Candidate: Mike Gravel Appropriate career: Shock jock. Convention presence: None. Followers: None. Speech: Nothing to main convention-spoke during Friday reception while delegates grappled over the free crab cakes and hummus. X-factor: Pronounces name with emphasis on last syllable. Sounds French to us. Luckily, support cannot get below zero. Grade: A. May have enhanced name recognition.
Candidate: Hillary Clinton Appropriate career: High-school vice principal. Convention presence: Normandy-esque. Blue-shirted Hillary supporters stormed the place. They attended every meeting. They had interest-group-specific fliers at every caucus. Apparently, Hillary's love for rural, geeky, Irish, Filipino, Latino, Pacific Islander, female, senior, California Democrats knows no bounds. Followers: Uncommitted. Wearing a Hillaryclinton.com T-shirt did not prevent anyone from later waving signs for her opponents. One Clinton supporter handed out Clinton fliers on Friday and volunteered for Obama on Saturday. Speech: Has mastered the Bill Clinton fist wag and seems to have the same speechwriter. Scored points with commitment to universal health care. Front of the room swooned but the backbenchers stayed in their chairs. X-factor: Her campaign is shockingly well-organized and corporate, which seems to turn people off. But maybe a well-run campaign should be a qualification for running the country? Grade: B+. Is there a heart for the tin woman?
Candidate: Barack Obama Appropriate career: Death, so as to become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Convention presence: Innocent. Followers tried to save paper by handing out one-eighth-page invitations to volunteer. Representatives sent to interest-group meetings spoke with passion but without ideas. Followers: Emotional. They laughed, they cried, it was better than Cats. Speech: Raised the roof when he spoke against the Iraq war, but otherwise seemed on automatic. Delegates cheered wildly, anyway. Some, men and women alike, said they wanted to take Obama home and “discuss the issues.” X-factor: Obama was the only candidate who did not stick around for a press conference after his speech. As a member of the press, CityBeat self-righteously lowers his grade for being neglectful. At the “Obama Store” in the back of the giant convention hall, volunteers “traded” bumper stickers and signs for $1 and $2 campaign donations. Grade: B-. Depending too much on rock-star persona.
Candidate: Chris Dodd Appropriate career: Senator. Dude really looks like a senator. Convention presence: Not much. Media showed scant interest. Followers: One. And we think he's on the payroll. Speech: Theme of 'When I was young' more likely to generate guilty calls to grandparents than votes. X-factor: Never trust a candidate when you can't see his eyes for his eyebrows. Grade: C. Why is he running?
Candidate: Dennis Kucinich Appropriate career: Cult leader. Convention presence: Ubiquitous. Kucinich and his foxy red-haired Viking of a wife appeared at several of the caucuses and spent all Saturday in San Diego. He didn't spend money on much besides signs. Aging hippies promoted him for free. Followers: Somewhat smelly. Speech: For Kucinich, speeches are performance art, a full-body dance in which he and his audience rise and fall together. For a few minutes, he owned the room, but then he stopped and the Dems returned to the fluorescent light of reality. X-factor: After listening to Kucinich speak for 10 minutes, listeners lose the power of reason and logic. They begin to sway back and forth, muttering the words 'Yes, Master.' Grade: A. The right fit for liberal Californians.
Candidate: John Edwards Appropriate Career: Game show host. Convention presence: Minimal. There were no Edwards signs until Sunday, when he spoke. Sent few speakers to caucuses. Followers: Middle-aged women. He's the baby boomer Bob Barker. Speech: For 10 a.m. on Sunday, a lot of people showed up. Described specific policy proposals and how to pay for them. Received a standing ovation when he left, even from the back of the hall. X-factor: His campaign strategy seems to be to win Nevada and South Carolina to generate momentum for California. Local Edwards-ites didn't think to bring campaign buttons, so they had to buy them in bulk from a button vendor three stalls down. Grade: A-. Unexpectedly successful speech.
Candidate: Bill Richardson Appropriate career: College baseball coach. Convention presence: Press conference after his speech was a disaster of unpreparedness. Tried to be hip by attending the Young Democrats after-party. Still not hip. Followers: Western, gun-owning Dems. Speech: Rattled off what he'll do on each of the first seven days of his presidency. But, in a telltale moment, he lost track of what number day he was on. X-factor: If Richardson weren't Latino, he'd poll no better than Chris Dodd. Also, oddly misguided. Richardson wants to appeal to young voters by talking to them about energy independence, Social Security and the federal deficit. In no danger of coming off as too slick. Grade: D. Can only have hurt himself by half-assed showing.
Candidate: Joe Biden Appropriate career: Absentee landlord. X-factor: Biden snubbed San Diego to stay in South Carolina. Grade: F. Snubbers suck.