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Dan Balz's Take

Final Debate Changes Little, Though Earlier Ones Changed Obama


Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama face off in the 20th Democratic presidential primary debate.

By Dan Balz
CLEVELAND -- Two things were clear from Tuesday's Democratic debate here in Cleveland: Barack Obama is a much improved debater from what he was when he began his presidential campaign, and Hillary Clinton did not do what she needed to do to change the shape of the Democratic race.

The two are obviously related and they help illuminate why the Clinton-Obama contest has reached the point it has, with Clinton struggling to avoid an outcome next Tuesday that would put pressure on her to leave the race.

Scroll back 10 months to the first Democratic debate in South Carolina, a session that helped to create, justifiably, the idea that Clinton was the class of the field. In that debate, Clinton appeared in command and Obama looked tentative. That long-ago debate underscored the depth and breadth of the Democratic field but also showed Clinton's policy knowledge and political confidence. It was one of the factors contributing to assessments that described her as a far better candidate than many had expected.

On Tuesday night, Clinton and Obama were far more evenly matched, as they have been in all of three of their two-person debates. If anything, Clinton appeared to be trying too hard -- too anxious to score points, and talking at length during the opening exchange over health care. Her demeanor in the opening minutes suggested she was perturbed that, on the signature issue of her campaign, she was not automatically judged to have the superior plan for achieving universal health care.

Her exasperation surfaced not long after when she voiced objections to NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert over always being tossed the opening -- and presumably embarrassing -- question. Whether that is always the case is debatable -- a USA Today analysis suggests that Clinton is correct on this point when it comes to the most recent debate openers -- but, on Tuesday night, she was put on the defensive from the start with video of her being nice to Obama and then excoriating him over a campaign flier on health care.

When, a few minutes later, she was asked to go first to explain why she has changed positions on NAFTA, she could not restrain herself. "Could I just point out that, in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time? And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious. And if anybody saw 'Saturday Night Live,' you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow."

That was the sound of a candidate under stress, and while the moment passed quickly -- viewers who had not seen "Saturday Night Live" must have been bewildered by what she was talking about -- it underscored the reality that she has had more trouble recently striking the right balance, whether on the campaign trail or in the debates.

Obama started out his campaign with an aversion to debates. He had not found them to his liking when he ran for the Senate against Republican Alan Keyes in 2004 and, even after the first several debates of this campaign, he was still uneasy with his performance.

When I interviewed him last August, he openly acknowledged that he did not do well with debates with seven other candidates and with rules that limited answers to 60 seconds or 90 seconds. "There's no doubt that the 60-second format debates, or even 90-second, are tough for me," he said.

Obama said something that, as I look back on it, explains why he has appeared more comfortable and effective as a debater the longer the campaign has gone one. Not only has he become more confident in his own skills, the two-person setting plays to what he believes are his own strengths.

"I think that having a different format would benefit me," he said in that August interview. "There's no doubt that if we had more of a conversation, or we had a roundtable and it was a little more open ended and maybe we structured it so that it focused on one topic, [it] would play to my strengths. And there's no doubt that the sort of sound-bite debate style -- some candidates have mastered that art more than I have."

Clinton is still playing sound-bite debate politics, looking for the line that will be replayed and replayed and replayed. But when she tried it in Austin with her "change you can Xerox" dig at Obama for taking words from Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, it landed with a thud -- and produced some boos from the Austin audience. Her "Saturday Night Live" line on Tuesday was of the same order, with results not much better.

She remains an effective advocate in debate -- still knowledgeable to the point of wonkishness -- and Obama was not error-free on Tuesday. He still is waffling on his earlier pledge to take public funds in a general election campaign. He did not seem entirely comfortable with questions about either Louis Farrakhan or his own minister's views. He talked around a question about Dmitry Medvedev, who is in line to replace Russian President Vladimir Putin, and may have been lucky that it was Clinton who was first asked if she knew his name. She did, but had trouble pronouncing it.

