Friday, February 22, 2008

I Hear The Train a Comin'

The Showdown in the lone star state was fairly anti climactic; especially after a day of the McCain press frenzy. The lasting memories of last nights debate may just be Hillary Clinton getting booed and Hillary Clinton getting a standing ovation. She got booed for once again bringing up the plagiarism argument and she got a standing ovation when she appeared to be basically giving a concession speech. In my opinion the later moment was a direct result of the earlier one.

The Clinton campaign has been trying to find an attack issue that would resonate with the voters since it became clear in Iowa that they were in a dog fight. The latest attempt has been to try and paint Obama as someone who steals his best lines from someone else and doesn't give them any credit for it. This issue first came up in Wisconsin and they have been trying to hammer this point home ever since. However there has been little interest among the Democratic ranks. This issue has lived among the pundits on TV and in print (as they continue to get email blasts from the Clinton campaign harping on the subject), but there seems to no traction among Democratic voters. Hillary tried last night to once again raise this issue by using a clearly prepared line ("change you can Xerox") and was met with open hostility from the crowd in the form of boos and hisses. I believe that was the turning point of the debate. Up until then, she had at least attempted to engage Obama with a somewhat competitive tone. After that moment, her will to fight seem to have been taken from her.

Her closing comments, in which she said that she was honored to share the stage with Obama and that she would be "fine" regardless of the outcome of the election, was a moment of resignation. She actually admitted to herself, in front of a live TV audience, that she might lose this race. I don't think that it was akin to a concession speech, but it did show the toll that this contest has taken on her. It played as a genuine moment and although some have questioned just how calculated that was, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.

There are many in the press who say that this is the Hillary that we need to see more often, but that's just nonsense. Could you imagine what the press reaction would be to Hillary breaking down and crying every day? They talk about the genuine moment in New Hampshire when she was brought to the verge of tears while answering a question. Many credit that moment for her comeback win in that state. But seriously folks, who wants the leader of their country always being on the verge of tears?

Will that moment energize the Hillary supporters as it did in New Hampshire? Will women once again come to her aid? Obama has been making significant in roads into her base of white females, but will her performance last night stem that tide? Stranger things have happened. However, given her performance last night, it looks like Hillary has decided that the scorched earth plan is not the way to go. She played it nice last night and with only one more debate between now and "High Noon Tuesday" (I've got the trademark on that one), her opportunities to score a big blow against Obama are dwindling to a precious few.

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