Watching the Democrat debates on Sunday night was actually more interesting that I expected.
I came away with quite a positive impression of Richardson, generally positive sentiments towards both Clinton and Obama (basically unchanged from what I thought going in) and I was quite unimpressed with Edwards (I think the only reason I wasn't less impressed with him earlier in the campaign is that I honestly haven't spent enough time reading about each of the candidates). For better or worse, I kind of went along with the general assessment that's been offered for months that the race is really between Obama and Clinton and figured there was no point in looking deeply at the other candidates.
Watching Edwards in the debate, I seriously could not believe that he's doing as well as he is. Beginning with his response to how he would handle a nuclear attack on a US city (go after them and remain calm) I didn't find significantly more depth in his other responses. I found him to be the clearest example on the panel of the "if you've got a hammer, the world is a nail" approach to answering questions with his frequent re-directing of all questions to the theme of the need to stand up for the middle class and be tough with the forces of the status quo. What was lauded in some of the prese as his upbraiding of Hillary as a member of the status quo attacking the voices of change just came across to me as a sad bid for the VP slot on an Obama ticket.
In sharp contrast to my negative take on Edwards was my impression of Bill Richardson. What I've read about him had given me a generally positive impression, but truthfully I just haven't seen that much written about him.
And that is what is annoyed me most as I watched the debates. The fact that it seems (at least on the Democratic side) that there are some seriously experienced and capable people that just haven't risen above the noise at all - It's incredibly disappointing that the field seems to have been narrowed with a greater weight placed on some sort of cult of personality/celebrity than pure qualifications. This isn't to take anything away from Clinton or Obama who both have compelling credentials, but it annoys me that Richardson is essentially written off as a non-viable candidate given that his credentials would seem to make him at least as capable as some of the leading candidates. Watching the debates I could just imagine the thought bubbles over the other candidates heads as he says "If I were elected president."
Of all of the people on the stage, I found Richardson to hit the right note for me of both straight-talking, compelling visions (hello 50 MPG fuel efficiency requirement) and deep, relevant experience. Maybe because of their leading candidate status it makes it harder for Obama and Clinton to veer off polished, difficult-to-assail talking points, but if I had to pick someone on the stage who represented both of the ever-present themes being shoved down my throat, Richardson seemed to represent both experience as well as change (when I'm looking for change, I'm looking for a smart, competent president that could have located Pakistan on a map without assistance when they began their run for the Oval Office).
So while my title for this blog post is perhaps a bit mis-leading, as I'm not truly certain that I'd vote for Richardson (I clearly need to do a lot more research on all of the candidates), I have absolutely no idea how anyone could walk away from listening to that debate and choose Edwards over Richardson (or either of the other two candidates for that matter). And frankly, I'm still left looking at the options in both parties and generally disappointed that there's not more depth on the ballot that's been assembled at a point in history that clearly demands greatness (which would certainly qualify as change).