But in most cases, Obama showed what he has learned from a year of standing or sitting opposite Clinton in these debates. One example came on Iraq, a subject the two have tangled on since the start of the campaign.

Clinton gave him credit for having spoken out against the war in 2002 but pressed him on why their voting records were virtually identical since he had come to the Senate. "The fair comparison is when we both had responsibility," she said. "When it wasn't just a speech, but it was actually action, where is the difference? Where is the comparison that would, in some way, give a real credibility to the speech that he gave against the war?"

Obama countered. "The fact was this was a big strategic blunder," he said. "It was not a matter of, 'Well, here is the initial decision, but since then we've voted the same way.' Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is: Who's making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch?"

He continued: "And the fact is that Senator Clinton often says that she is ready on day one, but, in fact, she was ready to give in to George Bush on day one on this critical issue. So the same person that she criticizes for having terrible judgment -- and we can't afford to have another one of those -- in fact, she facilitated and enabled this individual to make a decision that has been strategically damaging to the United States of America."

Clinton began this campaign as the more effective debater, but as in other aspects of the campaign, Obama has closed the gap. She must now try to win Ohio and Texas the old-fashioned way, with effective campaigning, a strong message and a ground operation that has been shaky in some previous states.

Here in Ohio, that amounts to adopting the strategy of Woody Hayes, the legendary Ohio State football coach: three yards and a cloud of dust. It isn't glamorous but it may be all she has left.

Posted at 2:08 PM ET on Feb 27, 2008  | Category:  Dan Balz's Take
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I think that anyone who bad mouths Hillary the way that jerk above did is jealous of her. Touche to you: that is, WOMEN are SMARTER, CAN LEAD and MEN CAN"T; look at
WB!!! also, REMEMBER THAT ALL the SUNDRY FEMALE LEADERS HAVE ALL BEEN LEGENDS.
Queen Victoria brought England and her empire
out of a mess during her long reign, for instance!!! Hillary is SUPERIOR to her
MALE INFERIOR. How do you like that, airhead?!!

Posted by: carolyn-corretti | February 28, 2008 2:21 PM

I apologize for the unfair comments of zuckermand. I have seen this agressive and inappropriate style at the beginning of the second Irak war, it was used by war promoters.

Posted by: barakobahamas | February 28, 2008 6:20 AM

MRS. Clinton is running out of cards.

let's see she has played the race card and discovered that obama transcends race; the woman card and found the feminists don't respect her; the victim card which propelled her into the US senate (the SNL sketch was not much of a stretch) and nothing has worked because her basic premise is flawed. she has LESS experience than her opponent and she is running on the experience of another (and SHE brings up plagiarism?). She can't even unite the passel of SUPPORTERS that attempt to run her campaign, what the hell would she do with the divided congress?
The press merely reports what she says and does, they are not to blame for her inconsistency, incompetence and insincerity. Yet to expect a Clinton to take personal responsibility for anything would be the real fairy tale.
james d granata

