Hollywood Democratic Debate

It was a surprisingly substantial, mature discussion of actual issues between two very Presidential candidates with minimal interference from the moderator, who turned out to be Wolf Blitzer, not Anderson Cooper as I’d thought it would be.

Highlights:

  1. Health Care: The difference between them seems subtle on the face of it but I think it ultimately comes down to a question of Clinton’s approach seems to assume significant compromise will be required so she padded her proposal a bit (the way I used to approach the first round of my marketing annual budget), while Obama wants to cut to the chase and put forward a plan that is palatable to all from the beginning and puts us on the quickest path to a health care plan that can eventually lead to true universal health care.
  2. Immigration: Obama took the high road, saying it’s wrong to scapegoat immigrants as the reason unemployment is so high amongst African-Americans, while Clinton, shockingly, implied it was okay to blame immigrants. It’ll be interesting to see if the California media picks up on that in tomorrow’s coverage and if it gets any play in the Latino or African-American community.
  3. Iraq: Obama’s “Ready on Day One vs. Right on Day One” was the closest thing to a clean shot to the chin either candidate landed tonight. Blitzer pushed a little too hard on questioning Clinton’s naivete over trusting Bush’s word by voting for the war resolution, to the point where the audience booed him, but it was a valid point. 

Both candidates avoided any major gaffes or faux pas, going out of their way to be as cordial and respectful as possible, to the point where I can almost see myself shifting back towards being relatively comfortable voting for Clinton in November if she ends up being the nominee.  I still don’t see an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket happening, though.

Anyone already comitted to a candidate based on actual research (as opposed to hype or name recognition) probably didn’t have their minds changed, while anyone tuning in for the first time got a lot to chew on and, if nothing else, the comfort of having two very strong candidates to choose from. It’ll be interesting to see how the media covers it, how the campaigns spin it, and, most importantly, how it all plays out next Tuesday night.

Overall, I’d say Obama “won” the night, though narrowly, if only because it’s very likely a lot of people were seeing him for the first time and got to see him go toe-to-toe with Clinton by talking specifics, a complaint that’s often been made about his more inspirational campaign speeches that he’s best known for. Besides the “Right on Day One” that’s become part of his stump speech, I think the quote of the night has to be:

“I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.”

Iraq remains Clinton’s achilles heel and if Obama can successfully bring that critical lack of judgement to the fore as a defining difference between them, he’ll get some good mileage of it.

ETA: Andrew Sullivan nails several key moments in the debate as they happened.


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