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- Format. Will the format, that equalizes opportunity to answer questions, help some of the lower tier candidates seem to be more impressive? As Dodd's Talk Clock showed us, previous debates were so tilted to Clinton, Obama and Edwards that the debates further diminished those not in the top tier.
- What are the best questions for issues most relevant to African Americans? Health care and jobs are of concern to all, of course, as is Iraq. Recent statistics show a 30% plus drop in African American military enlistment attributable largely to Iraq, for instance.
But trade is an issue that has not been dealt with in previous debates and immigration, following today's Senate rejection of a bill, are economic issues that may deserve more attention than they have received in earlier Democratic debates.
I would ask about the nation's drug laws. Our drug laws are share a great deal of the responsibility for the fact that a huge percentage of African American males are now or have been in prison. It's been called "The New Jim Crow."
After today's Supreme Court decision rejecting the integration plans of the Louisville and Seattle schools, there is likely to be a question about the educational needs of African Americans.
A reparations question would be great. The answer, whatever it is, would require the candidate to speak in a principled way.
Affirmative action, affordable college loans, access to health care are all too easy and do not really expose distinctions among the Democratic candidates.
- Will Edwards continue to try to act like Obama and Hillary are somehow too timid? Edwards has his poverty agenda and often uses a passive/aggressive approach ("hope is not enough") to try to assert himself. In the last debate the attacks on Obama and Hillary did not seem to have much effect and may have helped Obama.
- Is extra pressure on Obama to prove that a) he is "really black" and b) that he can debate well? My guess is no an yes, respectively. The consensus is that Obama improved from the first debate to the second. The "authentically black" question seems to have disappeared.
- How can Hillary best cash in on the "first black president" reputation of her husband?
- Fun stuff. Will Richardson still remind us in every answer that he is a governor? Will Biden embarrass himself? Will Dodd sound at all presidential? Who will seem least relevant, Kucinich or Gravel?