Mike Gravel Dominates First Democratic Candidate Debate

The first primary is still eight months away but the first debate of the 2008 cycle took place last night among the Democratic candidates. I heard a few minutes of it on the radio last night and was wondering who the nut was whose ravings made Dennis Kucinich seem momentarily plausible. It turns out to have been former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel.

Dave Weigel has an excellent rundown of the debate for Reason. His impression of Gravel was apparently quite similar to mine: “Check out the lefty blogs, especially MyDD. They think Mike Gravel – whose brain I think I heard rattling around his skull – won. These people are different from you and me.” [See UPDATE below]

Glenn Reynolds has a nice “Gravel-mania” roundup. Some of the more thoughtful analyses:

  • Ann Althouse: “Gravel… that’s news to me. I didn’t even know he was still alive!”
  • TigerHawk: “Gravel is a loon, by the way. He makes Kucinich look sober as a judge.”
  • Hit & Run commenter COOP: “President Gravel? Only on an episode of The Flintstones.”

A surprising number of people live blogged the event. Memeorandum has a sampling in addition to links to several press accounts.

Hotline‘s Nora McAlvanah reports on the post-debate spin game:

As expected, our inboxes were swarmed with spin. “THE REVIEWS ARE IN: HILLARY ‘SUPERB,’ ‘STRONG,’ ‘VERY SOLID’ IN FIRST DEBATE” … “John Edwards: Winning the Issues Debate” … “DODD DEMONSTRATES PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP AT FIRST DEBATE” arrived in tandem last night. In reference to his highly-regarded one-liner, Biden’s press release was titled simply “yes.”

Thankfully, I’m not on their mailing lists. I expect a similar deluge after the first GOP debate, though.

Mike Gravel Gets 10 Percent in DailyKos Reader Poll UPDATE: Some commenters are challenging Weigel’s assertion that “the lefty blogs … think … Gravel won.” Doing some not-so-random checking, I’m seeing some positive comments (see Taylor Marsh, for example) but no assertions that Gravel was anything but an entertaining protest candidate.

The only evidence I’ve found that anyone thinks Gravel won is a DailyKos reader poll, in which 10% of the respondents tabbed Gravel as the winner. (via NewDonkey)

UPDATE: Weigel revises and extends his remarks in the comments below.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Planet Moron says:

    Duncan Hunter: The Congressman from Calif… wait, are we thinking of Sam Brownback again? This is really getting embarrassing. [IMG Ron_paul_debate_1] Ron Paul: The Texas representative is the GOP’s answer to Mike Gravel, but further along in his court-ordered anger management program. Unfortunately he engaged in some transparent pandering when he tried to wrap himself in the mantle of that revered Republican Party hero:

  2. + Discussion: Reuters, Firedoglake, MyDD, Outside The Beltway, skippy the bush kangaroo, The Fix, On Politics, ProgressiveHistorians, Dick Polman’s American Debate, Taylor Marsh, Blog P.I. and Washington Post

  3. Link Baiting 101 Taught by Professor Jason Calacanis True in the High-Definition DVD Wars Economic Growth Slows They Don’t Remember Jack Valenti Dies at 85 Obama’s Israel Problem Obscures His EU Problem Gasoline Prices Are Going Up, Why…? Mike Gravel Dominates First Democratic Candidate Debate [IMG OTB Sports] Warning: main(): open_basedir restriction in effect. File(/var/www/vhosts/outsidethebeltway.com/subdomains/sports/httpdocs/wp/wp-content/recent-posts.txt) is not within the allowed path(s):

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    Thankfully, I’m not on their mailing lists. I expect a similar deluge after the first GOP debate, though.

    You should straddle the fence more, James. I get all the DNC releases, the Presidential candidate releases, AND all the GOP releases…

  5. James Joyner says:

    Heh. I get a few from left-leaning interest groups but nothing from the candidates.

    BTW, not sure why you and other co-authors are suddenly winding up in the spam queue when you comment. Ed Burns is going to look into fixing it for me when he gets back from a business trip.

  6. thomas says:

    Are you stupid? Can’t you recognize mockery when you see it? And you post to *one* open thread to prove that “lefty blogs” think Mike Gravel won, and that one thread is making *fun* of Mike Gravel? No wonder you guys can’t run a country, you can’t even recognize a little humour. Yeesh.

  7. Mark says:


    Here is the full MyDD post Dave links to:

    Mike Gravel is channeling a very angry activist. Rock out, Mike!

    This isn’t quite saying “he won”.

    The comments in that linked thread are a mix. Some people liked him. Some thought he was crazy. Some liked him but still thought he was crazy (personally, I fall into this last category – it was fun to hear him speak his mind in an otherwise boring event).

    Here’s what John Aravosis of AmericaBlog had to say:

    Gravel, loony, but fun as hell. He’s the new General what’s-his-name (Who am I, why am I here?!)

  8. David Weigel says:

    OK, to be fair, I should have said that the COMMENTERS on the lefty blogs were more pro-Gravel than reasonable people might expect. None of the major lefty bloggers were. Fine, my bad. But the MyDD diary threads were thick with pro-Gravel chatter, including one thread proposing Gravel as a 2008 U.S. Senate candidate in Alaska.

    Anyway, thanks for the link!

  9. […] James Joyner is happy he isn’t on the Democratic campaign mailing lists. Save and Share: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  10. Andy says:

    OK, to be fair, I should have said that the COMMENTERS on the lefty blogs were more pro-Gravel than reasonable people might expect.

    I thought we all learned that using the posts of blog commenters to draw any sort of conclusion about anything is a darned foolish thing to do.

  11. Tano says:

    Hey but it gets you a link!

  12. Anderson says:

    Thanks for the corrections, JJ & Dave; the posts originally smacked of “see HOW crazy those stupid Dems are?”