I follow politics more closely than most people, and because of that, I'm always interested to hear what other people think about different candidates and issues. For instance, I regularly ask my dad about which Presidential candidates are catching his attention, because as someone who generally pays attention to the news but isn't immersed in politics, he serves as a pretty good litmus test. As for me, I've watched a couple of the debates and read about the race fairly regularly, but I haven't really studied the positions of each contender. So while I guess I pay more attention than most people, I am by no means well-versed in the particulars of each candidate. With that said, here's my view of the Presidential candidates at this point in the race, based on what I have gleaned as an observer (Democrats today, Republicans next week): DEMOCRATS Hillary Clinton I'm a Democrat and have paid more attention to the donkeys than I have the elephants. My personal choice for President would probably be Al Gore, so I didn't look at the field with a preconceived opinion, but Hillary has impressed me thus far. In the debates I have seen, she is clearly the most articulate and intelligent on the issues, and I appreciate her straightforward answers on many of the questions (as opposed to Barack Obama, which I'll explain in a moment). My hangup with Hillary at this point is the concern that she may not be electable in a national race, as well as the fact that she could be polarizing enough in Colorado to hurt Democrats down the ticket. Nevertheless, she's probably the current leader in my clubhouse, and it seems almost a foregone conclusion to me that she's going to be the Democratic nominee. Barack Obama I want to like Obama. I want to be impressed with his oratory skills and his call for a "new kind of politics." I want to feel the same excitement that so many others feel about him. But I don't. In the debates I have watched, I have been incredibly disappointed in Obama. His answer to virtually every question is some form of the following: "We need to invest more in [the community] [education] [the environment] [etc.]" Obama doesn't say anything, even though he says it well, and that really irritates me. I don't know what people hear when they claim to be inspired by him, because I have yet to hear something from Obama that makes me say, "Heck, yeah! I'm with you!" Obama just doesn't seem like he has the policy chops to be President - not in 2009, anyway. To me, Obama is like eating your dessert without touching your dinner. He's interesting, but he leaves me unfulfilled. John Edwards Edwards is the only candidate I have personally met, and I can sum up my feelings about him in one word: Eh. I don't dislike Edwards, but I'm not that excited about him, either. He's definitely better than John Kerry was in 2004; I think he'd be a good general election candidate; and I think he'd be a pretty good President. But I can't get too geeked up about his candidacy, for some reason. If Obama is like having dessert without dinner, Edwards is like having dinner and skipping dessert; he seems solid, but unspectacular. Bill Richardson After seven years of watching George Bush make an ass out of himself (and the country) on camera, Richardson makes me cringe whenever I see him speaking publicly. He's another guy who I want to like, but he's a bumbling idiot in the debates and he seems to have an incredible talent for jamming his foot in his mouth in other scenarios (falsely claiming to have been drafted by a Major League Baseball team, using a gay slur on a television show). Compared to the always cool and in control Hillary Clinton, Richardson craps his pants when he gets a microphone or tape recorder thrust in front of him, and that lack of poise overshadows everything else about him. Christopher Dodd Here's a guy who I do like, but it doesn't matter because he has as much of a chance at winning the nomination as I have of being drafted by the Denver Nuggets. I've been impressed with Dodd in the debates, and he certainly has the experience to be President. I'm a little freaked out by the fact that he's in his mid-60s and has two-year-old twins, and I still don't know if I am supposed to call him 'Christopher' or 'Chris,' but other than that I like him. Joe Biden Biden is too slick for me and a little too proud of being Joe Biden, although I do like his foreign policy experience. Biden is a guy who would be a good President in an action movie, but I don't want him as my President in real life. Dennis Kucinich He was cute in 2004, but I'm a little irritated that we're still letting him come to debates at this point. I don't buy the theory that Kucinich is keeping far-left interests in the discussion by running for President, because I don't think anyone pays attention to him outside of his core group of dedicated supporters. Kucinich used to have the best-looking wife of all of the candidates, but he can't even claim that crown anymore - that prize goes to Republican Fred Thompson. Mike Gravel Who the hell is Mike Gravel, and how did he get on the stage? I think his 'rock' commercial is hilarious, but he's what your grandpa would be like if he ran for President: Mildly entertaining but quickly irritating when he won't shut up about walking 10 miles in the snow to get to school. Next week...the Republicans.