Election 2008 Foreign Policy Obama Politics

Live-blogging the MSNBC Debate…

First reaction, seeing Hillary respond: She is way too over-confident. She’s going to lose. Someone on that stage is going to beat her. What is that maniacal smile as she listened to Tim Russert describe her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman bill.

As I’ve told people: I think this is the first make-or-break moment in the campaign. If Obama doesn’t “beat” the expectations of the press or impress a large number of Iowans and New Hamphirites, he’ll have missed his biggest opportunity so far and demonstrated a lack of ability to go for the jugular. And without that ability, he will never be able to beat Hillary or most of the top Republican nominees.

As we speak, Tim Russert is destroying Hillary by not letting her squirm away from his question on allowing access to her records in archives from the Clinton administration.

Now Edwards and Obama are ganging up on her. I would say Obama was more effective. Until he started talking about how he brings people together. Save that for later, Senator.

Edwards has the best line however: “I believe in Santa Claus, I believe in the Easter Bunny, but I’m not sure I believe Hillary can win.”

Obama is deflecting the question on his “experience” to be president. Of course, no one on this stage has real executive experience. Except Bill Richardson; but his inability to speak takes him out.

And Bill Richardson is clearly angling to be the vice-presidential candidate, telling Edwards and Obama to stop being mean to Clinton.

She hasn’t looked intimidated though. She’s been smiling in a very odd way in the response shots when Edwards and Obama have been taking shots at her.

So far, Edwards seems to be winning this debate. He’s been very strong, and he seems to be “feeling the mojo.” Obama has been decent, but not impressive. Of course, a single moment is all he needs. No one has had that moment yet – the moment the debate will be remembered for. Clinton is getting hammered – and she seems both flustered, oddly happy, and over-confident, all at the same time – and that is a difficult combination to pull off.

Biden has the best line: Giuliani has only three things in each sentence: “a noun, a verb, and 9/11”. Biden has now had his moment. A great little speech there.

Tim Russert has done his homework. So many things to trip Hillary up with – in this instance, citing Bill Clinton repeating what Hillary just called a “Republican talking point”.

Obama should have looked Hillary in the eye at that moment after Russert cited Obama’s comments to the New York Times calling her “untruthful”. He lost that moment.

Hillary though is looking very old. Not a strong performance so far.

With Brian Williams’s question – about Mitt Romney confusing Obama and Osama – Obama now has a chance to shine. And Obama answered well, but not well enough. Right now, Edwards and Biden are the clear winners so far, although Obama’s presentation has been consistent and steady. He has not failed. And Hillary has taken a hit. In the end, I think this can only benefit Obama. I do not think either Edwards nor Biden has enough time left to make up the gap in funding and otherwise overtake Obama. But I would still like to see Obama rise to the occasion tonight. As a number of commentators have suggested, Obama should go after Giuliani. Although at this point, Biden has already taken the easiest shots.

It is amazing how Hillary can’t even answer the softball question (asking her to praise Congressman Charlie Rangel and her husband on tax policy) that Russert throws to her – perhaps feeling bad for being so tough earlier. But Hillary, with her answer, ensures that she has taken no position on the issue. On the positive side, she has acknowledged that there is an issue though – we have her cornered on that one. She has made very clear: she is in favor of doing “something” and has many reasons not to tell you what that something is. I don’t see how she can win an election with positions like that.

Edwards just flubbed the line comparing Blackwater mercenaries and American troops.

I’m not sure why they have the time limit for the lightening round without a way to really enforce it. It just makes everyone look stupid.

Wow. Hillary is going too far. She is making it very, very clear that she has absolutely no positions. She won’t defend anything. She looks awful. And thank God for Tim Russert in following up with Hillary, for trying to nail down her position. She complains people are trying to play “Gotcha” for trying to understand what her position is. Things make sense, but aren’t what she necessarily believes; and if she doesn’t necessarily believe something, it doesn’t mean she disagrees. She just wants both sides.

I love Tim Russert.  Quizzing Dennis Kucinich on UFOs, as the godmother of his children claims he did.  He admits it.

Obama looks very comfortable.  That’s good.  But I’m not sure that it’s enough.  The fact that Hillary was hit so hard makes it a win for Obama, but I’m not sure that the Senator had a strong showing.  On reflection, his answers seem better, and he seems more honest than the others.  He seems to posture less, and when he postures, to do so honestly.  But he did not have that break-out moment.  He did not grab the audience with an emotional appeal or hit any opposing candidate – Republican or Democrat – too hard.  I’ve read that Obama is capable of “hitting the high notes”, the inspiring rhetorical crescendo when he wants to.  He has demonstrated that, not least of all at the 2004 Democratic convention.  But Obama prefers – like John Kennedy – to speak in a more analytical manner, reflecting as he does so.  I just wanted Obama to hit a high note in this debate tonight.  Perhaps even still, this delay is part of the strategy.

I’m not so sure on either conclusions.

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