Just like David Broder's analysis in the Washington Post news section today, NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert offered praise all around for the Democratic field after the Orangeburg debate. The Democratic field are not "pygmies," and everyone, including Mike Gravel, cheered on by Sam Seder on Air America radio this morning for "making Dennis Kucinich look moderate," earned stars on his forehead from NBC:
RUSSERT: Democrats overwhelmingly are very happy with the field. Almost 75 percent of the party members say we like this group. Only 50 percent of Republicans like their group. So I think that if you are stepping back and looking at the 2008 field, it’s not, in past years people say, well, it’s pygmies, they can't possibly step up. I think people can envision several of these people sitting in the Oval Office.
VIEIRA: Well, there are eight candidates and three are sort of the front runners: Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, five others. Did any of the others emerge from the pack or are some of them perhaps packing their bags today, knowing it’s probably going to be over soon?
RUSSERT: I think that Joe Biden realized that a moment of silence is worth 1,000 words with his response to Brian Williams and he has to be taken seriously on foreign policy matters, and I think his answer was clever, and funny and smart. Bill Richardson kept hammering away at his resume as a governor, as a Secretary of Energy, because everybody else is a legislator and I think that’s an asset for him. Chris Dodd trying to suggest he can bring civility and common purpose. And Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel played their roles. Mike Gravel was there to tip over chairs and be the uncle who came down from the attic.
VIEIRA: And he did that very well, I must say, he was excellent.
RUSSERT: Here comes Uncle Mike.
VIEIRA: But did any emerge? Did you see any one of that group and say ‘know what, they are really part of the top tier'?
RUSSERT: No, because it takes a lot more than just one appearance. It takes a lot of money to do that. If they do it in several series of debates, sure they’ll start edging up in the polls, I don't, I don’t think anyone broke out of the mid pack.
VIEIRA: Alright, Tim Russert, as usual, thanks very much.
RUSSERT: What a campaign.
VIEIRA: What a campaign, It's only started.
Russert was also enthusiastic in identifying President Bush as the obvious loser in this debate, and Hillary was..."professorial." Here's how the segment started:
VIEIRA: Tim, whenever there is a debate we like to anoint winners and losers. Any winners or losers last night?
RUSSERT: Well, I think the big loser is George W. Bush, because the Democrats were able to stay united in theme and message against him and you need a unified party to be successful. The big winner? I don't think any one candidate won the debate as such. They all were able to demonstrate their conviction and several I think projected themselves as people that you could see in the oval office which is a net win for the party."
VIEIRA: You know you said yesterday that Senator Clinton had to come off as more likeable in this debate. And after this debate, her advisors said that she was more Presidential than the others. How would you describe her tone last night?
RUSSERT: Professorial in some ways. Attempts to be obviously presidential. It did not try to rise above her competitors and say this is my nomination; I have this locked; it’s inevitable; I’m going to be the nominee. She actually stated in the fray and offered her views. The interesting thing Meredith is how all of these Democrats now have come to the same place on Iraq in essence. It has been an interesting evolution over the last 4 years.
VIEIRA: But she still didn’t say I made a mistake?
RUSSERT: The only one who will not say I made a mistake, because she is afraid that if she acknowledges a mistake it will show a lack of sure footedness in national security and foreign policy. And for a woman candidate, that can be a real detriment.
VIEIRA: What about Senator Obama? Many believe he had the most to gain or to lose in last night’s debate. You felt that the biggest issue with him, with him was that he wasn’t specific enough when it came to his positions. You said where is the beef? He had to answer that question. Did he successfully answer it?
RUSSERT: It was interesting. He said those of us who have health care plans and other energy plans suggesting that he had put those forward. He has not yet done that. I understand that, that is coming rather quickly. He acted and presented himself as if those plans already existed.