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Biden, Richardson, Dodd and Edwards Deserve More Attention For Their Nevada Debate Performances

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There actually were other Democratic presidential candidates on stage last night in the Las Vegas debate than Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

And, these other so-called second tier candidates often made more sense on the issues and had better responses than the two frontrunners.

When CNN analysts and guests discussed the debate the only names mentioned were Clinton and Obama.

Something is wrong with the debates and the after debate coverage when strong performances by respected senators and governors are dismissed out of hand because they are not frontrunners in the polls at the moment.

This is spring training when we find out what the candidates have to say and how well they might play in the major leagues.

It is very weird to hear people in the audience last night actually boo John Edwards because he criticized Senator Clinton. There should have been more criticisms in the debate on policy issues rather than less.

Every headline and commentary and blog today talks about Hillary holding her own last night and fighting back.

What is missing from analysis of last night's debate are the strong performances by Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Edwards.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden looked to me like one of the "winners" of the debate in Las Vegas last night. Biden knows his way around foreign policy issues and he speaks his mind. He is colorful and showed a good sense of humor.

When he talked about speaking to Musharraf in Pakistan on the phone and telling him to take off his army uniform he sounded presidential. He knows the players in the world and wouldn't have to get up to speed if he became president.

Why is he constantly dismissed as only running to be Secretary of State in a Hillary Clinton administration? Why shouldn't people talk about Hillary being his Secretary of State and possibly Obama as his Attorney General?

Biden sounded more certain of himself on questions of foreign policy than Clinton and definitely more than Obama who appeared not ready for prime time in the debate last night.

Governor Bill Richardson seems to gain more confidence with each debate. He was impressive talking about what he has actually accomplished on immigration issues as governor compared to what his colleagues in the United States Senate have not accomplished on this issue.

Richardson actually went on the record saying that there are times that human rights concerns outweigh national security interests in American foreign policy, a controversial view not shared by most of his colleagues on the stage,

The loudest applause of the evening seemed to be when the New Mexico Governor said it was time to get rid of the No Child Left Behind law because it does not work.

Richardson, like Biden, also was more decisive and informative on his views on what he will do in Iraq as president than were Clinton and Obama.

Senator Chris Dodd also seems to have found his game plan in the debates and is much more forceful in his answers. The Connecticut Senator is hardly ever mentioned in any after debate analysis even though he gives thoughtful answers on issues ranging from banking to education to Iraq.

Dodd somehow seems to get lost or overlooked by all the analysts discussing the debates which is as wrong as overlooking Biden and Richardson's strong performances.

Even John Edwards, who is one of the frontrunners in Iowa in the new polls, gets less attention than Clinton and Obama.

Edwards has become the aggressive populist in the Democratic presidential race and more power to him for this new role. He is talking about ways to eliminate poverty and other issues that the frontrunners are not tackling.

Edwards is quite good in attacking mainly Hillary but also Obama on the issues. This is not mudslinging. This is how you catch up with the frontrunners and attempt to overtake them.

And, even Congressman Kucinich who seems to mention NAFTA in every answer he gives, spoke out about the positive role labor unions have played and are playing for the American worker. It is good for someone to bring up this fact as unions seem to be taken for granted by most of the Democratic presidential candidates.

Senator Barack Obama did not have a particularly strong night. He started out strong pointing out inconsistencies in some of the statements made by Clinton but then seemed to fade into a calmness the rest of the debate.

The Illinois Senator did not seem as coherent on his foreign policy views as either Biden or Richardson.

It still baffles me why Senator Hillary Clinton is receiving all this attention and the other candidates are relegated to the coach seats. The former First Lady is leading the polls but why is she getting all of the attention that should be shared among all her colleagues running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The American voter is getting a disservice with the political analysts and journalists concentrating so exclusively on Hillary and Obama.

Listen more to the other so-called second tier candidates. Biden, Richardson, Dodd and Edwards have a lot of ideas worth listening to but they are being drowned out by the steady drumbeat of Hillary and Obama non-stop coverage.

Certainly other viewers realize that last night's debate in Las Vegas had other performers on stage other than Hillary and Obama.

What do the second tier candidates need to do to actually attract some attention? Their thoughtful views on the issues aren't doing it.

Hopefully, the strong performances by Biden, Richardson, Dodd and Edwards won't stay in Vegas but will inspire some new support for them from likely voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.