Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ohio Debate Recap

I think Sen. Obama succeeded quite nicely in parrying Sen. Clinton's thrusts while not appearing to draw too much blood from her. Moreover, I think Sen. Clinton inflicted her worst wounds on herself (her snark about receiving the first question and whether Sen. Obama needs more pillows for his ass was particularly stupid). It was good that the debate over healthcare was dispensed with first as it has dominated the last couple of debates. Refreshing arguments over foreign policy, campaign tactics and rhetoric were welcomed.
Sen. Obama owned the first half of the debate but had a weird return after the commercial break. Sen. Clinton looked far more composed after that break which leads me to think that perhaps the 'kitchen sink' routine her campaign was promising wasn't so promising a tactic. Still, Sen. Obama kept his professorial air about him and never seemed fazed by some odd questions. His response to the Louis Farrakhan endorsement, while a little stilted, was appropriate and segued nicely into his potential problems with the Jewish vote. I think Sen. Obama could go a long way to repairing the divide between Jews and blacks in America. On the other hand, Sen. Clinton's 'me too' addendum to that question was rather self-serving.
The NAFTA question and the foreign policy questions were clearly Sen. Obama's best arenas. He struggled a bit with the public financing pledge, parsing his words carefully in a way I wasn't quite comfortable with. But I do take comfort that the way the Obama campaign has gone about raising fund through small donations goes a long way to supporting him philosophically if he doesn't take public financing, since, in a way, he already has.
Sen. Clinton had few moments to shine. Her closing remarks were good but not as good as in Austin a week earlier. Her defense of not releasing her tax returns was strained at best and her decision to continue hammering her 'fighter' aura was strange considering who the Democratic nominee will face in the general election. But at least she finally recanted her AUMF vote. I doubt that will do much good now but at least she made the effort.
I did like how both Russert and Williams continued to pressure the candidates for more direct answers and kept them within a certain set of time limits. The moment that Brian Williams had to cut off Sen. Clinton was both snarky and brilliant all at the same time. Overall, I enjoyed the MSNBC moderators better than CNN's. While there were a few good questions in the last debate, Sen. Clinton derailed them too often. This time around she wasn't able to do that and thus wasn't able to score some serious points over Sen. Obama.
In the end, Sen. Obama didn't exactly blow Sen. Clinton out of the water but he did continue to do what he has done in ever other debate. He remained claim, considered and composed at whatever was thrown at him while Sen. Clinton seemed to struggle at times once the healthcare debate passed. It was a good debate and Sen. Obama's refusal to let himself get drawn into a pissing match allowed him to maintain his presidential look. If he's able to keep this kind of attitude during the general election debates then there's no reason why he can't overwhelm the more antagonistic Sen. McCain. But there's still next Tuesday to get through and we'll see who has the nomination locked up by then.

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