9/17 Update: Obama now leads Clinton by just 3 points in the Mashup online poll - 35% to 32%. Edwards trails at 12%.
I just completed watching the full 2+ hours of the 2008 Yahoo! Democratic Mashup--YAHOO!news' entry into the growing list of novel presidential forums.
The difference is that the "Mashup" is an online series of pre-recorded video snippets taken from interviews of the 8 Democratic candidates conducted by PBS's Charlie Rose. Topics were limited to Iraq, Education and Health Care. Additionally, funny man Bill Maher throws each candidate a question designed to make things more interesting.
Because it's prerecorded and broken into bits of viewable video, viewers can access the Mashup anytime between now and September 21st, and they can chose to view only those pieces they prefer, and in which ever order best suits them.
It's a Mashup because viewers can select candidates and compare their responses against each other --and it's done online.
Co-sponsored by The Huffington Post and Slate, the Yahoo! Mashup is billed as a ground-breaking innovation in terms of campaign dialogue. I'm not so sure.
The good thing is that each candidate gets a chunk of time to respond to questions from each topic--and they mostly tried to give full and thoughtful answers. The negative is that too often the candidates fell back to scripts--except, of course, in response to Bill Maher's queries.
Also, since each candidate was interviewed separately, missing are the atmospherics of a live forum or debate. There is something to be said for being able to witness the interplay--verbal and nonverbal--between the contestants.
According to the online Yahoo! poll, Barack Obama was leading with 37% to Hillary Clinton's 32%.
Here's my take:
Barack Obama - I agree that Obama does very well because the format really works to his strengths. As in a typical Charlie Rose interview, the guests are allowed to give lengthier answers to important questions--and Obama does exactly that. Obama did well with all of the questions, but I thought he did especially well in response to Iraq and education. He gave a very sensible answer to how to extract the U.S. from Iraq while ensuring the stability of the region. I also liked his commitment fixing urban public schools. Grade AClick here view the Yahoo! Mashup.
John Edwards - I thought the format also worked for John Edwards. For the first time in my experience watching him, Edwards seemed really comfortable--and even genuine. Edwards' strongest responses were in Health Care where he promised to keep the drug lobbyists from vetoing real change, and Education where he promoted universl pre-k and free public higher education. Grade B
Dennis Kucinich - I thought Kucinich did well, too. He hit all of his key points--out of Iraq, dump No Child Left Behind and it's obsession with testing, and do universal health care through a nonprofit system. Grade B
Mike Gravel - Gravel was a hoot. Not only does he just let it rip, but I find myself actually agreeing with a number of his points. He's always admonishing voters to follow the money, but his point really struck a cord when he talked about health care. His point is that real change is not likely as long as the drug company lobbyists keep buying off the politicians--including those he's competing against. Grade B
Bill Richardson - Richardson's performance was OK--not brilliant but not bad. What I don't understand, though, is why Rose felt the need to ask only Richardson--not once, but twice--about immigration. I also found it offensive that Rose asked only Richardson about him settling for a VP slot. Grade C+
Hillary Clinton - I don't think that the format (nor the lighting) was as friendly to Hillary. It also seems that she's more interesting as the center of a network--a network that includes a lot of interesting, passionate and committed people. But on her own, one-on-one in a straight-up interview with Charlie Rose, she's seems diminished. Hurting her were her cautious and uninspiring responses on education, health care and Iraq. Grade C+
Chris Dodd/Joe Biden - Dodd and Biden loved the extra time to talk, which is what these two men seem most skilled in doing. It's hard for me to take either of these two guys seriously, since they talk with so much urgency but say so little and have done even less in their long congressional careers. Grade C-