AFL-CIO Forum Preview: The Big 3
The Democratic presidential candidates will hold their umpteenth debate tonight. And, of course, we'll be liveblogging the proceedings starting at 7 p.m. (You can also watch the event on MSNBC).
But, before the forum begins here are our thoughts on tonight's proceedings.
The biggest question is how much former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) take the fight to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) over the lobbying issue. In last weekend's YearlyKos forum the duo of Edwards and Obama managed to throw Clinton off her game by forcing her into a defense of lobbyists -- not the most popular stance in a race where "change" is the operative word.
Edwards will likely to continue to pressure Clinton to take a pledge to stop accepting any contributions from registered federal lobbyists, Clinton will resist making such a pledge, believing that sticking to her guns keeps her from being called a flip-flopper. The linchpin will be Obama who is working feverishly to carry the mantle of reform in this race. If Obama again throws in with Edwards, it could be a tough night for Clinton.
Attacking Clinton can be a dangerous proposition, however. Just ask former Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.). At a debate during their 2000 senate race Lazio crossed the stage to challenge Clinton to sign a clean campaign pledge; the move totally backfired as viewers thought Lazio was trying to bully Clinton. Edwards and Obama run that same risk -- especially because tonight's forum, unlike YearlyKos, is on national television.
It will also be interesting to watch how hard Clinton pushes back (if at all) on the fundraising records of Edwards and Obama as it relates to lobbyists, A Los Angeles Times story (registration required) that ran over the weekend detailed the lobbyist ties of both candidates, giving Clinton ready ammunition if she chooses to fire it.
Aside from the Clinton-Edwards-Obama dynamic, watch to see whether Edwards takes advantage of the pro-labor audience. He has spent much of the time since losing the vice presidential race in 2004 courting labor unions and his message fits nicely with the crowd he will address tonight. Edwards benefitted at Kos from a crowd favorably disposed to him and could build momentum if he is able to put together another strong performance tonight.
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