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Readers: South Carolina debate sheds different light on candidates

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(CNN) -- As Democrats debated Monday night in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, readers also came out swinging. CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute hosted a discussion that got a lot of readers' attention and changed a few opinions along the way.

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William Hamilton of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, said local Democrats got together and ate a themed cake.

Many looked at candidates' interactions with one another, and said they were seeing different sides of the presidential hopefuls' personalities. A few readers suggested they were going to change their vote, or at least re-evaluate their choice of candidate, based on what they saw during the debate.

Following is a selection of the responses, some of which have been edited:

Marie Tenant of Fort Worth, Texas
The Democratic candidates represent the best that America has to offer. The Republicans do not hold a candle to any of our choices. The best situation would be a combination of these candidates. Edwards-Obama sounds like a winner to me.

Frank Isom of Denver, Colorado
Excellent debate! Obama was superb, he continues to maintain his dignity, grace and clear outlook on life and his faith is unwavering. My family and I are looking forward to President Obama as the Democratic nominee this year and he will stand up to John McCain and anyone else and he will win!

Matt Steele of Ann Arbor, Michigan
I am definitely warming to Hillary Clinton because she's showing how she can fight. Barack Obama is going to drop in the polls because he is losing his charm. I am still a big Edwards supporter, because he was always a fighter, he cares about what we're supposed to care about. This squabbling that the media and Obama and Clinton have brought to a boil is not going to help Obama or Edwards in the general election.

Angela Davis of Orlando, Florida
Great Debate! Glad to see the realness of each person come through! Finally, John Edwards is standing out in a positive way!

Chris Carr of Greenville, North Carolina
The questions are not being fully answered by the candidates ... there is a lot of diverging from the specific topics. Also, John Edwards is not speaking much, as if he was conserved of his opinions.

Eric De La Torre of Edinburg, Texas
Barack Obama is trying to distance himself from political bickering, but was the first to start with mentioning Hillary's position with Wal-Mart. Talk about wanting a clean campaign when you're the first to get dirty.

Christy Mitchell of Tampa, Florida
With each debate I watch, and Bill Clinton's increasing confrontation in this campaign, I can't help but feel that Bill Clinton is running for a third term. Hillary and the media are always referring back to his presidency. He is not running, he successfully completed his two terms as president and is ineligible for a third time. Can we focus on Hillary and what she will do for the country? I worry that it will be Bill Clinton running things behind the scenes should she be elected and I wonder if many Hillary supporters are hoping that will happen because of his success. Are people voting for Hillary or for Bill?

Coby Giles of Fort Payne, Alabama
I think that Obama is a great speaker and is very motivational, but he is not ready to lead this country. He never engages in Q&A sessions after his speeches from what I understand. If you can't be upfront and answer the honest questions from the American voters then you can not stand up against or with the Republican party to bring this country together and move us forward.

Doug Gould of Davie, Florida
Hillary Clinton has easily won this debate. She is obviously the most intelligent, most informed, and ready to enact "change" on day one of her presidency. Saturday's results in South Carolina will bear me out as will the following week's primary here in Florida.

Ron Sutton of Orlando, Florida
It sounds like Hillary Clinton's universal health insurance plan is to reduce the quality of health care enjoyed by much of the middle class today in order to finance health care for others. Since she claimed in tonight's debate that her plans pay for all proposed spending, one can only conclude that she intends to increase taxes on everyone currently paying them to offset the additional spending.

In other words, if those of us who currently enjoy health insurance would pay more for what will undoubtedly prove to be inferior coverage. Sounds remarkably similar to the slogan, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" (Karl Marx, 1875). And I thought we WON the cold war!

It would be nice if Mrs. Clinton would stop looking us in the eye and lying to us. The public is just as tired of old-time liberal politics as they are of President Bush. Although I'm not a Democrat, I admire Mr. Obama's efforts to raise the bar, and find his claims to be an agent of change to be reflected in his campaign tactics and personal demeanor. I can see what he believes in the way he acts. Unfortunately, Mrs. Clinton's actions belie her claims to be an agent of change. As a result I find myself taking much of what she says with several grains of salt.

