Thursday, February 28, 2008


“In the first Democratic primary debate 10 months ago, Hillary Clinton didn’t have to charge that Barack Obama wasn’t ready to be president on Day One. He did the work for her,” John Dickerson writes at

“He was halting, mumbling, and tentative. The only confidence he instilled was in Clinton. Nineteen debates later, he’s improved so much that if he’s not ready to be president on Day One, you could imagine he might get there after a little study. At what may be the last debate of the Democratic primary, Obama was commanding, at ease, and magnanimous. Clinton needed him to stumble, and he didn’t. He won the night,” Mr. Dickerson said.

“How a candidate performs in a debate tells us only a little about how he or she would perform as president, but that’s not the way Clinton aides told us we should view these debates. During the tough February slog, while Clinton was losing electoral contests to Obama, her aides promised that in one-on-one sessions, voters would see how she towered over her puny rival. It didn’t happen. Clinton didn’t have a bad evening in Cleveland on Tuesday night; it’s just that she didn’t scratch Obama, and the moderators didn’t much, either.”

Wait until Tuesday

“Syndicated columnist Robert Novak and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter have written columns this week urging Sen. Hillary Clinton to drop out of the Democratic race for president now, before the primaries March 4 in Ohio and Texas,” Jack Kelly writes at www.real

“This is ridiculous. … March 4 is next Tuesday. We can wait until then … . Hillary Clinton certainly will,” Mr. Kelly said.

“Mr. Novak and Mr. Alter argue Sen. Clinton should drop out now because even if she wins all the delegates in the remaining primaries and caucuses, she won’t have enough to win the nomination.

“That’s true. But thanks to the Democrats’ idiot rules, Sen. Obama would have to win 75 percent of the remaining delegates to claim the nomination outright, something he can’t possibly do, if Sen. Clinton wins, however narrowly, in Ohio and Texas.

“Elections are the best way to determine who should hold political power. But for elections to have meaning, winners have to win, and losers lose. The principal reason why Democrats face the (for them) nightmarish prospect of a brokered convention in Denver is because they have mandated proportional representation in all their primaries and caucuses. So winners win only a little, and losers don’t lose much.”

Strange complaint

“You don’t have to love Hillary Clinton to feel her pain. By the end of Tuesday night’s debate, she knew she had failed to change the dynamics of a race slipping away from her. The deflated look on her face telegraphed acceptance, even resignation,” Michael Goodwin writes at www.ny

“But any sympathy is tempered by the fact she has only herself to blame. Her uneven performance, punctuated by one of the strangest complaints I have ever seen in a presidential debate, likely dashed her last hopes of victory. The self-pity behind the complaint was shocking and unappealing,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“She started by being feisty — to a fault. The first 14 minutes were devoted to health care, her signature issue. Yet she was on the defensive and kept interrupting the moderators because Barack Obama skillfully focused on the requirement in her plan that every American purchase health care, whether they want it or not. It is a fair attack because Clinton has never explained how she would enforce that requirement or say what the penalties would be; she didn’t last night, either.

“Clearly frustrated by that rocky start, she began her answer to the second question, on NAFTA, with the complaint. ‘Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time? And I don’t mind,’ she said, clearly minding.

“Then she made the mistake worse with a foolish rehearsed line: ‘And if anybody saw “Saturday Night Live,” you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.’

“Wow. Woe is her. What a blunder. This is political malpractice of the first order.

“This bomb was far worse than her ‘change you can Xerox’ line of last week. This was a petulant whine. There was rustling in the audience, but mostly there was an awkward silence of the kind you notice when someone has said something weird or inappropriate. Creating discomfort in voters over your pain is not a traditional formula for victory.”

Pennsylvania poll

Sen. Barack Obama is closing in on rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s once 16-percentage-point lead in Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Mrs. Clinton led in this survey by 52 percent to 36 percent just two weeks ago. The latest poll indicates that her lead is down to 6 points, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Pennsylvania’s primary is not until April 22, but the poll is yet another measurement of Mr. Obama’s momentum, the Associated Press reports. In two weeks, voters under age 45 have gone from favoring Mrs. Clinton by 11 percentage points to preferring Mr. Obama by 17 points. She leads among women, whites, older voters and those without college degrees; Mr. Obama leads among men, blacks and college graduates. A quarter of each candidate’s supporters say they might change their minds about whom to back.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 21-25. It involved interviews with 506 likely Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Ready to run

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich said yesterday he will form an exploratory committee to look into whether he should run for the Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.

Mr. Begich said at a press conference that he will make a final decision well before the June 1 deadline.

He said forming the committee will allow him to raise funds and talk to Alaskans.

Mr. Begich has been courted by the top Democratic leaders to challenge Mr. Stevens, who is being investigated by federal authorities in connection with a home-remodeling project. Mr. Stevens is the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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