Presidential Hopefuls Spin Through Weekend

Republican and Democratic candidates vying for the White House were in debates and forums over the weekend. Democrats were before bloggers while GOP candidates debated in Iowa.

Renee Montagne spoke with NPR's Cokie Roberts for some political analysis.

Montagne: Now, aside from their views on the president and the war, Republican candidates seem to be quite close to GOP orthodoxy. What effect does that have come the election?

Roberts: Well, the effect of these inter-party debates, of which we are now having so many and so early, is to push the candidates of each party farther into the corners of the extremists in the party. All of the challenges come from the people in the party who are saying prove to me your purity. And that's, of course, what happened with Mitt Romney on abortion.

The debate yesterday started with the question of abortion and whether Romney had changed his position from being pro-choice to pro-life. And he gave an answer saying I'm tired of people being holier than thou, saying that they were pro-life before I was. But that is - he is now scrambling to show exactly how pure he is on that position. Now, that's not a big voting issue in the country as whole. It is in Iowa caucuses. And so it's something where candidates have to be very clear that they are pro-life in the Republican Party and Iowa caucuses. And then, when you get to the general election, it becomes a problem for them because it's not the place where the country as a whole is. And that's true on lots of issue in these debates.

And the Republicans weren't the only ones to debate this weekend. Democrats also got together, as they have in the past, but this time in an unusual event. Tell us about that.

It really was. This was a bloggers convention. This is something called the YearlyKos Convention. It's a bunch of political bloggers, named after DailyKos, one of the popular left-wing political blogs. And all the Democratic candidates with the exception of Senator Biden were there. The person who was really there to woo these liberal activists was Hillary Clinton, because John Edwards has been their favorite. And apparently, according to the reports, she did. Again, part of the reason she was able to be attractive to the people who were in the liberal blogosphere is because she has moved on Iraq. She has, over time, moved to a much more anti-administration position on Iraq. And that is very popular right now inside the Democratic Party. But we'll see if the time comes next year, when the election comes, where people are on that issue, much less what it means to Democrats down the road in years to come. These positions - getting into this position with these activists at this point in the campaign can be dangerous in the long run.

And obviously these candidates, many of them are in Congress. What is the effect - and powerful senators and Congress people - what is the effect in Congress of these constant confrontations outside of the halls of Congress?

It's just making it harder to get things done. And you saw that last week in the House of Representatives. Late at night, the Republicans staged a walkout because they said the Democrats were stealing a vote from them. Now, all kinds of odd things happen late at night in the House of Representatives. But it was an indication of how the parties are not feeling like anyone is cooperating with each other, despite the fact that Speaker Pelosi came in saying she wanted to set a new tone. So did President Bush when he arrived. But it's very difficult these days to have any kind of civil tone in Washington. And we have the departure of Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican from the House, really underlining that. He was one of the civil members left, and he's not going to run again. And the presidential campaign just contributes to that.

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