Red Carr of Boston, Massachusetts
As a Republican I find it disgusting that the best the Democrats can do is argue back and forth, constantly bringing up the women and race issue. I thought we were going through a process to elect what was best for our country, male, female, white, black or green. If the Democrats are all about voting their gender or race maybe the Republicans should draft Dr. Rice as their choice. America will never get rid of racism or the gender glass ceilings as long as the press and the candidates continue to make it a key subject. Also one thing I would like to see both parties address is how they plan on getting Congress to implement their policies when all they do is continue to snipe at each other. The biggest issue facing this country is not the economy, war, health care, etc... but bitter infighting between parties. There is a strong hate for the Bushes and Clintons and we need to get past that.

K. Sapp of Carrollton, Georgia
For Senator Clinton:

It seems to me that you are unable to remain calm during any of the democratic debates. If you're unable to keep your cool during a debate, it scares me to think how you would or would not be able to control yourself if the president of Iran (or any other country) made a derogatory remark directed toward you or the USA. And in what way(s) did you receive your "35 years of experience?"

Kathy Mason of Jacksonville Beach, Florida
At 56, Hillary is the last chance to see a woman president in my lifetime. After watching this debate, I'm sure Hillary will win. She is the best person for the job. She can walk the talk.

Marilyn Mellick of Austin, Texas
Edwards is winning, Hillary second. Some of Obama's essential vacuity exposed tonight. The talking heads will cover that emptiness over. At least we get to hear the candidates for a minute before the Chris Matthews element takes over.

John May of Millersville, Pennsylvania
From observation of the premeditated shots Hillary took at Barack Obama (regarding his representation of slum landlords in Chicago) I am left with the thought that Hillary Clinton as president will be a polarizing influence while Barack Obama, if elected, has a better chance of being the uniter he talks about so much.

K. Grant of Atlanta, Georgia
I have not heard the candidates discuss education on a regular basis. My child along with other children are so stressed out about standardized testing that she became sick in class when the results were returned. She passed with no problem. My question is with what will the candidates replace No Child Left Behind? Is there a time line in place for this plan?

David Parker of San Jose, California
I am proud that Senator Edwards is taking the high road and making himself stand out from the bickering Sens. Clinton and Obama. We don't need blame for our troubles, we need solutions.

Krishna Pillalamarri of Bel Air, Maryland
First question to Clinton, on the faltering economy. Gave a pretty competent answer, took issue with Bush's proposed tax rebates. Dragged in a reference to MLK's birthday too.

Obama dragged in a reference to the "war that should never have been waged never authorized" -- a gratuitous dig at Hillary Clinton.

Edwards spoke at length on MLK and his work for the poor people, tying that with Bush leaving about 50 million people from his rebate program. Didn't directly answer the question that was asked. Nothing on the short term stimulus package at issue.

Edward Soto of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Obama planned to come to this debate with arms swinging. He stooped to a level that I am frankly surprised with. The shot on Clinton as a lawyer with Wal-Mart was extremely low and personal. He has lost my vote.

Cheryl Lynne Rubbo of San Rafael, California
During the Republican YouTube debate, a young black man asked the Republican candidates what they would do about black-on-black violence, and their replies were to address it as a crime issue, increasing policing and enforcing laws. During the Las Vegas Democratic debate, the Democratic candidates were asked a question that was in a similar vein: "To what do you attribute the disproportionately high dropout of black males at every level in our educational process, and what would you do to stem the tide of black men exiting the educational system?"

I have not heard any candidate, from either party, at any time during this presidential campaign, give an answer that I feel addresses the root problem of the violence and the drop-out rate of our youth, of any color.

When we as a society can make every citizen, no matter what their color, age or socio-economic background, know that they are a valued, contributing member of this nation then we will see a dramatic reduction in the levels of anger, frustration, alienation and non-productivity of our youth. Who among the candidates will go to the inner city or the barrios and let these young men know that they are cared about?

