Post Debate: Clinton and Edwards Chat and Is Obama Off Message?

Word has it that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards met for a little private chat last night “in the Edwards campaign green room.”

One of the sources said the meeting happened by chance and the conversation consisted of light chatter. The source added that Clinton did jokingly take a jab at Edwards about his beating up on her during the debate. In fact, the real fireworks were between Clinton and Barack Obama.

And of course this meeting leaves everyone to wonder, “with only two weeks before Super Tuesday — what else was discussed?” The flies on the wall don’t seem to be talking.

Jeffrey Feldman has a post up today asking whether Obama can get “back on message?” (H/T to TM) Feldman says:

Like it or not, the Clinton campaign has knocked the Obama campaign off the core theme of ‘hope and change.’  This change is significant because the ‘hope and change’ theme took over the entire political debate in the 24 hours after the Iowa debate.  That is no longer the case.

Despite trumpeting his ability to bring a ‘new tone’ to politics, last night’s debate showed an Obama who scolded, complained, and pointed fingers.  His performance last night raises a serious question without a clear answer: How can a Presidential candidate bring change if he is so easily thrown off message by his opponents?

Having dominated previous debates with his quick wit and charisma, Obama’s rhetoric and body language last night gave the impression of a candidate stuck–like everyone else–in old-school mud slinging politics.

The ability to throw Obama off his message may be a Pyrrhic victory for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  In the end, voters not persuaded by Obama’s message of change may jump to Edwards rather than Clinton.  Nonetheless, Clinton has managed to open up a significant chink in Obama’s armor by hitting on the difference between ‘rhetoric and reality.’ 

Indeed, that Obama came off as so defensive last night was a good example of how quickly his central campaign promises have been tripped up by his opponents. 

For their part, both Clinton and Edwards gave solid, but not inspiring debate performances.  As usual, the word that came to mind after watching Clinton’s in last night’s debate was ‘prepared.’  While Obama struggled to get out subtle distinctions in long sentences–Clinton spoke in sharp, clear, if not over-produced talking points.

I think the last two debates have shown a struggling Obama. He’s no match for Clinton’s sharp mind that can rattle off points on policy and issue during a debate without skipping a beat. Her speeches and interviews show a similarly confident and knowledgable candidate. Obama on the other hand seems to have an “inability to keep his campaign message focused across the full range of campaign events.”

In particular,  while disciplined and on message in his campaign speeches, Obama has shown a tendency to wanders off message in press interviews, often bringing in statements that  are vague and even contradictory.

This won’t play well for Obama should he become the nominee. If Hillary Clinton can so easily throw him off message, it will be just as easy for the Republican nominee to do the same.

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10 Responses to Post Debate: Clinton and Edwards Chat and Is Obama Off Message?

  1. Stoplying says:

    All Obama fans are idiotic. *EDITED BY MODERATOR*. A man who gains publicity based on color instead of merit. If he wins the democratic nomination, he will win as an affirmative action candidate. People are scared to voice their opinion against black people because they will be portrayed as racists. *EDITED BY MODERATOR*. Hispanics, Indians, and Asians will never support a man that doesnt include us in his agenda. *EDITED BY MODERATOR*.

    God save us

  2. Stoplying

    Sorry your comment has been moderated to remove the most imflammatory remarks about Barack Obama. Please see our comment policy above.

  3. I believe we are beginning to see the real Barrack Obama. He is a product, as he has said, of the Chicago ‘rough’ political school. It is a school versed in dirty politics and illegal tactics.

    I do not believe Senator Obama has done any thing illegal. Certainly not.

    Yet repeatedly, since announcing his candidacy, he has struck out at specific people, usually HRC, using passive-aggressive language that is hard to pin down for rebuttal. It’s a highly skilled language technique.

    He is Tony Robbins trained, not a bad thing in itself, yet I personally believe he isn’t using that training consistently as intended. It can be highly manipulative. Newt Ginrich was another Robbins trainee who took the training to another level when he went an NLP training facility for a number of weeks. It served him well. It didn’t serve the USA well but it got him to a majority in Congress.

    Brilliant when reading a speech from a teleprompter, and appearing to be extemporaneous, Obama fumbled a number of times in earlier debates. I watched on pre-primary debate with a cowboy buddy. (A real cowboy…not a line-dancer.)

    He turned to me at one point and said, “Isn’t he the one that supposed to speak really well?”

    “Yep.”, I said.

    He replied that he couldn’t understand how Obama got the reputation as he was doing so poorly.

    Interesting comment from a man who thinks all politicians are crooks.

    Senator Obama has now shifted to direct, angry attacks whenever he’s confronted by his own comments, votes or record. (Another trait that Robbins would not condone.)

    Sorry, but Obama did glorify Ronald Reagan, a man I admired as a man and despised as a Governor and President, and the ‘transformative’ movement he ‘created’. [In fact that ‘movement’ had been in the works for many years by powers behind the Republican party. Reagan inherited the decades of work of others.]

    If Obama can be so rattled in a relatively supportive setting what will he do when he doesn’t have a substantial majority in either House and is confronted with a Republican threat to shut down the government yet again?

