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Obama Lost the Debate, Supporters Pretend to Not Notice

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle noticed (the Chronicle endorsed Obama last weekend):

Usually, I pretty much decide about candidates, and having decided move on. But the adulation and excitement surrounding Barack Obama has been such that I keep looking at him anew. And while I'm all the more impressed by his temperament and unclouded essence, I continue to be unimpressed with what he has to say.

First of all, I'm puzzled by Edwards voters who see Obama as the natural repository of their would-be Edwards vote. Actually, if you pay attention to the policy differences (albeit minor) between Obama and Hillary, Hillary comes out closer to Edwards than Obama does, particularly on the issue of health care.

In any case, it was a night in which both candidates did well, but Hillary showed such authority and command of the issues that I didn't think there was any question that she "won" the debate. The room of "undecided voters" also thought so, by a 60/40 vote. Yet almost unanimously the media analysts either said Obama won or called it a tie. At this point, if they call it a tie, it's safe to say that Clinton won.

The one place they pointed to as deciding it for Obama was on the discussion of Iraq. They're both going to end the war. That's a given. Neither is going to play Richard Nixon to Bush's Lyndon Johnson. But Hillary is more vague about the speed of the withdrawal, and of course she has that 2003 vote to defend.

But the thing to realize is this. Hillary is thinking about the general election. Imagine what it's going to look like come October, if it's Obama vs. McCain, and McCain, with all his military and foreign policy experience, is intoning ominously that if we don't "win" in Iraq, our national security will be permanently compromised. And Obama, who five minutes ago was in the Illinois state legislature, is saying we have to get out next Tuesday, no matter what?

Hillary is giving herself some nuance, some illusion of moderation, some wiggle room to seem something vaguely like a hawk, so as to win over voters in the nervous middle. She's basically gambling that Democrats are so familiar with her Iraq positions that they won't hold them against her any more than they are already are doing so -- and she's doing that so as to make herself more viable in November. She's trying to win the nomination in a way that will make it more possible for her to win the presidency.

Obama is desperate to nail the Democratic nomination, and doesn't seem to be able to focus on the bigger picture in many instances, such as this. This isn't the first time that his inexperience and poor political instincts have surfaced, and its most obvious when he's seated next to a pro like Hillary.

No question that Obama is favored by the mainstream media, who've given him a free ride for months now, and while Obama is ratcheting up the angry young man act off the shared stage, seated next to Clinton at the debate in Los Angeles he was definitely more cordial and polite, acting on his best behavior I suppose. You don't win debates that way, but finding an Obama supporter who will admit that is not easy.

I guess it comes down to the whole "hope" movement. When your candidate doesn't do as well as you "hoped" you "hope" no one notices, and you dare not mention it in public.

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Rating: 2.5/5 (11 votes cast)

Comments (4)

Steve Crickmore:

Lee, I think you and the journalist were right...I only saw about 10 minutes of the highlights which all focused on the blowing bubble moments (that tells you something)--and I read much of the transcript. We've all noticed that Obama doesn't debate very well. He tends to um ( use word whiskers) and preface his statements unnessarily.. From what I saw in the highlights, Hillary dialed up the charm offfensive, by presenting this bubbly exterior. For the uninitiated it probably worked. It was after all in Hollywood in the same auditorium where the Oscars are being awarded next month.

The general public has little awareness of Hillary's foul temper or that she has a well earned reputation of being a 'truth trimmer'. Obama is a novice in that game. I think again he should have contrasted his differences with Hillary rather than compliment her. If the polls after the debate are correct it may be game, set and practically match to Hillary.

Hillary may looking ahead to her contest with McCain but no one is going to try to compete with McCain as a future commander-in-chief. He is the Military, and unlike Obama, Hillary won't bring out the Democrat vote.

The really big picture is that America can't continue to afford to be the world's poliiceman in the Middle East. They're spending roughly what the entire rest of the world spends on the military more than 6 times what the nearest countries, China and Russia each spends.. You remember I know its not quite comparative but this is essentially why the Soviet Union collapsed. Obama wants to alter the 'mind set' that rushing into an elective war is a solution to anything. He should have elaborated that and that would have drawn Hillary out. Here is Kevin Drum, in the same vein...

Obama always sidles right up to the edge of this argument, but he never seems to be quite willing to make it explicitly. But if judgment is his key selling point, he needs to make it clear that he thinks Hillary's judgment will -- somehow, someday -- lead us into unnecessary military adventures in the future.

Hillary would have said something like she will never compromise the safety of the USA or Israel and won big applause...then Obama could have countered that we are compromising our security by these unnesssary entanglements and so forth..It may actually been a real debate, but the serious candiates including Obama don't seem to want to go there.

Bush on Monday is going to ask another 500 billion plus for the Pentagon plus more how many times has been one again that emergency funds -- 62 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing another huge deficit for 2008, 400 plus biillion (with the economic stimulus plan) and ballooning national debt...Hillary's expensive mandate health plan will surely have to slashed..Obama could have said we will have to choose one- a comprhenensive health plan or an hightened military all while a recession my be upon us.

By the way, the mandate scheme isn't working in Massachusettes, (how to you enforce it) and it likely won't work in the rest of the United States.. You can force someone to get car insurance by suspending their licence or their car ownership, but what are you going to do if they refuse to get health insurance?

If (a), Obama lost the debate
(b), his supporters pretended not to notice,
it could only be because they realized that
(c), his opponents were too dumb to realize it.

Lee Ward:

"...unlike Obama, Hillary won't bring out the Democrat vote."

Hillary will bring out the women's vote, another group that is traditionally underrepresented in the voting booth, so I disagree strongly with your theory.

I also suspect that if Obama isn't the nominee, and isn't Hillary's VP running mate, that he will be campaigning hard to get the vote out.

It's difficult for me to imagine that he wouldn't do that, but I suppose his penchant to be King might drive him to shun the "greater Democratic good" and not put out that kind of effort.

Steve Crickmore:

Yes Hillary will bring out the women's vote and some who might not vote normally but will vote againist her. I don't think this will be so true of Obama and Obama has experience as an community organizer~~ organizing volunteers which is giving him some impressive results so far. Clinton's approach seems the more traditional, mangerial one. We will know soon enough how effective their vote turnout strategies were?


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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