The Debate

It was a lot of fun to have a political event of this magnitude in my hometown. Obviously, I can’t go into a lot of detail about the campaign activities, but I think the campaign represented itself well.
As for the debate itself, I’m wondering if Howard Fineman, Pat Buchanan, Steve Benen, Dana Goldstein and I all watched the same debate. I watched a debate where Hillary repeatedly refused to answer questions on issues from Iran to Social Security, antagonized the moderator ad nauseum, and made a trivial, but revelatory, gaffe about flip-flopping between backing the Cubs and the Yankees. They watched a debate where Hillary somehow did well. I watched a debate where Obama articulately and specifically laid out his policies on withdrawal, Social Security, and torture; they watched one where he was tired and boring. I watched a debate where John Edwards had a meltdown in front of Tim Russert when forced to defend his haircuts, house, and hedge fund work. They watched one where he moved himself to parity with Obama. I don’t know how one could read it how they did, but there you have it.
There’s this unfortunate perception, accentuated by this debate, that Hillary is somehow inevitable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Poll results are shaky and ephemeral; fundraising numbers aren’t, and in that arena Obama is simply crushing Hillary to an extent that has people like Drew Cline, the Union-Leader‘s primary election blogger, saying that he doubts the polls are even accurate. I’d go further. Read the fine print behind the much-hullaballoed poll showing Hillary leading Obama 43% to 20%. Only 13% of people polled knew who they were going to vote for. 28% were leaning one way, but the majority, 55%, had no idea whatsoever. When 55% of the electorate is totally undecided, “if the election were today” questions are completely and utterly meaningless. And this is with known quantities like Hillary and Edwards in the race. When 87% of the public isn’t backing the candidates they know, they probably have a reason, which leaves an opening for a new face like Obama to get their support. Long story short, Hillary doesn’t have this sewn up by any means. With 87% of votes still in play, it’s still anyone’s game. More importantly, it’s likely to be the game of someone new to national politics, someone like Obama.

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