Another first for me! I've watched lots of debates, and I've read lots of blogs that have liveblogged a debate, but I've never liveblogged a debate. So, assuming that I can figure out how to quickly and easily edit and post on blogger, I'm going to liveblog tonight's debate in Texas between Clinton and Obama.
Some thoughts before the debate starts ... are there really any people out there who haven't decided yet? And is a debate going to sway them? What about people who have decided? Will anything either of the candidates says tonight change their vote? Honestly, who knows?
I might not know, but I can certainly predict. Obama will act like the front runner tonight, because he is the front runner, and Clinton will attack Obama more tonight than she has in the past. Ultimately, this debate is Obama's to lose. Clinton has to play tonight perfectly: she can't crash and burn on any question, she can't get shrill, all attacks against Obama have to be valid and smear-free, and she has to make one stick. If she doesn't, it's a tie, which means Obama wins.
8:00PM - It begins. Obama got a lot more applause than Clinton when he walked out. A LOT.
8:02PM - We learn that this is happening at a university, which means it's a lot of students, who overwhelmingly support Obama. Applause still impressive, but not as much as I thought.
8:05PM - Opening Statements. Clinton emphasizes her connections to Texas, talks about Anne Richard. Says candidacy is about taking issues head-on. She sounds pretty good, actually. Keeps mentioning health care, she clearly thinks that's her strength. Obama opens with unity and defining moment. Goes into specific problems of people he's met. Mentions his Iraq position. Sounds presidential. Problem isn't ideas, problem is Washington, lobbyists, special interests. Wants to help America be as good as its promise. Kinda wishy washy at the end.
8:15PM - Cuba question. Would Clinton meet with the new guy? She's ready to reach out and work together once he demonstrates he's going to move towards to democracy. Would not meet until she has evidence they're on the right track. A good explanation of why she would and wouldn't meet with somebody.
8:17PM - Obama responds. Moderator challenges him on a 2003 comment he made, he falters at first, recovers well. Still sounds presidential. You can tell he's thought about this.
8:19PM - Clinton responds to Obama's response. Draws distinction about when/whether president should offer meetings without preconditions. Says it shouldn't be offered in the beginning. Attacks the Bush policies. Starting to get shrill. Tone it down, Hil!
8:22PM - Economy, how would you be different? Obama: end tax breaks for rich, keep trading but fairly, invest in green jobs. So far he hasn't answered the question about how he'd be different. Brings the question back to his ability to unite and overcome.
8:26PM - Clinton responds ... hasn't answered the question yet either. Getting shrill again. Starts into specifics: moritory on foreclosures .. would freeze interest rates for 5 years? WTF? Definitely getting shrill. Green jobs, infrastructure. Ending Bush's war on science ... interesting twist. Got some good applause from the audience.
8:30PM - Would you stop immigration raids? Clinton: for the most part, yes. Then goes into immigration reform. Promotes path to legalization, would introduce in first 100 days. Obama: sounds much calmer than Clinton. Says it is critical to tone down rhetoric, end discrimination. Illegals would move to back of line. Would fix legal immigration, improve relationship with Mexico and help them produce jobs. Attacks Bush and his fixation on Iraq ... not sure how Iraq war ties in with focusing on Mexico.
8:35PM - Clinton voted for the fence? Didn't know that. Clinton throws out that Obama voted for it too. Smart way to protect the borders, and dumb ways to protect the border - got a laugh. "When both of us voted for this..", she's really emphasizing that Obama also voted. John King presses on whether it was still a good idea. Clinton says yes, but has to be done the right way, with technology.
8:40PM - Obama: I agree. Country needs immigration reform. America wants fairness, but also wants order. Plugs DREAM, gets applause.
8:42PM - Is there a problem with the US becoming a bilingual country? Clinton: being bilingual is good for people, believes English is the unifying language. 170 languages in NYC? That's a lot. Obama: important that everyone learns English, every student should learn second language. Failure of NCLB is reliance on standardized testing that doesn't include foreign language.
8:46PM - Break. So far, I think Clinton's done a bit better, but not enough to make a difference. Her answers have more details in them, while Obama keeps bringing it back to his ability to unite. And while I find that kind of annoying, I don't think many people will. Obama's losing his train of thought at times, but Clinton really needs to learn how to not sound like she's screaming.
8:50PM - John King notices a wee bit of difference between stump speeches and tonight's debate. Quotes Clinton saying Obama offers speeches, she offers solutions. Clinton takes a quick jab at Bush, says she and Obama agree on just about everything, but just look at the world a bit differently. Brings up the Texas guy's horrible peformance on MSNBC ... says actions speak louder than words, which gets some good applause. Tricky question, she needed to be careful, and she answered it well.
8:54PM - Obama responds: look at my record, I've got action too. We think differently about how change comes about. People aren't being duped, this is real, and we need it to change Washington. Goes off into about how we need change - wow, audience is clapping over the moderator.
8:57PM - Hmmm... The first question: Senator Clinton, you said Obama's all words and no action, is he?. The second question: Senator Obama, Senator Clinton says you plagerize, how would you respond? The third question: Senator Clinton, is it sillly season? A little bit biased against Clinton, maybe? Obama goes off into why he is teh awesome, and gets all inspirationally.
