So I watched the democratic debate tonight, on CNN.com with the audience reaction overlay (which is incredibly fun). Here's the highlights:
- The candidates were so close as to make almost no difference on most issues of policy, except (a) healthcare; Barack's plan isn't compulsory, which I don't like, and (b) Iraq; Hillary has to really mince words to deal with her initial vote in favour.
- Hillary tried to make a point about Barack's record by mentioning a supporter who was unable to name his legislative accomplishments on live TV. Unfortunately, said supporter is a Senator from Texas and was sitting in the third row, so this was greeted by boos.
- Obama dismissed the ridiculous plagiarism accusations by pointing out that Deval Patrick is a member of his national campaign who encouraged him to use the words. Hillary made a lame, lame joke about "that's not change we can believe in, that's change we can Xerox". Also high negatives.
- The audience reaction flatlined on every single policy discussion. People do not care about policy.
- Hillary had a great closing line -- she seemed human, and sincere, which she sadly so rarely does, unlike Bill, who was like that all the time. High positives.
- It turns out those closing lines were taken almost verbatim from a speech her husband gave in 1992 and from John Edwards in an earlier debate. Do those count as plagiarism too?
Basically, I agree with JMM that the debate was a tie, but a tied debate is a win for Obama overall. If the two candidates are substantively similar on policy, then the choice becomes a question of leadership, character, and inspiration, and Obama is clearly the more charismatic and persuasive candidate. He also has all the momentum behind him, and 11 days to go.
And poor Hillary basically has nowhere to go. Her policies have been locked down. She can't go negative; how do you go negative against an opponent for whom positivity is part of his policy platform? Her closing statements tonight revealed the first hints that she is beginning to realise and accept that she is losing, and may have already lost this race. I sincerely hope Obama picks her as VP.