7/27/2007

Hillary vs. Obama: Hillary's Second Mistake

At the recent You Tube debate in Charleston, Hillary Clinton landed a strong blow against Barack Obama by making him look inexperienced in regards to foreign policy. Her methodical, presidential response about making no guarantees about meeting leaders of rogue nations and not wanting to be used "for propoganda purposes" caught Obama off guard and struck at his greatest perceived weakness and one of her greatest perceived strengths.

She would have been in far better shape if she had just stopped there.

The press generally agreed that Clinton got the better of Obama in this exchange and even I was wondering if that could mark the end of Obama's candidacy. However, Clinton sought to get more mileage out of this exchange by calling Obama "irresponsible and naive" in a radio interview later on.

And that is when the tables turned.

Obama was not about to take this criticism lying down, so he said that "the only thing irresponsible and naive was voting for the Iraq War without having an exit strategy." He also compared her policies to "Bush-Cheney Lite." Yikes. Obama was able to successfully pivot from defense to offense in the blink of an eye by switching the debate from his inexperience to her war vote.

Talk about a way to fire up your supporters. This is the first time voters got a chance to see Obama take a punch and deliver an even stronger counterpunch. This exchange signifies that he is not going to be pushed around. Clinton had a lame response to Obama's criticism of her: After calling the whole spat (which she initiated) "silly," she lamented the lost "politics of hope" that Obama preached.

But it gets worse. Republicans delighted in this exchange and even took Clinton's side--presumably to show they are tough on national security issues. McCain and Romney weighed in, for example. That only further bolstered Obama. If Clinton is "Romney-approved," how do you think liberal Democratic primary voters are going to view her? "If they like her, she couldn't possibly be good for us, right?"

Once again, Obama has become the insurgent candidate while Clinton has become the candidate of the past. And worse yet, the Republican candidates' taking Clinton's side in this spat only legitimizes Obama's "Bush-Cheney Lite" claim! And it also contradicts Clinton's debate statements of being able to deliver "change" and being a "modern progressive."

Having said all that, it must be stressed that Clinton is not in trouble at all. However, she managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here. Also, it is quite possible that she underestimated her chief rival. Clinton was beating Obama easily when she was simply ignoring him. On top of that, Obama's momentum was beginning to stall. So instead of letting his campaign slowly deflate, why did she give him oxygen?

Hillary Clinton needs to choose her battles more carefully. In short, she tried to deliver a knockout punch, but ended up with a black eye and a stronger rival instead.

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2 comment(s):

Deacon Tim said...

Great points, Anthony. My post was written before the after-party slug-fest started. The Clinton's are not used to having opponents that are smarter than they are. If Obama can regain his footing and put Hillary in the DINO category, she's toast. We'll see.

Love the blog!

Anthony Palmer said...

Clinton's greatest weapon is her inevitability. "I'm going to be the nominee, so you might as well get on board now or get run over." But Obama threatens that. And once that's threatened, people will wonder why Clinton feels she is almost entitled to be the nominee. Once they start second-guessing her, she's finished. The challenge for Clinton is to have her rate of supporters' attrition be lower than her rate of generating new support.