Thursday, January 31, 2008

I think it's going to be Hillary

I watched the debate tonight - the first Democrat debate I've seen. Hillary won.

It was pretty clear to me that Obama decided going in that he was not going to challenge Hillary in a confrontational way. I think that is a huge mistake, and I think on the strength of this performance, Hillary will all but wrap things up next Tuesday.

My analysis: Hillary's weakness is that she is often unlikeable. Obama's strength is that he is eminently likeable. Obama should have done everything he could to rattle Hillary so her unlikeability would surface as it inevitably does when she gets pissed. We've all seen it: she gets that shrill, defensive, haughty, entitled "how dare you" demeanor, her face tightens, her frozen smile seems even more phony than usual.

Obama should have tried like hell to bring that out, but instead he softened every blow, and actually seemed to intentionally take passes on chances to give her the old backhand.

So Hillary was composed, almost charming at times, and seemed in control all night long. The crowd helped - it was clearly a CNN (Clinton News Network) crowd, so Hillary got applause line after applause line.

I was disappointed, not because I want Obama to win (I think Hillary is easier to beat) but because I was looking for high political theatre with sparks and gnashing of teeth, and instead we got a civil, almost boring debate where the answers were too long by half and nothing at all inspirational or even remotely surprising happened,

On to SuperTuesday.


Anonymous said...

I'm confused as to how anyone could perceive that Hillary won that debate, given her horrendous failure on Iraq policy, and the general desperation and contrived nature of everything about her.

Andrew Sullivan put it well:

It was, I think, his best debate in the campaign so far. The one-on-one format elevated him instantly and he commanded the stage and the occasion. Hillary Clinton did not do poorly. All her strengths were on show: the policy mastery, the gaffe-free talking points, the Clinton record in the 1990s. But that made his mastery all the more impressive. The good natured sparring helped him. He neutralized her on healthcare and simply cleaned up on the war in Iraq. But most crucial: he seemed like a president. He was already battling McCain. She was still pivoting off Bush. In his body language, he carefully upstaged her, without looking as if he were trying. By the end of the debate, he was pulling her chair back for her.

I'd say that he won the primary election tonight. She is still a formidable candidate and her massive institutional advantage may eventually give her the nomination. But she hasn't won this primary argument or this primary battle. If she becomes the nominee, it will be because she survived the primaries. He won them.

You know my bias. It's on my sleeve. But I've criticized Obama's performances in the past and couldn't find a flaw tonight. A good closer, as I've been told for over a year now. You can say that again.

But in any case, Heading into Super Tuesday, it would be nice to know more about both depth and breadth of support than we ordinarily can glean from a simply "choose one" poll. This poll does so, by using an increasingly talked-about voting method called Range Voting, championed in William Poundstone's book Gaming the Vote (due out on Super Tuesday incidentally).

It's kind of funny how much more reflective this voting method seems to be of the actual beliefs that we generally perceive people to hold. Now if only we could use it in real elections.

Anonymous said...

Sullivan? Shrill Randy-Andy??

I doubt he's right (or correct!)

"I was disappointed, not because I want Obama to win (I think Hillary is easier to beat) but because I was looking for high political theatre with sparks and gnashing of teeth, and instead we got a civil, almost boring debate."

I hope you are correct. I would rather trade your not getting your "high political theatre" for us not getting 4-to-8 years of Billary fiasco both public and private. I bet if Hillary wins (I doubt it against McCain), she will screw something up so bad (with Bill helping out big-time) that there will be grounds for impeachment, and some Representative Dems will vote for impeachment.

We don't want nor need that. Hillary, go down in flames, for yor country.

Victoria Taft said...

Call me.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it's typical, but Obama won South Carolina handily after a week of really contentious back-and-forth, which he seemed to get the best of. Hillary's history, though, is to turn any criticism from a male opponent into a gender issue - as she did with the "iron my shirt!" guys. It will be interesting to see if the kinder gentler Obama continues to surge in the polls.

Anonymous said...

Guess that prediction didn't work out.

I'm not surprised. Rob, you're a confrontational debater, sometimes, even to your detriment.

But not everybody sees a debate, or lack thereof, the same way you do.

Apparently, Obama has a better handle on what looks good to a Democratic audience, than you do.

Again, not surprising.

Since he's a Democrat and you're, well, not.

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