Posted by: jganymede | February 28, 2008 5:33 AM

..I watched the debate 2/27 and I didn't catch this point until bloggers on these sites posted their remarks. Then, I researched to confirm the facts. NO ONE IN THE US MEDIA CAUGHT THIS-OR PERHAPS THEY DID AND CHOSE NOT TO WRITE ABOUT IT...I was VERY disappointed with response Senator Barack Obama gave when asked what was his biggest mistake while in office. He was being VERY disengenious and/or lying.He said his biggest mistake was voting with a UNANIMOUS Senate to help save Terri Schiavo. Terri was the disabled Florida woman whose husband won the legal right to starve her to death.
Yes Sen. Obama-was technically correct-the Senate vote was unanimous BECAUSE ONLY THREE SENATORS WERE THERE TO VOTE (Bill Frist (R-TN), Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Mel Martinez (R-FL).The remaining 97 Senators were not present. The public was later told that a voice vote took place and no records had to be maintained and filed for posterity/transparency detailing the exchange???? SEN. Obama WAS OK WITH DOING SOMETHING LIKE THIS??? Why didnt the press challenge his decision making capabilities? As a US citizen, I am very uncomfortable with this...
How many times has he ridiculed Sen. Clinton about 'doing things behind closed doors?
IS THIS THE WAY IT WILL BE IF HE WINS NOMINATION AND BECOMES PRESIDENT???WILL HE CONTINUE TO CLOAK HIS ANSWERS LIKE THIS AND APPROVE LEGISLATION IN A SIMILIAR MANNER- If that is the CASE, THEN I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED.HE REPRESENTS THE "SAME OLD SAME OLD". So much for CHANGE IN GOV'T...
The law which was "unanimously" approved was a violation of the separation of powers. Many historians and constitutional lawyers argued that Congress had exceeded its powers by substituting its judgment for that of the courts and directing the courts on how to proceed.
Judge Stanley Francis Birch addressed this point. In March 2005 he agreed with the above point."THE ACT INVADES THE PROVINCE OF THE JUDICIARY AND V I O L A T E S
T H E SEPERATION OF POWERS PRINCIPLE.
We are told (and the media perpetuates what we have been told without investigating validity of this explanation) that the bill passed unanimously (with 97 senators calling in their votes?????) and no formal record of the vote was made.
So I guess we will just have to believe whatever anyone tells us about what occurred.
Are you ok with the fact that we have no formal record of this vote? Go back and ask anyone what happened that day-one person can lie, and the other person can swear to the lie.WHY DID THEY WANT NO FORMAL RECORD OF THIS VOTE???I'M USING COMMON SENSE HERE TO ASK THIS QUESTION.
We were told it was 'A VOICE VOTE'.
If I were Sen. Obama, with all my education and legal training and my obligation to the citizens and our laws...I DEFINETELY would have abstained from voting on something like this without having the opportunity to discuss issue with my fellow elected officials ...He has legal training-he taught-he should have known better. This judgement call should have been a 'no-brainer' for him.
VERY BAD JUDGEMENT CALL ON HIS PART- OR DID HE SUCCUMB TO POLITICAL PRESSURE OF THREE US SENATORS?
This still is the United States of AMerica, isn't it... We are a country of constitutional laws and right...not of the whims and fancies of those in power.


Posted by: teddy21 | February 28, 2008 2:22 AM

I am not taking sides on the issue of whether or not the media has been "fair" to Hillary or not. However, I've read other articles that say her campaign staff has been very rude, uncooperative, even threatening to media representatives. If so, then why would she expect positive coverage from them? (It doesn't sound like good politics to p*** off the media, so I have to question her political savvy here.)

Posted by: lfahnest | February 27, 2008 8:47 PM

ckc777:

I guess I haven't "flooded" enough posts stating that I wouldn't vote for Hillary DIANE Clinton in a million years. Just because I think the SNL skit was funny does not make me into her supporter.

Posted by: JakeD | February 27, 2008 5:54 PM

I hear you e2holmes about laughing at ourselves, as I did appreciate Joel Stein's piece in the LA Times, but the SNL skit did suck. It could have been much funnier.

Posted by: frank | February 27, 2008 4:42 PM

IS THE PRESS BIASED FOR OBAMA ?

Sure they are. Air America radio, MSNBC and others go through a schedule of Hillary bashing every day.

Once in a generation or so, a great politician, one kind of genius, appears: Teddy R, FDR, JFK, Reagan. Spending many hours per week around candidates, the press recognizes a great one.

Teddy Roosevelt brought unprecedented youth and energy to the White House.

FDR provided sunshine for the gloomiest times.

JFK's intelligence and sense of humor made his press conferences fun.

Reagan had a teflon surface, his gaffes and stumbles sliding off.

Obama is a freight train. Get off the tracks, Hillary. So long, John.

Posted by: goat1 | February 27, 2008 4:41 PM

Shame on you Barack Obama for answering your questions so well! I couldn't even beat you with Karl Rove tactics or pin them on you. Meet me in PA, where I can look even more desperate and angry! Shame on you Barack Obama! Shame on you!

