I was unable to watch the candidate debates last evening, but Greg Mankiw provides what may be a microcosm of the contest on the Democratic side. The candidates were asked the following:
Al Gore favors a carbon tax. None of you have favored a carbon tax. Is it a bad
idea? Or is it just so politically unpalatable that you guys don't want to
Greg diagnoses the responses of Governor Richardson as ignorant or disingenuous, those of Senator Obama as clear and honest (and correct), and those of Senator Clinton as vacuous. (Senator Clinton's response was so off topic that by the time the questioning got to Senator Edwards, the discussion had moved on to something else.) For Clinton's response, I might have chosen evasive, to link this to a broader theme.
I think that this exchange, which is a stark example of differences that over the past year have been more subtle, gives an indication of why Senator Obama may have appeal that crosses over the political center. I can respect his answer but not the other two.
And if clarity, honesty, and accuracy are important criteria in determining my vote, then I fully acknowledge that the Republican field doesn't go any deeper than Senator McCain. If he doesn't secure the nomination, then I may be looking for more options across the aisle come November.