I actually ended up seeing all of the debate, although I didn’t have time to comment on it last night.
Clearly, Clinton had the moment of the positive moment of the night at the end. It was a truly fantastic statement, although the extent of which she was bolstering herself is debatable. In fact, neither candidate actually answered the final question.
On the flipside, however, Clinton also had the negative moment of the night. If getting a standing ovation is the peak of a debate, having the crowd boo you has to be the valley. While the Clinton campaign has been claiming that the media was running with the plagarism story, it became very clear last night that wasn’t the case. It was obvious that the Clinton campaign had been stoking those fires, and that really backfired on them because no one cares. Even worse for Hillary, the one big soundbite that came out of the debate was the “Change we can Xerox” line that got her boo’s.
Had it not been for her ending comments, I would have given the debate to Obama. He was able to give greater detail into his plans and managed to belittle the Clinton campaign’s attacks, all while remaining extremely calm. He rattled off a streak of counter attacks, too, without sounding defensive or aggressive. His comments about the Clinton campaign painting his supporters as “delusional” and that the plagarism attack was “silly politics” really landed. With that ending, though, I’d call it — yet again — a draw.
And how about that ending? As many have pointed out, it seemed like an attempt by Hillary to reconcile with Obama, perhaps in an effort to position herself for a vice-presidential role. I don’t think it was her concede defeat so much as setting up the remainder of her campaign. The fact remains that she’s going to have to continue to attack Obama in commercials and in speeches but she can’t afford to cross the line where people dislike her for being so aggressive. I think that her closing comments last night were an effort to soften that coming blow.
Again, this points to the problems her campaign has had from the start. It appears they’re of two minds. On one hand they want to be a positive campaign that’s winning on their merits, on the other hand they want to go after their oppenents as aggressively as possible. I don’t think they’ve had any idea what to do because I don’t think they thought they’d have to run a real campaign. Hell, in December Hillary claimed it would be over by Super Tuesday.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s any way Hillary gets chosen for a VP spot if Obama wins, not because of the primary but because she would bring nothing to the ticket. My guess is Jim Webb, but more on that in a later column.