Posted by: frank | February 27, 2008 4:38 PM

On the day before the debate, there was a meeting at Ohio State University with 4 of Obama's foreign policy advisers. Not much detail in the blog, but here it is

http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com/davidpostman/2008/02/a_little_substance_on_the_campaign_trail.html

There is an interesting bit about Richard Danzig, one of Obama's foreign policy advisers, cautioning not to view Obama in messianic terms
"This is not the coming of the messiah and we are not going to be able to convert loaves into fishes. And as Barack Obama says himself repeatedly, it will be hard, I want to add, risky. The odds are that some of the things that are envisioned will not be able to come to pass. This is not a messianic being or a perfect strategy. You have to ask yourself which of the candidates affords the greatest likelihood of pointing us in the right direction."

Oh and re the SNL skit, I'm an Obama supporter but I found it hilarious, in part because there is a large element of truth to it. I support Obama because I believe that he is more likely to accomplish some of the Democratic agenda that is important to me--a less neocon and more diplomatic foreign policy and making steps towards universal health care. But on the otherhand, Obama is *inspiring* to many (me among them). I happen to think that's a good thing, but I think it is very important to laugh at ourselves about how misty-eyed we (Obama-supporters) get about him--and how many times we secretly listen to the will.i.am music video. But even those I laugh about that, I'm still bringing my kids to the polling place in Nov. I would be voting for him if he were white, but he's not and so this vote is going to be a big, big deal. [and yeah, I would take my kids to vote for Hillary too--because the first woman pres is a big deal too.]

Posted by: e2holmes | February 27, 2008 4:32 PM

I agree with the comedian guy. The SNL skit did suck. It reminded me of those old SNL skits that were stale as hell and ran on and on trying to squeeze out a laugh by repeating the same joke over and over. Them writers had way to long of a break!

As far as the debate...nah...nah..nah..nah...nah...nah...nah...nah...hey...hey...
hey...goodbye.

Its a knock out and she goes down!

However, the smelling salts will not be administered until after March 4th.


Posted by: frank | February 27, 2008 4:25 PM

Today I am posting too much, what is not usual for me, but I feel so upset about the level that Cintonians are going to, that I must have a saying.

1st) I think the problem with the Denounce x Reject comes from the same misunderstanding of the English language grammar and structure, which is pretty much shown by all Clinton "supporters" all over the Internet blogsphere. They seem to dislike our language to the point of reject (and denounce) it. I still say, there are plenty of good Extended Education schools around America, so take a stand to improve your vernacular knowledge.

2nd) Surely, Obama is improving his debate skills. He had to. He is fighting against the most corrupt political machine in the history of the United States, and, so far, winning.
I don't think McCain campaign will deliver a higher amount of lies and low-level politics than the Clinton mafia is putting up. It is not the style of Senator McCain, as he suffered with that as well, when Bush gang launched that campaign of lies against him in 2004, using anonymous phone calls telling voters in SC that McCain's wife was a drug addict and tried to kill herself...
So I don't think that having felt the pain of the dirty politics on his own skin, he would allow such thing to happen.

I wonder why some friends of mine in Texas have been receiving anonymous phone calls telling them that Obama is the muslim antichrist, and that he was a drug dealer on his youth...

From where are those things coming from? Is Bush running again?

Posted by: mp2007 | February 27, 2008 4:19 PM

How does the media that "crowns" a candidate as being the "inevitable" nominee be guilty of having a bias AGAINST that candidate?

Presumably, Hillary is blaming her 10 straight losses on the effect of media bias on the voter.

But she was still the inevitable candidate when she lost Iowa. She did not blame the media then...

Maybe the dynamics of this campaign are explained by name-recognition and comfort level. Clinton was the inital favorite because she was the most famous candidate (similar to Giuliani). As voters became more familiar with Obama, they began to accept his message. Clinton's campaign did not effectively adjust to the shifting landscape (similar to Giuliani) and we see the results.