    Bill Clinton called their bluff and let them shut down the government. The Republicans were roundly ‘booed’ by the American public and that action led to fracturing of the Republican majority and the retirement of Newt Ginrich.

    That’s just one topic.

    What about the nuclear threat in Pakistan and India? Can he handle that kind of pressure? Standing up to conflicting decisions that have substantial impact far beyond the original action is one strength needed in a President.

    George Bush has shown us exactly what happens when a President has to rely on advisers to program his answers.We do not need another President that needs that much help.

    What happens when Obama learns that the world isn’t a happy place waiting to reconcile and join hands? What happens then he learns that rhetoric won’t move Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel or the Palestinians?

    Those subjects need cold hard analysis with an eye to the consequence of actions. Then the President has to be aware of the consequence of that consequence etc. Thinking 4-5 steps ahead of the action helps lead to effective original choices.

    Could Barrack Obama stand up to that kind of pressure with grace and strength? He hasn’t shown that to us yet.

    I would like to see both John Edwards, HRC and Senator Obama be equipped with exact dates, times and places conflicts in the debate. Obama does seems to change interpretations when it’s in his best interest. Perhaps that’s a mis-perception on my part.

    I think, however, that they aren’t allowed to bring notes to the podium.

    Too bad it would serve everyone better including Senator Obama.

  4. John says:

    I think Obama’s faults are now showing up and I am glad that the Clintons have made him accountable. The media, which had the responsibility to help us get to know Obama outside of his rhetorics failed. But I am so glad everyone can see now, that without a teleprompter, Obama is nothing but a fumbling Ivy League product who really hasn’t done anything significant for the country yet.

  5. Diana says:

    Hillary Clinton has absolutely won me over with her absolute knowledge of every campaign issue she espouses. It’s one thing to put a variety of position statements on your website, to talk about them in rehearsed speeches and with notes, but Clinton displays a deep understanding about each position, and you can tell these were not ideas that were developed by advisors.

    I really got to wondering how Obama would handle the pressure of a General Election, if he’s getting so angry and defensive and flustered over being confronted over his past statements and positions. HIs supporters seem to be disciple-like, but I’ve noticed a dropping off of the ones that did not view him as some sort of “rock star” (btw, run screaming ANYtime someone refers to a candidate as a rock star – it screams style over substance.) Obama needs some seasoning, and some training on how to get things done. HIs angry victim stuff isn’t playing very well anymore. Does Obama ever really talk in depth about his campaign issues? I don’t dislike the man, I just have no use for that kind of passive-aggressive stuff in a presidential candidate. I prefer strength (i.e. Hillary Clinton.)

  6. Stuart

    Obama has been blown off course big time. James Boyce adds some good perspective.

  7. John

    I hear you on the teleprompter. It’s one of my pet peeves.

  8. Diana

    Not sure if you have seen the “GObama” meme floating around. Style over substance. Send me a leader.

  9. Bacalove says:

    Political candidates should be fined each and every time they intentionally distort an opponent’s records and held accountable for this kind of unethical behavior. Example, Hillary’s recent statement she made on Meet the Press in which she said: “Sen. Obama’s chief strategist accuses me of playing a role in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.” When in actuality David Axelrod never made such an accusation. He said former Prime Minister Bhutto’s death will ”call into issue the judgment” of ”taking the eye off the ball and making the wrong judgment in going into Iraq.” That statement of her’s is Outrageous! After all, we teach our children to play fair — not to lie, steal and cheat! The leaders we elect to office should be held to a higher standard and should be people of high principal, moral character, honest and forthright.

    Second: There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. Senator Obama had no choice other than to diplomatically confront the Clintons on their lies and misstatements. He cannot allow them to paint a picture of him that is NOT TRUE. The Clintons’ tactics are old time party politics and should be a thing of the past as we move towards the 21st Century, towards cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner politics, towards a more holistic way of living. It is a greater duty and in the best interest of the country for Barack Obama to continue to stay positive and hopeful while attempting to clear his record from these misstatements as he continues to try to bring this country together and lift it up from fear an a distrust of one another — and to continue to show the American people and the world there is another way to run for office other than smear and fear. That is why Obama and Huckabee are so appealing. They are authentic and each in their own way are trying to lead the Americans away from dirty campaigning, lies and tricks. How can a country be blessed after all that ugly and dirty fighting, it can’t be. And too we have to ask ourselves as a people, why do we allow this behavior to be acceptable and reward this kind of negative behavior, when we would not accept it in ourselves.

  10. Bacalove

    “Political candidates should be fined each and every time they intentionally distort an opponent’s records and held accountable for this kind of unethical behavior.”

    Absolutely and if we did that both of the frontrunners would no doubt find themselves being fined. The idea that Obama has not played dirty is ludicrous.

    All of this goes both ways and anyone who thinks Obama is simply an agent of change and hope isn’t paying attention to the entire spectrum of what’s going on and both sides of the argument because it’s clear to people who are paying attention that he’s as capable of getting in the mud as any other politician.