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A Tale of Two Debates

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A Tale of Two Debates

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Or maybe it was just the worst of times.

Two debates took place in Philadelphia tonight. And, conveniently enough, they took place one after another, divided cleanly by a commercial break.

The first debate was garbage time, as ABC moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos took turns confronting the two candidates with questions that have dogged their respective campaigns over the last few weeks.

Obama, the frontrunner, got most of the attention: Exactly which statements of Rev. Jeremiah Wright had he heard--and why hadn’t he denounced the pastor sooner, in stronger terms? Why, years ago, did Obama attend a Chicago fundraiser hosted by one of the Weathermen? Why didn’t Obama wear a flag on his lapel?

At one point, Gibson asked about the now-infamous comments Obama made about “bitter” working-class Americans: “Do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing and think that you said actually what you meant?” For a moment, I imagined Obama answering with what I thought might be running through his head. “Of course I know, you dummy. I can read a newspaper.”

Alas, presidential candidates don’t get to be snide (unless they’re John McCain, in which case they can be anything they want and still get glowing media coverage). Instead, a weary-looking Obama answered all of these familiar questions with what have become his familiar answers. Some are good, some not so good, but in a sense it really didn't matter. The cumulative effect was to turn the debate’s first half into a long infomercial about Obama’s electability issues.

Which, quite possibly, was exactly what Clinton was hoping would happen. Oh, she got some rough treatment too--when Gibson asked a question about her now-discredited story of landing under sniper fire in Bosnia. (Also a silly issue, in my opinion, though that's another story.) But, for the most part, Clinton used this time to criticize Obama--for not leaving his church, for making elitist comments about working-class voters, and so on. In exchange after exchange, Gibson or Stephanoupolos were the ones who raised the issue, but Clinton was the one who wouldn’t let it go.

***

Clinton’s supporters have justified these sorts of tactics by arguing it’s important to test Obama’s ability to defend against them now, before he’s the nominee. And, I admit, there’s a certain logic to that--particularly after listening to Obama explain what he meant in his comment about working class voters feeling bitter.

It was the one question Obama had to know he would get. But, once again, his answer seemed confused: At one point, he seemed to suggest that bitterness allowed politicians to exploit peripheral issues, like gun control or religion, to distract attention away from economics; at another point, he seemed to suggest that bitterness encouraged people to use guns or become religious. One explanation, in other words, was about the behavior of politicans--the other about the behavior of people.

Still, Clinton’s advisers presumably favor engaging in this sort of campaign for another reason: because they believe it makes Clinton seem like a more appealing candidate. That premise strikes me as a lot more dubious, for reasons that became apparent in the second half.

During this second half, Gibson and Stephanopoulos stopped acting like Tim Russert and began asking largely substantive questions that prompted a serious, if truncated, discussion of the issues. First came a question about the Mideast, then taxes and the budget (although Gibson stubbornly pushed an incorrect premise about capital gains taxes). There was nothing about health care prices--a first in the debates, by my reckoning--but plenty on gasoline prices.

I thought Obama came off well in these exchanges--making sound arguments, for instance, in defense of raising taxes on the wealthy. Doing so, he said, would guarantee “that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools. And you can't do that for free, and you can't take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children and our grandchildren and then say that you're cutting taxes, which is essentially what John McCain has been talking about.”

Still, as in nearly every previous debate, Clinton came off even better. Obama is no slouch on substance, but (at least to me) he doesn’t seem quite as confident--or make arguments about policy in what I would think are the most persuasive way. It was Clinton, for instance, who stood up for taxes on the grounds that it’s an “investment,” one that ultimately benefits the entire citizenry: “you've got to look at the entire economy. And from my perspective, yes, taxes is a piece of it. But you've got to figure out what is it we would invest in that would make us richer and safer and stronger tomorrow, which would be helping everybody.”

These are the moments when Clinton looks best, while the earlier sequences--where she kept coming back to the attacks on Obama--is when Clinton looks worst. And recent polling offers some evidence to suggest voters see it that way, too. Obama took a hit after the Wright controversy, but it was Clinton whose numbers ultimately fell more (although that may have been more a product of the Bosnia controversy). Similarly, the latest polls in Pennsylvania show him closing the gap with Clinton, despite the remarks about working-class voters--although the polling hasn’t yet captured the full reaction.

So I don’t think Clinton did herself any favors by harping on Obama’s electability issues, whether they be real or imagined. Unfortunately, I don’t think Obama made such a great impression, either--since, like it or not, he spent at least half the night deflecting these same old charges all over again.

Like I said, the worst of times.

--Jonathan Cohn

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It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.


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It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.

At least she showed signs of party loyalty last night in conceding that Obama CAN win vs McCain.


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Hold up there. It's not over till it's over. Hillary has to win one of the three Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Indiana before there is a clear choice who is the democratic nominee.

It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.

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It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.

At least she showed signs of party loyalty last night in conceding that Obama CAN win vs McCain.

Yes, she said for the first time that Obama can win the White House.

Hold up there. It's not over till it's over. Hillary has to win one of the three Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Indiana before there is a clear choice who is the democratic nominee.

It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.

It is a mathematical impossiblity for her to exceed Obama on popular votes, pledged delegates and the super delegates will definitely remember that.


I-130 Timeline with USCIS:

It took 92 days for I-130 to get approved from the filing date

NVC Process of I-130:

It took 78 days to complete the NVC process

Interview Process at The U.S. Embassy

Interview took 223 days from the I-130 filing date. Immigrant Visa was issued right after the interview

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Hold up there. It's not over till it's over. Hillary has to win one of the three Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Indiana before there is a clear choice who is the democratic nominee.

It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.

