Sunday, January 09, 2005

DNC's Southern Caucus Impressions

I must be sick. Rather than watching the NFL playoffs what do I do? I watch C-Span and their coverage of the Southern Caucus of the DNC. That's right, while the Packers were getting beat by the Vikings, I was watching a bunch of guys sitting at a table, dressed in bad suits, answering questions from a bunch state party officials. Politics has so ruined me.

For me this caucus was a great opportunity. I've read about all the candidates, but this was the first time I was able to see them all speak, and get a gauge of their personality and speaking style. I trust their views on the issues to my reading more than their campaigning, and knew most of their positions already. So I was watching mainly to see what kind of a spokesman for the party each of these candidates would be. As Simon Rosenburg pointed out in one of his answers, it was more important for the DNC Chair to take on a Ken Melman or Karl Rove on Meet the Press than going up against Bill Frist or George Bush. Of course he's correct in this, as the DNC chair always debates other party chairs or operatives, rarely the other party's candidate.

So with an eye to who would be better in a pressure situation on MTP or Face the Nation, here's a average Democrat's take on the party candidates for DNC chair. The candidates are in order of their seating:

Simon Rosenburg:
Well spoken. Good ideas. Good points. Cold. Serious. Businesslike. Intellectual rather than passionate. I think he'd hold his own on the Sunday morning talk shows, but he didn't come across with much passion or warmth or excitement.

Tim Roemer:
Name dropping. Politician's politician. He just stood out as status quo. Generalized answers. Filibuster. Lots of words, little substance. Answered questions round about, and in ways that didn't satisfy. He turned me off. Ken Melman would turn this guy into a pretzel or I'd change the channel due to lack of content. Uninspiring.

Howard Dean:
Quick wit. Well received. Spine. Informed. Human. Still stammers. Exciting. Passionate before intellectual. Obviously taking framing seriously and used this to advantage in his answers several times by changing the frame of the question. Didn't say the same things as the others. He would be fun to watch debate Ken Melman and would hold his own well.

Wellington Webb:
Deep cool voice. Intelligent. Not always on point. Nothing new said. Cool. Calm. Rational. No spark. I don't think he'd get a word in edgewise in a debate with Rove or Melman.

David Leland:
Lisp. Looked weak or henpecked. Made good points. Unexciting. Uninspiring. I just couldn't take him seriously. Reminded me of the Sicilian from Princess Bride. Inconceivable to see him on MTP in a debate with Melman.

Donnie Fowler:
Too cute personality. He looked too young not just in looks but in mannerisms and responses. Unprofessional. Bad jokes. Bad suit. Didn't look like a national party spokesman. For goodness sake comb your hair. Good points on grass roots organization, but they always seemed self aggrandizing. Views seem right, but there was a street smart con feel to him. He turned me off rather quickly. Russert would eat him for breakfast.

Martin Frost:
Statesman. Well spoken. Unthreatening. Un-aggressive. Warm. Genuine. Unexciting. Safe. Low key. He seemed soft. I just couldn't see him shouting anyone down, but instead being talked over by Melman. I took a liking to him, but can't see him as a national spokesman for the party.

Again this had little to do with what each was saying. They all had good points and good answers to question posed, with the exception of Tim Roemer who seem flustered by a couple questions regarding minority issues. To me the two who stood out greatly were Howard Dean and Simon Rosenburg. Each had great answers and looked the part of a national party spokesman. I'd give Dean the edge due to his ability to reframe the questions and come up with points not made by any of the others on the panel. Rosenburg's answers were good, but they were expected, like telegraphic a punch. He was also very intellectual and lacked some human warmth. Even so, his depth of understanding and speaking style allowed him to stand out.