Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate
                                                                                                     Screen Grab from MSNBC
Tuesday, October 30, 2007 in the Main Building Auditorium at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA from 9:00 to 11:00 PM (ET)

Sponsors: Sponsored by NBC, MSNBC, the Democratic National Committee and Drexel University.

Candidates: Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Chris Dodd, former Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Gov. Bill Richardson participated.  [former Sen. Mike Gravel excluded].

Moderator: "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams, joined in questioning by Tim Russert, moderator of "Meet the Press" and NBC News Washington Bureau Chief.

Audience: 750 people attended the debate, and 250 seats were reserved for Drexel.  Drexel distributed tickets for both the live debate and for a debate watch party by random lottery held on October 23 by the University Student Government Association in collaboration with Student Life and the Dean of Students.

Broadcast: Live on MSNBC, streamed live on and re-broadcast on Telemundo in Spanish.

Format: Two hours; three ad breaks.  As the debate went on there were lightening rounds with 30 second responses.

Background: The fourth DNC-sanctioned debate.  65 days to go until the Iowa caucuses.

Additional Notes:  Sen. Clinton, the perceived frontrunner, was very much at the center of this debate both by virtue of her position on the stage and as a target for criticism from several of her Democratic rivals.  Sen. Obama and Sen. Edwards, her two leading challengers, had telegraphed their intentions in advance.  Sen. Obama, on October 27 in Iowa, charged Sen. Clinton with ducking the issue of Social Security [press release], and a New York Times article on Sunday ("Obama Promises a Forceful Stand Against Clinton") reinforced the message.  Likewise former Sen. John Edwards made a direct attack in an October 29 speech on special interests at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire [transcript].  The Clinton campaign was prepared [memo, press release].  For much of the debate Clinton held her own, but she stumbled on a question about driver's licenses for illegal immigrants right at the end.  [later press releases 1, 2]

The debate seemed to veer a bit off track towards the close, with questions on UFOs and Halloween costumes; perhaps, as Brian Williams said, it was the effects of the late hour and a hot room.

The Dodd campaign's "Talk Clock" again showed a substantial time imbalance: Clinton 22.01, Obama 19:09, Edwards 16:32, Dodd 9:36, Richardson 7:50, Kucinich 7:25, Biden 6:07 and Williams/Russert 18.26.

NBC News political director Chuck Todd informed the campaign of former Sen. Gravel that he would be excluded from the debate in a phone call at 4:55 pm on Friday October 19.  Gravel charged "corporate censorship" and arranged "an alternate Democratic debate" at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut St.).

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Copyright © 2007  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action