It is a mathematical impossiblity for her to exceed Obama on popular votes, pledged delegates and the super delegates will definitely remember that.

Where the world have you seen that? The results are nearly neck in neck and all the reports up to yesterday have verified that. I know because I just finish a research paper on it yesterday. :rolleyes:


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Hold up there. It's not over till it's over. Hillary has to win one of the three Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Indiana before there is a clear choice who is the democratic nominee.

It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.

It is a mathematical impossiblity for her to exceed Obama on popular votes, pledged delegates and the super delegates will definitely remember that.

Where the world have you seen that? The results are nearly neck in neck and all the reports up to yesterday have verified that. I know because I just finish a research paper on it yesterday. :rolleyes:

Because of how counting delegates works (by districts instead of by overall vote count), unless she gets a blowout in the Penn primary, she won't win many delegates.

She wont be able to at this point lead with pledged delegates. Getting the nomination with super delegates, has its consequences, especially with the turnout that this election is generating.

She has the right to run and she will. But it would be preferable to put the primary race behind us and focus on the general election.


keTiiDCjGVo

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Hold up there. It's not over till it's over. Hillary has to win one of the three Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Indiana before there is a clear choice who is the democratic nominee.

It is too late for Hillary to win the nomination.

It is a mathematical impossiblity for her to exceed Obama on popular votes, pledged delegates and the super delegates will definitely remember that.

Where the world have you seen that? The results are nearly neck in neck and all the reports up to yesterday have verified that. I know because I just finish a research paper on it yesterday. :rolleyes:

Dan answered it.


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It's only for party reasons that Sen. Clinton acknowledges that Sen. Obama can defeat Sen. McCain. Does she really feel that way? I'm not really sure.


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It's only for party reasons that Sen. Clinton acknowledges that Sen. Obama can defeat Sen. McCain. Does she really feel that way? I'm not really sure.

Probably is. But it is what she said. And we all know how important words are in this campaign season...


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It's only for party reasons that Sen. Clinton acknowledges that Sen. Obama can defeat Sen. McCain. Does she really feel that way? I'm not really sure.

Probably is. But it is what she said. And we all know how important words are in this campaign season...

Come on, this is campaign politics.

The same way, Obama campaign flooded the media, the blogosphere with "Hillary should drop out ", "Hillary is a liar" messages via surrogates, media friendlies, bloggers. While publicy, Obama puts on his halo and declared:" Hillary should stay in the race as long as she wants."

Private opinion shared my many supers is that BO can't win with all the "tabloid" material ( BO supporters would like to put it) piling on.

Last night debate was just a taste of what it will be like if he should be the Dem. candidate facing McCain in a debate.

BO has been so used to kid glove treat ment from the media and fellow Dems. that he publicly winced on the stage when tough questions were thrown at him last night. His answers were not satisfactory to many even among his media groupies.In short, his performance sucked last night under withering fire -which is only par for the course. That is, for other candidates.

So now they're mad at Gibson and Steph. The BO fans should recall how for months, Oberlmann and Chris Mathews and all the groupies have been trashing Hillary everyday for months on end.

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It's only for party reasons that Sen. Clinton acknowledges that Sen. Obama can defeat Sen. McCain. Does she really feel that way? I'm not really sure.

Probably is. But it is what she said. And we all know how important words are in this campaign season...

Come on, this is campaign politics.

The same way, Obama campaign flooded the media, the blogosphere with "Hillary should drop out ", "Hillary is a liar" messages via surrogates, media friendlies, bloggers. While publicy, Obama puts on his halo and declared:" Hillary should stay in the race as long as she wants."

Private opinion shared my many supers is that BO can't win with all the "tabloid" material ( BO supporters would like to put it) piling on.

Last night debate was just a taste of what it will be like if he should be the Dem. candidate facing McCain in a debate.

BO has been so used to kid glove treat ment from the media and fellow Dems. that he publicly winced on the stage when tough questions were thrown at him last night. His answers were not satisfactory to many even among his media groupies.In short, his performance sucked last night under withering fire -which is only par for the course. That is, for other candidates.

So now they're mad at Gibson and Steph. The BO fans should recall how for months, Oberlmann and Chris Mathews and all the groupies have been trashing Hillary everyday for months on end.

Hillary should be proud of you.


I-130 Timeline with USCIS:

It took 92 days for I-130 to get approved from the filing date

NVC Process of I-130:

It took 78 days to complete the NVC process

Interview Process at The U.S. Embassy

Interview took 223 days from the I-130 filing date. Immigrant Visa was issued right after the interview

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It's only for party reasons that Sen. Clinton acknowledges that Sen. Obama can defeat Sen. McCain. Does she really feel that way? I'm not really sure.

Probably is. But it is what she said. And we all know how important words are in this campaign season...

What's important is that she cannot continue to pursue superdelegates with the argument that Obama cannot win. At least she cannot do that without strengthening the already established impression that she isn't very trustworthy. I mean, continuing that strategy would be admitting that either the statement that obama can't win is untrue or that she has been untruthful during the PA debate when responding to that question.

Or maybe she just misspoke last night. :jest:

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Where the world have you seen that? The results are nearly neck in neck and all the reports up to yesterday have verified that. I know because I just finish a research paper on it yesterday. :rolleyes:

If that's what you concluded on your research paper then you're in trouble. ;)

Her paper will be fine, if the instructor is a Hillary supporter. If not, her conclusion will be seen as a Hillary campaign point of view. I am not saying Olivia is a Hillary supporter.


I-130 Timeline with USCIS:

It took 92 days for I-130 to get approved from the filing date

NVC Process of I-130:

It took 78 days to complete the NVC process

Interview Process at The U.S. Embassy

Interview took 223 days from the I-130 filing date. Immigrant Visa was issued right after the interview

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