks happy. By the way, the Matthews’ question about the “old fights” brought an interesting response from Obama. He added that he wasn’t afraid of a “good fight.” Looks like this criticism of him that he may not be tough enough to take on the Clintons or the Republicans is having an effect on him. Obama really was on his game, overall. The line about Hubert Humphrey was fun and engaging. Like Richardson, Obama seemed to thrive in this format, more so than in a debate format. He feeds off crowds, that’s clear.
For more from Chuck Todd, visit First Read.