I have to hand it to the folks over at CNN and YouTube who put together tonight's Democratic debate live on CNN--the event was a pleasure to watch.
The debate format, which allowed "everyday Americans" to submit questions to the candidates via YouTube, offered viewers the chance to see the candidates struggle with some of the most difficult questions put to them during this campaign so far.
YouTube viewers posed questions on a broad variety of topics from Darfur to gun control, gay rights to health care, and of course, Iraq. The best part about this innovate format? Most candidates squirmed when faced with this eclectic mix of questions from concerned and curious voters.
When all is said and done, the format underscored how voters want to be spared canned soundbites from the candidates. Unfortunately, most of the candidates, particularly those in the "top tier," struggled to deviate from their stump speeches.
If any candidates came away winners in tonight's debate, it was those in the "second tier." The CNN/YouTube debate allowed Biden, Richardson, Dodd, Kucinich, and even grumpy ol' Mike Gravel a chance to let their personalities and their ideas shine.
Was the debate as "historic" as CNN would like us to believe? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure: The format nudged candidates away from their stump rhetoric and allowed second tier candidates an opportunity to be heard. That can only be a good thing for a democracy.