Two Potential Consequences of the AFL-CIO Democratic Debate

With so many debates so far before the election, it is questionable as to how much any of them really matter. If last night’s AFL-CIO debate impacts the race the two effects may be to further harden this as a Clinton vs. Obama battle and to increase the emphasis on health care.

To the extent that the race is perceived as a two-way Clinton vs. Obama battle, John Edwards further slips from the top tier. Last night’s debate was particularly important for Edwards as he has been hoping for the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, but the labor organization has been holding off, fearing Edwards cannot win. Edwards needed to change that perception but was unable to do so. Should members vote with their hearts rather and ignore the question of who can win, Dennis Kucinich out-performed Edwards. Edwards was further hurt by questions of hypocrisy when he questioned the sources of money for other candidates while he obtains a disproportionate share of his contributions from trial lawyers, along with his connections to hedge funds and money received from News Corp.

A fierce two way battle between Obama and Clinton might act to shut out the other candidates, but does leave them with some hope. In 2004 a battle between Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt wound up turning off the voters, giving John Kerry and John Edwards the top two spots in Iowa and ultimately on the general election ticket.

Besides Kucinich, Biden came across the strongest in the battle to follow Obama and Clinton. Dodd and Richardson also had good moments, but Richardson’s pro-business stance helps him far more with independents than among last night’s crowd. The large number of independents expected to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire could give a boost to both Obama and Richardson, while seriously hurting Edwards’ chances.

Debates often come down to one memorable moment, such as the question over negotiations in the You Tube debate. The most memorable moment of the debate last night was a question on health care:


QUESTION: After 34 years with LTV Steel I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy. I lost a third of my pension and my family lost their health care.

Every day of my life I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can’t afford to pay for her health care. What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?

Chris Matthews commented, ““I wonder if that wasn’t a moment that’s gonna change American political history.” Opponents of health care reform sometimes try to place the blame on those who lack adequate coverage, but this provides a perfect example of hard working people who lose coverage due to no fault of their own. The differences between the Democrats on health care are not great enough to affect the nomination, but the lack of any meaningful ideas could seriously hurt the Republicans in the general election.


  1. 1
    Pug says:

    Besides Kucinich, Biden came across the strongest in the battle to follow Obama and Clinton.

    I have nothing at all against Joe Biden, but he blew the question from the woman whose husband died in the Sago Mine as badly as I’ve ever seen a politician blow it. He blew her off after a quick acknowledgment of her husband’s death and returned to the nonsense about Pakistan.

    This was in front of a labor audience, with six miners trapped in Utah and a rambling, blow-hard, evil coal company CEO from Central Casting ranting about the “global warming hoax” while his workers face a horrible death underground.

    The lady served Biden up one of the biggest, fattest softballs I’ve ever seen. He didn’t even address her question.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    My first thought was to go back over my recording of the debate to see if that would change my impression of how Biden did. However I decided it wasn’t worth the time. If he responded as you said, obviously that could harm him. However, even if had not messed up at that point in the debate and did fairly well, it still wouldn’t change the fact that his campaign is probably not going anywhere. There are just too many candidates dividing up the limited attention for Biden and Dodd to break out unless something really major happens to help them out.

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