I returned from a trip that took me through Europe and Texas just in time to catch the first Democratic presidential debate. Now, the value of a "debate" nearly a year before the first presidential primaries is, well, debatable. Having said that it did provide a bit of insight that should inform voters as the spectacle unfolds over the coming months. First, it was clear that there are three tiers of candidates: 1) those with a solid chance of getting the nomination, barring any foot-in-mouth incidents, 2) those that perhaps would be good candidates if the public takes the time to listen to their views, and 3) the nuts. I'll not bias readers with whom I would put into each category.
Second, some of the candidates are more linguistically adept than others. Whether this stems from natural eloquence versus practiced political experience perhaps is less important than the fact that the current president has virtually guaranteed that voters will select someone better able to communicate their thoughts. Or even have coherent thoughts.
Third, that there were a few suprises. Media analysis of the debate seemed to settle on the conclusion that no one really locked themselves out of the running. I disagree. One candidate that I had rested high hopes on came off (in my opinion, at least) much less capable than I would have expected, both in terms of ideas and the ability to communicate them. Conversely, another candidate that I hadn't put much stock in came off as being more thoughtful and capable than expected.
Certainly there were some hints as to who would likely be able to perform their presidential duties well. And while the idea of having 2+ years of running for president seems painful (all by candidates that should be busy doing the real jobs we pay them for, like being a senator), perhaps given our current circumstances it is a good thing to have sufficient time to really get to know the candidates' views. Assuming, of course, that we, the voters, take the time to do so.
The Republican debate, with its own cast of characters, is set for next week. I look forward to seeing which of them can be a viable future president.