I did not watch the debates last night, but the consensus seems to be that (a) Obama performed very strongly and did not make any mistakes that might have derailed his post-Iowa express train to the nomination; (b) Clinton held her own but was clearly on the defensive; and (c) Edwards was eloquent and acquitted himself very well, using a strategy of joining forces with Obama against Clinton. Opinion differs as to whether the motive behind what some see as madness on Edwards' part is to eliminate the weakest link before going after the strongest (Obama, right now), or whether it's to ride Obama's coattails.
Here are some money quotes:
Right now most polls are saying that Clinton and Obama are tied in New Hampshire. And you know that if she wins by even one vote on Tuesday she’ll be re-crowned “Ms. Inevitable.”
But I wonder if that “inevitability” shtick isn’t part of her problem. It sent a subliminal message to rank-and-file Dems that you’ll take what the party gives you, and you will like it. But what the party has been giving us in recent years — well, for a long time, actually — hasn’t been all that wonderful. We put up with it because the other guys are worse. Maybe what happened at the 100 Club dinner is a dawning realization that “Hey, we don’t have to put up with it! We can demand something different!”
In general, I think Obama's the winner tonight. I think Hillary made her case well. I think Edwards had the best debate. But the debate can only be understood in the context of the moment. Right now, Obama's on fire. The first post-Iowa polls show him picking up a big post-caucus bump. He needed to come off well. Not make any mistakes. And not let Hillary open up any strong line of attack against him. And I think he did each one of those things. Which means he gave some reassurance to those who might be hesitating to get on the bandwagon and didn't do or allow anything to happen which significantly changes the trend of the moment, which is moving heavily in his favor.
Folks can certainly draw their own conclusions about impassioned vs. shrill, but I was struck by something Clinton said, not just how she said it: “We don’t need to be raising the false hopes of our country.” Regardless of tone or theatrics, that’s really not a positive message, particularly with a group of voters looking to be inspired.
Words are not action, this is true enough, but Americans as a people are, perhaps uniquely, susceptible to the influence of inspiration. When inspired to greatness, we are makers of miracles. In America, it is never wise to dismiss the visionary and the words that communicate his or her vision. Words are the only thing that have ever really mattered in this country; they are the keystone of our nation, the well of our dream of ourselves from which all action and all greatness radiates.
When I look at what's happening on the campaign trail in this election, I see a people hungry for a new and better dream of America, one that transcends the bitterness of the post-Vietnam era and gives my generation and the one that is following, at last, a vision for being one people again. I can't say how or if that trumps experience. But I know in my gut that Barack Obama is singing a necessary song about America, and that without the right words today, the actions of tomorrow will continue to fail us.
The time to go to the bathroom was when it was Richardson’s turn.
Creature at The Reaction:
Yes, Hillary, finally: a wom[a]n president would be a huge change. If only you hadn't tried to be so manly over war. ...
There is no longer any doubt that the Obama phenomenon is real. Mr. Obama’s message of hope, healing and change, discounted as fanciful and naïve by skeptics, drew Iowans into the frigid night air by the tens of thousands on Thursday to stand with a man who is not just running for president, but trying to build a new type of political movement.
By midnight, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd had been chased from the race; John Edwards was all but literally on his knees; and the Clintons were trying, for the umpteenth time, to figure out how to remake themselves as the comeback kids.
Shake hands with tomorrow. It’s here.
Senator Obama’s victory speech was a concise oratorical gem. No candidate in either party can move an audience like he can. He characterized his stunning victory as an affirmation of “the most American of ideas — that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.”
Barack Obama (via Matthew Yglesias):