The Plank

Playing Nice Is Ok--for Tonight

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MSNBC's panel seems convinced, as I guess some of my colleagues are, that tonight was a missed opportunity: Democrats could have attacked McCain and didn't. I understand that reaction. I've been agitating for the Obama campaign to get tougher, too. But tonight's strategy seems sensible enough. The campaign had to introduce America to Michelle Obama and make swing voters--that is, older working- and middle-class white voters--were comfortable with her and the Obamas generally. (I can't begin to tell you how much it makes me cringe just to have to write that sentence.) I think that mission was successful.

Consider what might have happened if MIchelle had gone on the attack. Would voters receive that well--or would they decide she was being uppity? (Ugh, it makes me cringe to write that, too.) The history of potential First Ladies making political attacks is not full of success. And Michelle's predecessors weren't dealing with racial bias, too.

If the next three nights go like this, then, yes, there will be cause for concern. But Hillary Clinton speaks Tuesday night, Joe Biden on Wednesday. And neither of them are terribly shy about attacking Republicans. 

*Update: Corrected fragments and a sentence out of sequence. 

--Jonathan Cohn

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