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It was a crowd fit for … Dennis Kucinich?

A few commentators weighed in with the opinion that Dennis Kucinich gained the most out to last night's AFL-CIO debate at Soldier Field in Chicago. Mike Gravel was not present, so he had the fringe candidate spot all to himself. He was able to upstage John Edwards by tracking even farther to the left than he was. And his positions on NAFTA (abolish it) and health care (no insurers, just single payer, Michael Moore-endorsed coverage) resonated with the revved up labor audience. It didn't matter that he wore an ill-fitting suit.

Writes Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post's The Fix: "Give Kucinich his due: he was great last night. Of course, unlike the rest of the candidates on stage, Kucinich is not bound by concerns over saying something that might make him unelectable in a primary or general election. His miniscule chance of winning frees him to speak his mind on the war in Iraq, NAFTA, health care and anything else he is asked about."

Next to Hillary Clinton's "I'm your girl," he also had one of the night's signature lines, on trade with China: "The time to worry about China trade was really when some of my friends up here on the stage actually voted for most favored nation. Now, as president, my most favored nation is America. And I want to say, you know, there was a myth when I was growing up in Cleveland that if you dig a hole deep enough, you'll get to China. We're there." 

Moderator Keith Olbermann, who has called for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, further burnished his credentials as the left's answer to Bill O'Reilly. The debate — the second Democratic gathering in four days — averaged 960,000 viewers, which puts it on the lower end of these events so far this year.

Kucinich holds a fund-raiser on Sunday at the Chopra Center for Living in Encinitas, with a host committee that includes director Paul Haggis and actress Shelley Morrison.

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