1. Rich media.
In a revealing exchange, Charlie Gibson illustrated how the media is unknowingly biased. The candidates were talking about repealing the Bush tax cuts and whacking the rich.
CLINTON: Yes, but, Charlie, the tax cuts on the wealthiest of Americans; not the middle-class tax cuts. One of the problems with George Bush's tax policy has been the way he has tilted it for the wealthy and the well-connected.
GIBSON: If you take a family of two professors, here at Saint Anselm, they're going to be in the $200,000 category that you're talking about lifting the taxes on.
That laughter was at Charlie, for seriously over-estimating what a professor earned. Baffled, Charlie tried to dig his way out of it, but just had to move on as everyone in the audience and on stage laughed at him. Here's what I think happened. Gibson was trying to make the point that repealing the Bush tax cuts will hurt the middle class and pulled what he thought was a reasonable example of that out of the air. But the median income was $48k for a two-income family in 2006--a quarter of Gibson's guess. Gibson, who earns millions a year and lives Manhattan and socializes with other extremely rich people, doesn't have a clue what "middle class" is ($200k puts you in the 96th percentile).
It's no wonder the news does a bad job capturing what average Americans face economically. They are a species unseen to the media.
2. Party Brand
The other thing I couldn't help but notice in contrast was the state of the GOP and Dem brands. The Republicans fought like a sack-full of cats, visciously raking each other over the coals. The Dems, on the other hand, did snipe from time to time, but they all reiterated throughout the debate how they were all pretty much good on the issues and in agreement, and how any would offer a huge improvement over Republican rule. If you were undecided going in, wondering which party you should support, you would have recoiled in horror from the GOP.
It's no wonder that the two guys leading that race are both the rejects from the party establishment. Being a good party guy is a bad thing in '08 if you're a Republican.