I watched both the Republican and the Democratic debates tonight (ahh the internet, where we all can become political pundits), and the primary thing I learned is that there needs to be less people in these debates. I didn't get much out of the Republican one because six guys were constantly interrupting each other and listening to Bill Richardson drag on about how he was the energy secretary under Bill Clinton was like getting shot in the face over and over again.
Republican candidate round up:
McCain gets too flustered when people question him, he needs to take an anger management class. I like a lot of his positions (minus the war) but its pretty easy to make him look like his head is going to catch on fire.
Romney comes across as a sleazy scumbag and I think he's got a 0% chance of winning the nomination. His bickering with everyone makes me think he would stab his mother to win the election.
Thompson is clearly an idiot and is trying to play it up like W to work the "drink a beer with me" crowd.
Giuliani has no chance, he's obviously corrupt and I question his hygiene.
Ron Paul is not the world's best speaker, and the points he tries to argue, although valid, are too out of reach to appeal widely. Plus getting rid of the federal income tax is probably a pretty bad idea and no intervention no matter what probably wouldn't work out too well, for example WWII.
Huckabee is an excellent charmer, he comes across to me as genuinely wanting to change things for what he thinks is better. Too bad that probably involves teaching creationism in every school.
My preference is for McCain or Huckabee, or at least I'd like to see them debate with each other more instead of hearing Giuliani's cackle after every question or Romney's constant interruptions.
Democratic candidate round up:
Richardson has no chance of winning and if somehow he got elected he'd do a horrible job. He should also watch what he eats, that chin is not of this world.
Hilary is pretty good at answering questions but gets into trouble when people start questioning her. Also, she should stop trying to ride the bandwagon on the change thing, that's Obama's pony. I think she's in trouble.
Obama did a nice job responding to criticism, its probably his to lose now.
Edwards has a lot of ideals, but I don't think he could even come close to getting done what he talks about if he got elected, its too huggy feely. Maybe he's trying to go for VP again the way he defended Obama early on.
In general, it was easier to see the differences in the Republican candidates. The Democrats are all preaching similar things (I'm not so sure about Richardson on this but who cares).
Iraq: All the Republicans want to finish the job except Ron Paul who has no chance. I'd probably trust McCain on this one the most. I find it confusing that many of the candidates preached increasing the size of the military, and naturally cutting everything else. I'd be more supportive if they cut everything, seems more fiscally conservative if you want to reduce the presence of government. The Democrats all want to get the troops back home. It was interesting to note that the troop surge does seem to have had its intended effect of reducing violence, but they all brought up a good point that if we ever intend to get out, the Iraqi government needs to get it together which hasn't happened.
Immigration: I don't remember this being asked in the Democratic debate, but it was a big issue for the Republicans. Obviously, you got to get the border locked down if one of your main arguments against illegal immigration is the "terrorists" coming in across the border. Seems like they all want to build a massive high tech wall to shut the Mexicans out. Say this is done. From this point on, any of the candidates who want to make ALL the illegal immigrants go home first (everyone but McCain and Giuliani) are idiots. The whole point is we need the illegal immigrants to keep parts of the economy functioning. You don't offer them anyway to keep working here with the temporary work visas and whatnot then who know what'll happen. However, I don't see how fining them is going to help much, as they probably have no money as it is. The logical solution? Lock the border down so those you do send back can't return, send the criminals (guilty of things other than illegal immigration) back home, and offer the others a path to citizenship while allowing them to make an income (and collect the tax revenue!).
Health Care: This is such a complicated issue, especially when you think about all the baby boomers who are going to retire soon. My opinion is Obama has the right idea, make sure all children are covered and make it affordable enough so that those adults that want it can purchase it easily and those that remain uninsured have no excuse. You're never going to get everyone insured unless you go the path of socialized medicine, some people just won't sign up even if it is outrageously cheap. How do you handle those that won't sign up? I don't see hospitals turning away car crash victims, etc. I am confused about people having their own personal health savings plans, how do young people save up for such an account? Does the federal government cover students until a certain age or something? Seems flawed to me. Also, individual insurance for everyone is probably not a good idea, you need the bargaining power of the masses. This is exactly why unions work, you get enough people together searching for a better deal and you end up without new television shows.
Energy Independence/Global Warming: These are pretty intimately linked. Any candidate (Giuliani, Romney, Thompson) looking for primarily a market-based solution is an incredible idiot. This is something the government needs to get going after by dumping tons of money into R&D, giving lucrative incentives, and setting strict goals to meet. Cut down the military and use that money to make the US energy independent. The large majority of our current foreign policy disasters would just go away, plus we wouldn't DESTROY the planet. On top of all that the number of jobs it would create in the US would be gigantic.
My prediction is that we'll see a Obama vs Huckabee battle, although McCain could pop up but this is doubtful as I think Giuliani is going to steal a lot of McCain's votes, and Huckabee has the lock down on the religious vote which might just give him enough support to grab the nomination. Hilary is sliding, she needs a Howard Dean moment from Obama, yaaaaaaaaa!