Tuesday, July 24, 2007

So it begins...Hillary and Obama's post-debate tussle

Today, Hillary! called Senator Obama's comments in last night's debate regarding negotiations with despots "irresponsible" and "naive." Obama's statement did reflect inexperience: Senator Clinton is correct.

However, I am interested in the Clinton strategy with her follow-up interview. And there is some strategy at work: Hillary Clinton is cautious. She would not accidentally let her feelings about Obama's comments suddenly burst forth as if she had Tourette's syndrome. Her words in the interview with the Quad City Times (IA/IL) were the harshest we have seen from any candidate so far in this cycle.

The conventional wisdom in a campaign like Hillary's would generally be: "You're the frontrunner. You're winning by a couple of touchdowns. Most (if not all) people think that you won last night's debate- and every debate for that matter. The press is making a lot of hay for you at Obama's expense regarding these comments." Why so strong a statement, and why now?

It seems to me there are two possibilities.

1. This campaign, six months before he Iowa caucuses, seems to be at a crossroads. After several months in the spring of having close-ish polls showing Obama nipping at her heels, she has opened up a wide lead nationwide and is probably a little ahead in Iowa. The political media has said over and over in recent weeks that Obama and Edwards need to make a move now or have the race slip totally from their grasp with no hope of retrieval. There is a symmetry to that statement: a bold move by the Clinton campaign could dispatch her rivals and put the race out of their reach for good. Obama's statement last night promising to hold talks with those that hate us most without any qualification whatsoever gives Hillary! the opportunity to exploit Obama's biggest weakness: profound inexperience.

2. She's just doing what the Clintons do best: playing offense. Every day that is bad for Obama is good for her. Getting another news cycle out of the Obama story helps her. This is actually an extension of the first point.

AP's treatment of the dust-up. ABC

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