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Great Night For McCain

McCain was the big winner last night when Clinton and Obama faced off in Philadelphia [apparently this is not the most original insight of all time -- see, for example, Andrew Sullivan]. Republican spinners must be hung over this morning after all the champagne they drank after last night's Democratic debacle. This was a feast of GOP talking points. It was a buffet line of Democratic vulnerabilities. McCain should really just take the rest of the spring and summer off. The Democrats for the last couple of years have been perfectly positioned to win the November election in a rout, but, with abundant help from the media, they apparently will do everything they can to make the contest competitive.

This night was tee-ball for the Republicans.

Obama, who will be the Democratic nominee barring some last-minute self-immolation (note that his suits are now made of asbestos), spent much of the evening talking about why he doesn't wear a flag lapel pin, why he's the member of a church where the pastor has denounced America, why he served on a board with a former member of the Weather Underground, why he said Pennsylvanians "cling" to religion, and so on. True, that's not what he wanted to talk about -- that's what he was asked about by the ABC anchors, with Clinton doing whatever she could to make him look worse.

And never mind that Obama handled the Gotcha questions about as well as he could have. The point is, none of this airtime, and nothing he was saying, was going to win him any votes in a contest with John McCain.

I'll be shocked if, within days, Obama doesn't start showing up with an American flag lapel pin, flag wristwatch, flag socks, flag jammies, etc.

On the issue of payroll taxes, Obama said that perhaps the cap ought to be lifted above $97,500, with some exemptions for people right above that income level. It's a reasonable proposal, but also one designed to lose about five votes for every one that it brings in. Advocating for tax increases of any kind, no matter how fiscally responsible, has been a reliable technique for losing elections.

On Iraq, Clinton and Obama vow to pull out no matter what the generals on the ground advise them to do. Their explanations about civilian control of the military are constitutionally sound, but might not be politically winning arguments among swing voters in battleground states. Obvious follow-up: Is there ANY situation that might exist in January 2009 in Iraq that would change the position on Iraq that you first developed in, oh, 2007?

A couple of other quick thoughts:

Clinton didn't bring out the long knives the way I expected. She jabbed him, but with -- can I stick to the same, lame metaphor? -- the butter knife. Or maybe the salad fork. [Oh, give up.] She must have grasped that being harsh really backfires on her. The likeability issue continues to dog her.

Another thing: I hate the way American electoral politics pivots on silly, trivial issues. I also thought Obama was having a Bad Ear Day.

Your thoughts please.

[more to come]

Greg Mitchell [via Memeorandum]: "ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia. They, and their network, should hang their collective heads in shame."

Marc Ambinder: 'Obama's supporters are already blaming the "establishment" -- that is, the powerful institution of the mainstream media -- for the tone of the debate. This sets up a blowback scenario wherein his supporters will rally to his defense and lash out at the media very loudly. But Obama's going to be the next president of the United States, maybe. The most powerful person in the world. And questions about his personal associations, his character, his personal beliefs, his statements at private fundraisers -- the answers to these questions tell us a lot. Sometimes the questions are unfair (( -- nothing about Colombia and Mark Penn -- )), but this ain't Pop Warner; the artificial distinction between politics, personality and policy doesn't exist in this league, and if you're uncomfortable with it, then change the rules or don't run for office.'

Chris Cillizza (guy never stops workin'!): 'The longer the Democratic campaign goes on, the more clips Republican Sen. John McCain's campaign can harvest for use against the eventual Democratic nominee. It's one thing for McCain to take note of ties between Obama and a former member of the Weather Underground; it's quite another for McCain's campaign to roll tape of Clinton making those accusations. You can bet Steve Schmidt of McCain's campaign was Tivoing every minute of tonight's proceedings for use when summer turns to fall.'

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 17, 2008; 7:32 AM ET
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