Although in my view Obama came out on top in the debate earlier this week, Hillary has certainly prevailed in winning the headlines and debate over statesmanship in the days following the debate -- a dramatic illustration of the power and ability of Hill and her adroit campaign team to grab an opponent by the lemons and make some lemonade.
Steve Huntley, Chicago Sun-Times:
The big story line out of the Democratic presidential race thus far has got to be how Hillary Clinton keeps improving, maturing and getting more effective as a candidate.
Barack Obama raises more money than she does. The hard anti-war crowd beats up on her for not apologizing for her vote authorizing the Iraq war. Her critics cite poll results showing a lot of Americans say they would never vote for her.
Yet Clinton has maintained her hold as the front-runner in the Democratic marathon. Though labeled cold and calculating by her detractors, she seems to get better as the campaign progresses. She comes across as poised, confident, authoritative, smart, thoughtful and, most important, experienced. It's that last trait that she has exploited in the debates. Just take a look at her subtle and adroit handling of the YouTube debate question about whether the candidates would be willing to meet without preconditions, during their first year in the White House, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.
While saying that the country needs to get back to diplomacy, Clinton said that she would not "promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are."[...]
In contrast to that, Obama replied -- "eagerly," as the Washington Post put it -- that he would make that commitment. "And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding principle of this administration -- is ridiculous."
You can agree with Obama's premise, but Clinton's answer was a nuanced response recognizing the complexities of dealing with rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea or with an anti-American demagogue like Chavez.
Any doubt about who came off better in that exchange was erased the day after when Obama's campaign accused Clinton of flip-flopping on the issue of meeting with the leaders of these countries. Obama's camp knows they have to counter Clinton's experience card. The first out-in-the-open spat between the two escalated with Clinton calling Obama's answer "irresponsible and frankly naive" and Obama accusing her of backing a "Bush-Cheney lite" version of diplomacy.
Obama clearly is the main obstacle standing between Clinton and the nomination. Charismatic, telegenic and youthful, the Illinois senator represents a break with the past and a passing of the political torch to a new generation. The big impact Obama has made in the race pushed Clinton to enlist the active campaigning of her husband earlier than planned. Some might see this as a sign of weakness. In fact, it's smart politics. It shows the senator committed to doing what it takes to win and confident enough in her own standing to share the limelight with the magnetic Bill Clinton.
- Democratic Contenders Poll Graph
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