Kaleb Brown of Toronto, Ontario
First of all, I would like to congratulate all of the candidates. I would be proud and honored if any one of you were elected president. I am an Obama supporter, but would like to hear from Senator Edwards. Senator Edwards, do you feel as though this is being portrayed as a two candidate race? Is it hard to be the third place voice, trying to leap into second or first? Is there a way where the underdogs may have a fairer chance at getting their airtime?

Thanks for all of your time and effort. It's great to feel as though our neighbors to the South are going to be in good hands. Thank you all.

David Lai of Bellevue, Washington
Until two weeks ago, the Democratic presidential campaigns have been race-free. Voters supported Obama not because he is black, but because of his ideas. This is progress towards a color-blind America.

Unfortunately, race jumped into the campaign after the Iowa caucus. It is not clear to me who is at fault on this. But I am saddened by this turn of event as the progress that I saw earlier in the campaign slides back to "politics at usual".

Marcel Feraud of Miami, Florida
Electing a black person, president of the United States of America, would be a monumental and historical event, the single most important social and political conquer, since the foundation of the country.

Such a milestone would speak for itself and would contribute to bridge differences in this country and around the world. The electoral process will show us exactly were we are, in terms of our awareness as human beings, beyond the divide of left and right or gender.

I believe America is ready to give the world this much needed example of democracy amending past injustices and evolving as the people it says to represent.

Pat Temple of Arlington, Virginia
All the Democratic candidates have stated their opposition to a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada for the nation's defense and commercial nuclear waste. None of them have offered any alternative proposal for dealing with the nation's nuclear waste. It would be an interesting question to ask them what their plans are for dealing with the nuclear waste generated from U.S. defense activities and from commercial reactors.

Marie Zudows of Melbourne, Florida
All of these talks and more talks about issues and more issues are not relevant to what most Americans wants to hear. Not one of them has really convinced me so far. What about jobs? Minimum wage? Most people can't even make it with two incomes. Health care? You can be refused Medicaid services even though there are six people in your family. You are turned down if both spouses are working even though you're on the low-income level. There are thousands and thousands of veterans out there who are homeless and cannot get a job although they are labeled as being one, etc., etc., etc. I have not heard one single candidate remotely mentioning their so-called changes toward helping millions and millions of people in this country who are in dire need of their help. So please excuse me if I'm not jumping on the bandwagon train.

Greta Thompson of Blenheim, Ontario
If the FIRST WOMAN president is to be elected, should it not be because she demonstrated to the voters that SHE was the BEST PERSON to do the job? As an INDEPENDENT Canadian WOMAN, watching the election process from Canada, I am left with the impression that the job "competition" you are holding, for the office of the president, is unfair. That the former president's involvement in his wife's campaign is excessive. I can not determine if it is Bill Clinton or his wife competing for the job, nor, who will be doing the job. When did two against one become a fair contest in the USA?

Is it really a VICTORY for women if the FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT gets her job by riding on a powerful man's coat tails, or, through her special PERSONAL relationships with the boss or a man with more powerful connections? How much respect will she receive from the international community when she needs it if they all believe she only got her job through her connections and through an unfair competition.

Shital Patel of Houston, Texas
First question of the evening regarding the economy: Hillary - answered the question succinctly and to the point; she proves she is substance over posturing. Obama - Fumbled, postured, failed and proved he is rather vacuous with real issues such as the economy. Edwards - Postured a bit, answered better than Obama.

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P.S. Hillary knows who she is and does not need to cheaply sell herself for African American votes; if you recall, Bill Clinton received the largest standing ovation at Coretta Scott King's funeral.

Tom Jung of College Station, Texas
I think the democrats in this debate don't realize how many Americans don't affiliate them with a party, or are not sure. This being said, it makes me disgusted that they are negatively downing the president of the United States. Not very smart. Makes it very difficult for me to like them. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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