LiveBlogging the Democratic Forum Debates

It's twenty minutes until showtime. Steve Black has shown his law-abiding nature by the number of signs he's illegally posted on public property. I remember when his blood-brother, Phil Heimlich, posted signs illegally all over Hyde Park during the special primary back in June of 2005. Ah, those Republicans and their scofflaw ways. --jk

Ten minutes to go till kickoff. Here's a quick sampling of the brochures available here. Wayne Coates has one for County Recorder, big picture of himself and his credentials. No pamphlets on the seats for Obama or Clinton. Black has one with a picture of Cheney/Bush/Schmidt. Wulsin has one with a picture of a rubber duck. We report, you decide. --zm

David Pepper takes the podium for Hillary and speaks first, with David Crowley waiting his turn to talk about O'bama. David kicks off with a plug for Edwards as Attorney General in a Clinton Administration. He's wearing an 80's-style red power tie. Clinton is a fighter. She wrote the playbook for Ohio in this election. --jk

Pepper completely ignored the red "time's up" sign. That was about as useless as the "get off the stage" music at the Grammys when Kanye West won an award. Crowley's up for O'bama now. He's hitting on his accomplishments at the state level, reforming the application of the death penalty and reducing healthcare costs for families. Good points on him working with people across the aisle. Crowley's emphasizing the issue of electability; that's going to get batted around a lot tonight, just a hunch. --zm

They're doing questions now, with the first question about predatory lending and an NAACP lawsuit. I think that these would go a lot better if each spokeman had a little ventriloquist dummy or bobblehead of their candidate. --jk

Pepper's response is actually pretty reasoned. He referred to the turnout at Hillary's outing at Skyline Chili last week, which got a big ovation. Skyline is HUGE in this town. Next question: what's the differences between the two? Pepper emphasizes universal health care, and how Hillary's plan covers every single person. Mandating coverage could be a touchy subject; Pepper's saying that O'bama is not in favor of universal health care - I'm not sure that's really true. --zm

So far Pepper (hereafter Young David) is coming off as more polished. Old David, since he was an Edwards supporter until recently, doesn't seem to have a grasp of the nuances of O'bama's policies. In his answer to YD's point about a mandate, he should have pointed out how recent economic research shows that these mandates wouldn't work and would be punitive. --jk

Discussion now of how business would change in Washington when they get elected to office. Pepper got off topic and got a light but playful scolding from David Cook, moderator of the debate. This is a rowdy crowd here. Next question is on the issue of immigration. --zm

YD makes a point that there isn't much of a difference in their positions on immigration, glosses over the drivers' license issue without explaining it. OD reframes it as an economic question without drawing the Wrath of Cook. --jk

Odd question about how each candidate embodies a trait of their opponent. Baaaaaaaaaad idea for a question. Crowley says that O'bama is a pragmatist, and discusses his experience working across the aisle. He threw in a veiled shot about language, probably referring to the silly dustups concerning plagarism and sexism. Pepper discusses Hillary's hopefulness and positvity (just made that word up). I'm not really sure he's answering much of the question, just a little light in substance. --zm

Now on to The War. What are the differences between you two? Geez, why not just ask what you stand for and what you'd do? YD says, not much difference other than move quickly and draw down fast. And of course, we'd be responsible. OD comes back strong: O'bama has never wavered. He refers to the Museum Center events and gets a Skyline-like response. O'bama will make the Iraqis work to reconcile. --jk

Now we move to the audience questions portion of the program (a.k.a. when the shit truly hits the fan). Cook asks for bottled water for the speaker: OD asks for a beer instead. Cook is clear that speeches are not allowed - you do NOT want to screw with him. First public question is to YD about how Hillary is not electable. YD says that this is myth #2 (myth #1: unicorns don't exist). He trots out the argument that she's been beaten down before, he hasn't. Refers to the recent kerfluffle about O'bama's "promise" to refuse private financing (he didn't promise it, but that's another story). --zm

