Thursday, January 31, 2008


I'm starting this the night before, and will add to it as inspiration--or rather, anxiety--strikes. In fact, this is probably all going to be me talking to myself because of anxiety.

With measurable movement towards Obama since South Carolina, and with a two person race now, this one and only debate in Hollywood tonight could be the ball game. That is, if one or the other candidate makes a major mistake, or scores a major triumph.

Wednesday saw a role reversal, at least in how campaign appearances were covered. Hillary was talking about her vision, Obama was drawing distinctions vs. Hillary. This could be interpreted as Obama trying to close the deal with voters, while Hillary is trying to recover from all the criticism of her negative campaign. The question is, will these be the roles they adopt in the debate, and how effective will they be?

I heard somewhere that Obama plans to be more specific about what he'd do as President. There's always this dance that goes on--do you stick with what's working, or do you try to stay fresh and not repeat yourself (as John Edwards was doing)? I thought Obama's positioning in his speech after the South Carolina primary was pitch perfect. But he hasn't excelled in the debates, and now he's one on one. It will be a real test. (On the other hand, he's moving up in the polls rapidly without an outstanding debate performance.)

However, while Hillary was playing victim when told of Obama's assertion that voting for her is a step back, "building a bridge back to the 20th century," Bill Clinton was giving a policy-laden speech in St. Louis in which Obama was never mentioned--yet he still managed to play into Obama's theme: Clinton, introduced to the crowd as "the next first man" of the nation, also briefly revisited the "two for the price of one" theme that he and Hillary Clinton used with supporters in the early 1990s, presenting themselves as a team. "Here is Hillary's message if you make her president: We're back," he said, drawing thunderous applause from the crowd.

Hillary's staged victory in Florida didn't go over too well, and she may face a question about that in the debate, since she's changed her position on seating Florida delegates. There might even be a question on a moment before the State of the Union in which Clinton shook hands with Teddy Kennedy, while Obama (next to him) was turned in the other direction. I've seen at least 4 accounts of this. The first one, that Clinton snubbed Obama, and then he turned away. Then a more neutral account that didn't say anybody snubbed anybody. Then Obama's account, that he had waved to Clinton earlier, and he just happened to be answering a question from Claire McCaskill next to him when Hillary took Teddy's hand. He said the incident had no meaning. And most recently, Hillary's implication that she was the one who was snubbed. " I reached out my hand in friendship and unity and my hand is still reaching out," she told FOX News. But in her column, Maureen Dowd commented, "Something's being stretched here, but it's not her hand. She wasn't reaching out to him at all."

Which partially raises the question of whether Hillary/Billary has become the issue that's driving voters, and whether Obama's on to something by emphasizing it. I ran across this interesting diary at Kos that speaks to the Rabid Right pov, that they'd much rather run any GOPer against Hillary. They seem to think that none of the GOPers have a chance against Obama.

Debates are different from campaign speeches, however. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at the strategy sessions in both camps. Will Hillary attack, play the victim aggressively (by bringing up what Obama said in a campaign speech) or stay with sticking it to Bush and talking about what she'll do for the future? Will Obama start by making distinctions--the future vs. the past--or wait for Hillary to attack?

One thing I think Obama needs to do--go after Bush and the Republicans directly. Democrats want somebody who can win against GOPers, not against each other.

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