JANUARY 5, 2008
1.) One way or another, Hillary's "angry moment" is clearly going to be the take-away from this debate. My sense was that she came a tick or two away from really snapping, and that can't be good for getting back into this race. Having said that, I think it's possible that it could play another way: Maybe the average voter sees Edwards rushing to double-team her and thinks it was a little over the top. Maybe it even triggers the same gender dynamic that backfired so famously against Rick Lazio in 2000. Now, both of those things would have been more likely had she kept her cool. But Edwards was pretty harsh, and, on some level, maybe people empathize with someone who looks like they're getting ambushed and comes back swinging.
2.) We've truly entered post-modernity when a candidate can say or do something provocative in a debate, then get prompted to comment on how they think it'll play the next day while the debate is still going on. I couldn't help laughing when co-moderator Scott Spralding said to Hillary: "I was watching the exchange in the first half and saw what looked like a little bit of a double team that's probably going to have a lot of people talking tomorrow morning." To which she could only respond: "I'm glad you noticed." Truly bizarre.
3.) I'm not a huge fan of Hillary's new line implicitly comparing Obama to George W. Bush:
And, you know, in 2000 we, unfortunately, ended up with a president who people said they wanted to have a beer with; who said he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider; who said that he had his intuition and he was going to, you know, really come into the White House and transform the country. And, you know, at least I think there are the majority of Americans who think that was not the right choice.
There are two problems with this. The first is that it's just too strained. Whatever their superficial similarities, Barack Obama is just so different from George W. Bush--in disposition, experience, biography, intellectual faculties--that any analogy between the two seems kind of ridiculous on its face. Second, I think trying to compare any Democratic rival to Bush is just too over the top to be credible, even if it were apt. Bush is so detested in the party that most voters will have a hard time believing any Democrat in-good-standing could have anything in common with him.
4.) Both Hillary and Obama looked good on the Pakistan question. Hillary got to showcase her detailed knowledge of the region--her comment about considering a military strike there in the context of Indian-Pakistani tensions was especially sharp. Meanwhile, Obama had a nice line about how the only reason we have to talk about action in Pakistan that we failed to get bin Laden when we had the chance, and the reason we failed was that we diverted our attention to Iraq. This was a much more plausible link between Pakistan and Iraq than he attempted just after the Bhutto assassination.
5.) If you happened to be paying attention to the bipartisan mixer that happened during the intermission, you might have noticed Obama looking a little sober-faced as he talked to Mitt Romney. (The two men have traded barbs over the last few months via the press.) Here's what Obama strategist David Axelrod said when I asked him about it in the spin room: "My sense is that it was probably nothing particularly noteworthy. I think they exchanged pleasantries." He said this with a slightly mischievous look on his face, so I noted that the exchange went on for a long time. "They exchanged a long series of pleasantries," Axelrod shot back.
I'll report back if I get anything else on that.