OD: "Barack Obama does not bring baggage to the presidency." OD makes point that O'bama is more electable, but doesn't state why other than that he only has carry-on baggage. Next question is about drawing in Republicans and others, healing the bipartisan divide. OD gives general answers, but makes point about negative baggage again. YD in his response goes on and on about baggage again. Wow, this is starting to look like the carousel at O'Hare. No one is talking specifics. --jk

Just an observation: the Hillary supporters are trying just a bit too hard tonight. They're applauding multiple times during a question. Slight sign of desperation. Yet another question on health care, I think I'm getting a mild case of thabosefalositis listening to them. YD presses again on the mandate. Oh surprise, more applause. He compares the mandate of car insurance to a mandate on health insurance. Hmmm...they better work on that sales pitch. OD retorts that people don't refuse health care because they want to, they refuse it because they can't afford it, and his plan will push to make it more affordable. --zm

The "i was for it before i was against it" question. "Do we really want to go through this again?" OD is hammering on the constancy of O'bama's position. YD starts surpisingly non-defensively, conceding the correctness of O'bama's (and OD's) position. Now he changes it to an economic is the Wrath of Cook? He's turning it into a bread-and-butter issue question...I guess his point is that we can overcome it by changing the question? --jk

Now we get to the question about the environment. Questioner states that the economy will right itself in a year or two, environment will be around for much longer. Oook. YD outlines HRC's plan for an energy fund to improve efficiency, reduce energy consumption, green buildings...say what you want, YD came prepared, and he's an excellent speaker to boot. JK suggests that she could implement residence in the Green House rather than the White House. OD discusses his ideas for a stimulus package...I'm confused. --zm

Ah, the charisma question for OD. Show us where O'bama has the experience, and limit it to his US Senate experience. Lots of shouted out "why?"s from the audience. OD is starting out by giving a Bentsen-like answer...I first voted for Kennedy. A very strange logic twist on how Kennedy's opponent, LBJ, wasn't that experienced either. O'bama brings us the will and desire to change. Applause. The question was aimed at OD, but YD gets a shot. He admits that the ability to inspire (and motivate) is important, and claims that HRC does that, too. Her ability to inspire is based on experience. Nice twist, YD. --jk

Question from a woman hoping to see a woman break the ceiling. This is rapidly becoming a female vs. male discussion, actually she hasn't gotten to a question yet. Get me some no-doz, guess that was just a statement. This was bound to happen. YD cracks a brilliant joke: "In an election with a white woman and a black man, it's a shame that there's two white guys up here". Priceless. --zm

Cook points out how dems are still more diverse than publicans. Next question: female military veteran talks about her experience as the single woman among twenty men. When she saw three women on the Armed Services Committee, she was relieved. How will the candidate address the problems of women in the military, particularly those having to do with the lack of women in the command structure? I think that's what she's asking, but the Wrath of Cook descends and asks her to wrap up. OD blames it on Bush. Oooh, claims that women in the military are still an "anomaly". Recovers by saying a new president will appoint new commanders. YD says having a woman at the top will change everything. Applause. The HRC contingent is really hitting their applause cues. --jk

Last question from the public. Closing time...that's when you pick the ugliest question out of desperation. And it's not really a question, just a slam against O'bama about how he wasn't in the U.S. Congress when the Iraq War vote took place. So while they're prattling, I'll just state that I'm disappointed how a lot of the discussion tonight has revolved around white female vs. black male. We have two fantastic candidates, and people are distilling it down to race or gender. Geez. Ok, final statements now, one minute long. --zm

I have to share zm's disappointment. There was no in-depth discussion of leadership abilities or positions here. Final statements. OD leads with an ad for the Sebelius event tomorrow, which doesn't appear to be subtracted from his time. OD sums up with an appeal for votes. YD sums up with an appeal for change. Hey, I got a few quarters here. Now on to the Wulsin/Black debate, or, as it's called in my house, Victory or Just Another Damned Republican. --jk