9:01PM - "Not change you can believe in, it's change you can xerox." Obama tried to respond, Clinton talked over him. Some boos. Ooo... she's going after him, and hard. This is double or nothing for her, either she does this perfectly and hits Obama bad, or it's over for her. Clinton: it's not enough to bring the country together, you have to do hard work, and I can do that. Obama: "My plan didn't change, the politics changed" ... huh? Obama takes on their differences in healthcare, hits her on the mandates. Says his plan does more than any other to reduce costs. Same goals, different way of getting there. Says he admires her attempt to tackle health care in the 90's, but that she did it the wrong way, and that's important.
9:06PM - Another "real quick break", and at about the most inconvenient time ever. I was looking forward to the debate on healthcare. First, Obama is wrong when he says Clinton's plan was hatched in secret. There were over 400 public meetings with doctors, nurses, economists, drug companies, insurance companies, and members of both parties. The reason this meme has spread is that the media wasn't specifically invited. By no means were they barred, but because Clinton didn't advertise her plan to them, it somehow became "secret".
Second, I don't know about her going after Obama with the just-pretty-words angle. I was nervous ... she didn't make any huge mistakes, but not making mistakes isn't good enough, she had to be exquisitely perfect. She wasn't.
9:10PM - The moderator asks Clinton whether Obama is ready to be commander in chief. Clinton goes right back to health care. Hits Obama with Edwards' line about non-mandated health care being like privatized social security. Obama responds, Clinton responds too, both of them talk over the moderator. Clinton says people who go to the ER without insurance would be fined. Obama says anyone who wants insurance will get it, and that yes, if you game the system you will be fined. Question for Obama that Clinton should have asked: how is going to the emergency room gaming the system?
9:18PM - Obama: "I would not be running for president if I didn't think I was prepared to be commander in chief." Raises the Iraq war vote. Says explicitly that Clinton was wrong in her vote. Got applause, but not a lot. His key argument: I was right, she was wrong. "I have shown the judgement to lead."
9:20PM - King asks question of Clinton: is Iraq better now? Clinton makes the argument, finally, that the whole idea of the surge was to support political reconcilliation, and that hasn't happened. Clinton: "I would begin withdrawing troops within 60 days." She says Iraq has to step up.
Seriously, all debate spin asside, I'm just glad that a Democratic candidate has finally finally FINALLY pointed out, on national television, that the surge didn't accomplish what it was supposed to accomplish. IT - DID - NOT - WORK
9:25PM - Obama brings it right back to original sin, er, the original Iraq vote. He didn't answer the question. Now he's going on about veterans. I have no problem if you branch out, but not if you ignore the question. So far, he's the first one tonight not to do so. He also goes after McCain.
9:27PM - ANOTHER break? What's up with this? Hmm.... a coal industry ad. And now 3 different Campbell Brown heads across the screen. Weird.
9:31PM - And we're back!
9:32PM - John King: Obama is responsible for $91MM in earmarks, and won't disclose what they were for. Obama: no, you're wrong, we did, and I made a google for government. Also says some earmarks can be very good, but that they have to be done publicly and above board.
9:33PM - Can Clinton claim that she's any better than McCain on fiscal issues? Clinton: naturally I am, he's a quack. In all fairness, she did avoid the underlying premise of the question, which was earmarks. They both toned it down a notch.
9:35PM - Oooo... superdelegate question. Would it be bad if the supers picked the candidate that the voters didn't? Clinton: we will have a unified party. Obama: the primaries and caucuses should count for something. And now some stuff about dreams and hope and Washington again. Ok, dude, we get it, you can stop finishing each answer with your stump speech?
9:38PM - What moment would you point to that was a moment of crisis in your life? I'm actually interested in hearing this answer. Obama: I had a tough youth and made mistakes, and now I bring people together and fight for them. Umm.. ok. Clinton: "I've definitely lived through some crises in my life" - gets a laugh and applause. She's in awe of other people living through their crises, talks about her experience at a medical center listening to a speaker who'd had most of his face blown off. Eww. She's resolved to give other people the blessings she's had is her final answer. Hmmm... neither of them answered the question, both turned it back to their own strengths.
9:45PM - Anderson Cooper with the best political team on television!
9:50PM - Hmmm again. CNN's analysts seem to think that her closing statement was the best moment she's ever had. Widely agreed that the xerox statement is quite possibly the worst.
9:55PM - The professional analysts agree with me that Clinton had to wow or Obama had to stumble if Clinton was to gain momentum. Score one for me! They say they didn't see either. Neither did I, frankly. Both of them bickered a bit, she may have scored one or two little wins on substance, but he scored a bit on style, even if I disagree with it. If she does get some help from this debate, it'll be because of her last statement, which humanized her.
One thing that I'm starting to find very annoying is the insistence that we only get about 5 minutes to debate any one subject before we move on. These are complex and important issues, and they deserve more than a few words spoken over a moderator. The argument over healthcare was starting to get to some key differences between their plans, and then it got cut short. That doesn't help anything.
And the winner of tonight's debate is.....
Anderson Cooper, best looking guy on the best political team on television! (if you don't watch CNN, you won't get that)