Posted by: ussamsarmy | February 27, 2008 4:18 PM

In the last CNN debate it was clearly stated by the moderator that a coin flip determined who got the first question. Obama won and chose to go second. Hillary and the Post need to stop repeating this nonsense about Clinton being treated unfairly by the media.

If Hillary's and Obama's standings in the nomination process were reversed, the media would not even be talking about Obama having any chance, however slim, of pulling off the nomination. He would have been written off after Wisconsin, if not before.

Posted by: staxnet | February 27, 2008 4:12 PM

"Now I come to understand why Bill slept with other girls."

I'm laughing so hard my face aches. And actually there might be more than a little truth in that.

Posted by: simonc | February 27, 2008 4:07 PM

Regarding Obama in the debates: I am quite surprised on how the mainstream press failed to pick-up on Obama's good answers to questions pertaining to Latinos. Read http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/27/navarette.opinion/index.html

Posted by: AB68 | February 27, 2008 4:00 PM

Has there been any report of total time each candidate spoke? I'm curious who had more "mic" time.

Posted by: fitzamatic | February 27, 2008 4:00 PM

Mindbreath:

yes and yes and yes. but if you say it "your way" (calm and reasonable) or my way (with frustration), i have yet to talk to or hear from a Hilary supporter who heard it.

but yes, what you said? you said much better than i did or could have at this point.

Posted by: DRZOON | February 27, 2008 3:58 PM

I get the sense Sen Obama's supporters would find the discovery of human body parts in his refrigerator hopeful and uplifting.

Posted by: zukermand | February 27, 2008 3:54 PM

I don't understand the base for most of Ms. Clinton's jabs at Mr. Obama. The preferred refrain seems to be that he has no plan, but haven't we all seen as much of a plan from him as we have from her? We know Clinton's healthcare plan. We know Obama's healthcare plan. We know how Clinton wants to handle illegal immigration. We know how Obama wants to handle illegal immigration. Negotiating with Middle Eastern leaders, the war, taxes, it's all been laid out.

A lot of the media coverage Clinton did to herself. She's sarcastic. She's divisive. She's defensive. She comes with years of someone else's baggage, and it doesn't help that she cites her husband's political career as her own accomplishment so often. She makes for great soundbites, and they all look horrible. Obama's soundbites are untargetted, uplifting statements. You can't get a soundbite of his policy positions, because that's not how he talks about them. You can't get as many soundbites of Obama jabbing Clinton, because that's not how he makes the comparisons. There's no reason to assume that the media started off biased against Clinton. Still, the people in television media are hourly employees like any other, and if it's easier to post inflammatory soundbites from Clinton than Obama, why are we surprised that Clinton gets more inflammatory soundbites broadcast?

Posted by: mindbreath | February 27, 2008 3:47 PM

HILARY08? THAT was just the most ... what should we call it? .. stupid? yes... STUPID posting i have ever read this side of the DRUDGE REPORT! (you dont know anything about the DRUDGE REPORT do you?)

if you Hlary's would just stop sound so freaking "wounded"! NONE OF THIS HAS TO DO WITH GENDER! It has to do with... WHO DO WE TRUST? and seriously.... do you trust a Clinton to be honest with you when the chips are down?

Let me ask you this.. why didn't Hilary read the NIE before she voted to kill 4000 of our service-people in this STUPID war?

answer? she had to LOOK TOUGH so she would be taken serious when she ran for President! (al gore knew it was a stupid war.. why didn't the Clintons?)

Posted by: DRZOON | February 27, 2008 3:40 PM

Beautifully put, Miraclestudies! Very useful way to compare/contrast their styles and mindsets. Thanks for the insight-

Posted by: omh11 | February 27, 2008 3:40 PM

There is no substantive difference between "denouncing" vs. "rejecting" the comments of others. Hillary's parsing of the terms was strikingly silimilar to the Clintonion politics of parsing what the meaning of "is" is. I am glad the distinguished Sen. from Illinois simply conceded the point rather than joining in the politics of the past to parse virtually identical terms in context. I don't think I can stomach a full general election filled wth the same old politics of the Clintonian fashion.