Caleb Faux will be the moderator for the Wulsin/Black debate. He starts out by offering people the opportunity to move forward. No one wants to be the teacher's pet. Panel is Dave Altman, Marian Spencer, and Alice Schneider. Cook gets Vic a podium that makes her tall enough to suit up for the Harlem Globetrotters tomorrow night. Vic's opening statement comes first, she's happy to be around us. And who wouldn't be? BTW, we're on beer #2 here, this is when the party starts. --zm

We've been joined in the the DL LiveBlogging Booth by three other DLers. Heard the great news that one of us just got into law school. I guess that's great news. Another lawyer. Woo-hoo! Seriously, congratulations. Vic gave a pretty complete opening statement, outlining her background and positions. Combover is now giving his opening statement. He's...speaking...very...slowly...and...deliberately. Positions the war as, "we've spent all this money and gotten nothing for it." Yeah, that's the Republican position. --jk

Black continues that he's the only Dem that could beat Schmidt, but it didn't happen in 2006. Funny story, Black happened to be a republican in 2006. Since Wulsin came close, he feels that he can push the Dems over the top. He can attract the independents, and the people that want to hear it like it is. First question comes from Spencer. Will the candidate support federal legislation to oppose the death penalty? Wulsin thanks her for the question; does any candidate ever get pissed about a question? No, they all thank them. I digress, both candidates support the banning of the death penalty. Black makes a pretty good argument of why it should be abolished; I'd have heard more, but I was distracted by a Greg the Bunny clip. --zm

I was playing the clip because I had never heard Combover talk before and he reminded me of someone. I finally figured out, with the help of others, who he sounds like. Now he will be known as Tardy. The next question is about immigration. I didn't listen to Tardy's answer. Next question is about Vic's "fitness as a physician". Vic is setting the record straight...calling out Tardy's smear campaign. She goes through the story of getting fired over uncovering unethical medical practices. They ask Tardy about what about her explanation he doesn't believe. Tardy says, all we've said is that they interviewed the complainant who has an outstanding ethical complaint, without naming the complainant or the complaint. The crowd erupts in boos. Tardy is in a corner. --jk

Next question is on Iraq and Afghanistan (or as Ms. Spencer likes to say, Iran in Afghanistan). Vic wants us to get out, and feels that the world will follow us. The resources spent on these occupations could be spent better at home. Black wants us to get out as well, believing that it will force the Iraqis to take ownership of their own freedom. Afghanistan, he believes we need to stay there since we're still fighting the Taliban. And then there are pauses. Lots of them. --zm

Next question is about the expansion of S-CHIP. Tardy says he likes ashtrays. Tardy says S-CHIP tastes like purple. Vic talks about MJ's record opposing S-CHIP and reframes question as an economic one. She would have voted for it, but she talks about availability, affordability and one more "A" I didn't catch but which a sharp-eared person in the booth says is accessibility. She gets applause after saying we have to care for everyone from newborns to folks like OD. --jk

Dave Altman asks both candidates what they would say are the differences between the two. Black says he'd beat Schmidt. Facts optional. He says they're both socially progressive, but he's fiscally conservative. I have to say, it's hard to listen to him discussing the fiscal peril of this country knowing that he was a republican for the first six years of the Bush presidency. Fair? Maybe not, but it's reality. Anyways, he thinks he's got the answer. Vic believes that she has the advantages of character, competence, and compassion - hey, that's an alliteration. She looks for solutions, not loopholes. She got 49.5% of the vote in 2006, she raised $500K before the end of 2007, she rubbed Zach's slightly bald wait, she didn't say that...she hit Steve hard for his ownership of oil company stock. --zm

Now they're passing the hat for the hall...$600 for the hall and Cook asks for donations. So give to the Dem Forum already! First question is about the Employee Free Choice Act from Cook. Tardy says that he would support it, along with the Patriotic Corporations of America Act. Vic says she'd support it, points out family background in unions. Vic points out her union endorsements. Funny, no one has pointed out Tardy's background in union-busting yet. --jk

