What to Expect at the Final Debate

As the Democratic campaign grows increasingly acrimonious, with charges and counter-charges over campaign tactics, the debate tonight in Ohio is the best chance Hillary Rodham Clinton has to stall Obama’s momentum. All weekend, she launched a series of increasingly aggravated attacks, holding up an Obama campaign flyer that she felt misrepresented her positions on NAFTA and health care reform, and saying, "Shame on you Barack Obama." But, it is not at all clear that a discussion of campaign tactics will be enough to swing an election. It is easier to attack your opponent when you are addressing a roomful of your own supporters that it is when he is not sitting next to you. Clinton has to weigh the danger of appearing rude. When she charged Obama with plagiarism at the last debate in Texas, she was booed. On the other hand, Hillary does not have a lot of options left. She must win Texas and Ohio and she has to win them big if she is to maintain any reasonable shot at the nomination. In poker terms, Clinton has to look at her hand and go all-in with her strongest suit. What is Hillary’s strongest suit? It is scary to think it, but she has to rely upon the politics of fear to combat the politics of hope which is on an 11-0 roll. She has to look at Barack and say, "Sir, you have been in the Senate for a sum total of three years. The American people are no fools and there is no way they are going to turn over the keys to the Oval Office to a greenhorn like you." The danger of saying this is not only that she will be booed – she will. The greater concern is that if Barack nonetheless wins the nomination, she will have given the Republicans their best attack ad, and any residual affection she has as a leader of the Democratic Party, or as a future Senate Majority Leader, would fly out the window. Obama seems to have won the Texas debate. A CNN poll released yesterday showed that of those who watched the debate and said it affected them, Obama had a twenty point lead. In the same poll, he erased Clinton’s five point advantage among all voters and took a two point lead himself, although all these numbers are within the margin of statistical error. What was it about his performance that may have resulted in this shift? Voters are looking at barrack as a potential nominee, and as a potential president, and during last week’s debate he remained calm and cool. When Hillary did attack, it was on the bogus plagiarism charge which he deftly, and quickly, deflected. If Hillary decides she has to go on the attack tonight, she needs to go for his jugular and let the chips fall where they may. Otherwise, she has to hope that the voters aren’t ready to end the intra-party battle. My hunch is that she will try and split the difference, her attack will be ineffectual, the dynamic of the campaign will not be changed and next Tuesday, Barack Obama will, for all intents and purposes, become the nominee of the Democratic Party. Michael Sean Winters
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9 years 9 months ago
I continue to be mystified as to why Hillary, or any of her supporters, continue to attempt to use the argument that people should vote for her because she has more "experience." Let's break down the total amount of experience that Clinton and Obama have in elected government. Hillary has a total of 8 years of service. 8 years in the US Senate. Barack has a total of 12 years of service. 4 years in the US Senate and 8 years in the Illinois Senate. Hmmmmm, and where is this massive experience gap that Hillary is trying to claim? Oh yes, that's right, I imagine that she (and her supporters) would have you believe that her 8 years as first lady should count too. Except... "first lady" is a completely token position with no substance. Unless... you buy into her argument that she was in essence a covert "co-president" with Bill for those 8 years. But then, using that assumption, she then would attempt to get you to believe that she was only "co-president" regarding the good parts of the Bill Clinton presidency and she had nothing to do with the bad parts (e.g. NAFTA). The most vital experience I see that she has is 16 years and counting as the lightning rod of the Republican Party. She would be a quintessential poster child for a "Get out the vote" campaign for Republicans. If she's the nominee, Republicans, Conservatives, Independents, Moderates, Reagan Democrats, etc would all be coming out of the woodwork to vote for McCain to keep her out. Barack has more electability in his pinky finger than Hillary could ever hope to garner. I'm an independent and I, for one, rank the 3 remaining candidates in this order of who I'd like to see in the Oval Office: Obama, McCain, Clinton. So there you go, one out of millions of votes, who would take either Obama or McCain over Clinton.

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