Posted by: pasifikawv | February 27, 2008 3:39 PM

It's easy to see why Hillary Clinton is losing this race. She's too much of an old style politician. She basically thinks people are stupid and cannot see through her acting job. Someone must have told her to stop pretending to be smiling all the damn time, which made her look even more of a joke than she really is. I was waiting to see what she meant by "meet me in Ohio" but that too was part of her game. It's time we get rid of those types of politicians who are in it only for power and greed. Let's send them both to an early retirement. No more Clintons, no more Bushes. We've had enough.

Posted by: kzero2 | February 27, 2008 3:39 PM

Why would we want a stupid woman for our leader? Chris Matthews said he hated Hillary and she was elected Senator not because she was smart but because her husband had an affair. So you see, Chris Matthews said she was just a stupid woman so why should we elect a woman? Women can't lead, they aren't smart enough. men are smarter, Obama is winning because he is superior to women.

Posted by: Hillary08 | February 27, 2008 3:30 PM

I PRODUCE AND WRITE COMEDY FOR A LIVING... THAT SNL BIT SUCKED! WHY? BECAUSE FOR SOMETHING TO BE FUNNY.. IT HAS TO BE AS CLOSE TO THE TRUTH AS POSSIBLE. LIKE I SAID... IT WASN'T FUNNY. NOT UNLESS YOU ARE POSSIBLY AN OVER 60 WOMAN WHO HAS A HISTORY OF RELATIONSHIP ABUSE (SEE: BILL AND HILARY)

FOR HILARY TO STILL BE IN THIS RACE AFTER HAVING RUN SUCH AN INEPT CAMPAIGN ... SPEAKS VOLUMES THAT SHE HAS HAD THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT FROM THE PRESS FROM THE START.

SO.. PULL YOUR HEADS OUT OF... AND JUST BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF... SHE JUST DOESN'T HAVE WHAT BILL HAD.. "HAD"... AND IT JUST IS WHAT IT IS.


Posted by: DRZOON | February 27, 2008 3:30 PM

Obama showed he could think out of the box, and disagree with a brilliant contender without being disagreeable. He showed sensitivity but not to the point that it overrides reason. Even on TV one can see how he has the ability to inspire a purpose in the electorate to get up and get busy and help put pressure on elected officials to remake the American image and turn this artificial reality around. With all due respect I believe that Mrs. Clinton has a better health care program but I firmly believe that Obama will make a better President.

----Herbert
----Myrtle Beach SC

Posted by: myrtlebeach | February 27, 2008 3:27 PM

Bulldoglover,
You wrote:"It is a testament to her character, strength, and competence that she has come this far against such odds."
Did you forget she was supposed to be crowned a couple of months ago, and that the primary system was set up to benefit her?
Did you forget she had tons of money, mismanaged, I might add, and cried her way to a couple of wins?
She's a loser!

Posted by: ednyo2000 | February 27, 2008 3:25 PM

Yeah Gocareer Im really going to believe a website that is clearly not from an accredited news and/or fact finding organization. Nice try Clintonista.
Obama has definitely improved in his debate skills.
My decision is not just based on issues but also based on who has better managed their campaigns ? Clearly over confidence, mis-management of money, poor judgment in advisor's etc... show me that Sen Clinton doesnt have a clue .
What is she hiding without handing over her tax returns ?

Posted by: soflindie | February 27, 2008 3:19 PM

What's the deal with this JakeD? Does Sen. Clinton have paid staff flooding the Post's threads? Seriously, every article about the campaign I read has some snide comment by this guy--normally the first post. JakeD, I think we all understand who support... Good for you, now get over yourself unless you've go something new to say.

Posted by: ckc777 | February 27, 2008 3:19 PM

I think Obama used the better word, to reject means to refuse and to denounce means to condemn! Also, there are other Husseins, King Hussein of Jordan was known as a peacemaker!

Posted by: akbriskwood | February 27, 2008 3:17 PM

Obama copied everything Hillary proposed during the debate. I dont think he has an original bone in his body.