Question to Black regarding his promise to support Vic if she won the primary, and then smearing her name with "Rovian" tactics. He says that they need to change the kind of people that we elect, kind of a rambling response that people chuckled at. Vic responded that these are allegations which only Black has been perpetuating. She wants to talk with the press about this and is eager to. Her point; if he's smearing her, is that the kind of person we want in Congress? Next up: guy asking Vic about her smear campaign, saying that Black owns millions in oil stock. Black says he once owned Halliburton in his IRA, and he believes in full disclosure. He says he doesn't own millions in oil stock, but it's held in a family trust. Uh oh, that's not a good response. Now he says that the bank bought it for them, and he said he sold it at a loss. Now I'm confused, does he own it or not? Vic's response is that she talked about positive campaigning was a priority for her, but Black has dragged her into the mud. She didn't start until he went negative, and she wanted it known what he had invested in oil. --zm

Did Tardy give money to Ken Blackwell? He says it was when Blackwell was a Democrat on City Council. Next question starts with a fellow's statement about his problem with local law enforcement...sounds like a bad deal about arson, losing a farm, and the imprisonment of his son. Vic talks about maintaining a line on civil liberties. Tardy gives an answer about pursuing a state civil rights suit against the sheriff for the fellow's problem. Next question is about Tardy's stealth Republicanism. He's been attacking Vic's ethics, why should we believe him when he says he'll vote Democratic? Tardy says he faced a choice between retaining his principles and changing his party label. Nothing about changing his party. Wimp. --jk

Question up now is how each candidate will defeat Jean. Vic wants to build on the momentum that she started up in 2006. She came close in a difficult election, and she's got a great infrastructure for 2008. Lists off her endorsements, including politicians and unions. She just got Mayor Mallory's endorsement today. Black's response is that you need to expose her record of voting against her constituency. Really, I guess we'd never thought of that? It's just a matter of informing the voters. He's outraised her so far (never mind that he contributed $200K of his own money to accomplish that), and he gets a smile from everyone that he tells he can beat Jean Schmidt. Wow, that's a pretty low bar to clear. --zm

Now I'm viewing the final questions through beer goggles. Last question is to Vic, will you put your policies out in the website? Chair disciplines audience for back and forth as folks criticize Vic when she says she's happy to answer any questions they have. She apologizes that they haven't invested in the website that much. Next question is about legalization of illegal immigrants (from a DLer, I believe). Tardy says he supports legalization with folks getting in line. Next question is about Tardy's self-funding of his campaign. He says he did a lot of fundraising in 2007, but his father's illness and death in 2008 prevented him from fundraising. The questioner had said she received a lot of Tardy's solicitations throughout 2008 so far, so he is obviously fundraising. Now we're closing --jk

Yes, and as they play cheezy exit music, my impressions were that YD was a much better representative to his candidate than OD was. I'm still not sold on HRC, but he did make some valid points. Substantively, Vic and Steve say there's not much different between them, but I'm just not getting the feeling from Black that he really believes what he says, and he seemed to get genuinely angry a couple times. I don't know, he came off better than I thought, but there's still a lot he needs to explain in the next couple weeks. Jk's final thoughts? --zm

I have to agree on YD vs. OD. I'm not a fan of HRC, but I think YD had The Force with him. The terms of the debate were a little disappointing. Tardy started out slow and got in a groove, with his performance improving as things went on. He had a pretty good number of folks in the audience; more than I expected. Maybe that buoyed him. Vic came out more professional and seasoned, I thought, but that question about her website really hit hard. The overall problem is that Tardy has so tainted the field with his negative campaigning that the tone of the debate was a little strained. Well, on to the primary. --jk

And with that, we're off to grab some (in your best Newman voice) JAM-ba-la-ya. Cheers, and good evening. --zm

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