Posted by: hhkeller | February 27, 2008 3:17 PM

After watching simple facts from the debate and reading the detail from this
http://truthforusa.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1:truth-for-usa&catid=1:the-truth-about-the-candidates

I'm more than sure to vote for Hillary on March 4th.

Posted by: gocareer | February 27, 2008 3:10 PM

I have yet to hear what Obama stands for, Media has done poor job looking into his track record and treated him with kids glove. Chances are the nation will elect an other George Bush Junior. Obama is not yet good world stage. The inspiration plus ten cents will buy us cup of coffee.

Posted by: prkshah | February 27, 2008 3:09 PM

Now I come to understand why Bill slept with other girls.

Posted by: operahcho | February 27, 2008 3:05 PM

More to the point about last night's debate, both candidates showed us how they would govern. One would "dominate" with "facts" and the other would attempt to reason. One would stubbornly defend the "rightness" of their position to the death while the other would listen to all positions and then be able to think "out of the box" to come up with new and innovative solutions. One has a mind-set that is entirely conflict-oriented and the other is consistently seeking ways to find common ground and build from there, i.e. to unify.

The way one solves their own problems in life will, to a high degree, determine who they see as having "won" in last night's debate. (That's just how perception works.)

To me, I've had my fill of Clinton's completely "black & white" - "Bush-lite" - thinking (pun not intended but necessary) and I'm hopeful that the majority of my fellow Americans will also choose to completely REJECT (if not denounce) it, too.

Posted by: miraclestudies | February 27, 2008 2:57 PM

Whatever happens, whoever wins the presidency, America will survive. We survived Mr. Bush, though he has done his best to drag us into the mire. Neither Obama, Clinton, or Mccain will be worse than Bush. They are all capable of being much better.

I favored Clinton until she showed us how not to run a campaign. I'll vote for Obama because he's relatively young, seems a decent chap, and doesn't bang on and on about "terrists". I am SO tired of the Republicans, who hate spending taxpayers' money, then spend as much of it as they possibly can on the military.

Posted by: dhayjones | February 27, 2008 2:51 PM

Balz is right that the one-line zingers have hurt Hillary more than they have helped. It is pretty obvious from the crowd reactions. For a campaign that claims it is ready on "Day One" it looks peevish and not Presidential. It just isn't smart politics. She is losing this race because she is running like a loser. You don't elect someone President because they guilt trip you into it. She could have concentrated on inspiring people with her vision. It is too late for that now.

Posted by: johnsonc2 | February 27, 2008 2:40 PM

Hillary did not lose the debate, but she also did not win it. She'll need more than that in Texas against a surging Barack, that is for sure;

Texas Primary- Hillary vs. Barack:
http://newsusa.myfeedportal.com/viewarticle.php?articleid=50

Posted by: davidmwe | February 27, 2008 2:39 PM

Sen Clinton has been massively outspent by her rival and endlessly demonized by, literally, the entirety of the major news organization political press (see post above by Mr Balz for example of endless cartoon characterizations and speculations, all coincidentally casting her in a poor light).

It is a testament to her character, strength, and competence that she has come this far against such odds.

I, for one, would be eternally grateful to Mr Balz and his cohort if they would quit trying to choose our candidate for us and just do their jobs.

Posted by: zukermand | February 27, 2008 2:34 PM

Hillary needs to step back while she still has a career in the Senate. If she continues with these lines of attack I am afraid that she will further damage herself..oh yea and she might think about firing Mark Penn who should have gone before Patti Solis

Posted by: Bulldoglover100 | February 27, 2008 2:30 PM

Her demeanor in the opening minutes suggested she was perturbed that, on the signature issue of her campaign, she was not automatically judged to have the superior plan for achieving universal health care.
=======================

Mr Balz is a clown. Or a psychic. Or a moron.
I'm not sure.
I'm going to guess clown.

Posted by: zukermand | February 27, 2008 2:25 PM

That SNL skit was funny -- you can review that on prior threads.

Posted by: JakeD | February 27, 2008 2:12 PM

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