Friday, November 16, 2007

"Inevitability" Moves Closer

The reality of 'inevitability' moved a little closer last night, as Hillary Clinton did 'what she had to do' -- she stopped the bleeding that began two weeks ago in the Philadelphia debate. She deftly played the 'gender card' while claiming not to. She did what front-runners from time immemorial have done -- agreed with her opponents as much as possible, while praising their 'courage' and 'knowledge'. Thanks for coming out.

Ironically, it was Obama and Edwards who spent much of the night on the defensive: Obama for his position on Yucca Mountain, which was hammered by Wolf Blitzer; and Edwards for both his earlier attacks ('mud slinging', as Hillary characterized it) and his votes on free trade with China and the Patriot Act (raised by Dennis Kucinich).

How did Clinton get her 'mojo' back? First, she had a better debate performance. But more important was the work done before the kleig lights came on.

Clinton's campaign has seized control of the new new media, with selective and carefuly-timed leaks to the Drudge Report(*). For instance, yesterday's Drudge featured a link to a "The Hill" story, with the breathless headline, "Hillary Landslide if Election Held Tomorrow,"trying to inoculate her against an argument (not effectively pursued in the debate, as it turned out) that she would be a weak general election candidate.

Second, in the days after the Philadelphia debate, then-moderator Tim Russert came under withering criticism from the Clinton camp, also played prominently on Drudge: "CLINTON: Russert Question 'Breathlessly Misleading'" In contrast, Wolf Blitzer's performance as moderator last night met with Clinton-camp approval (as featured on Drudge):
CNN debate moderator Wolf Blitzer did an 'outstanding' job in Vegas, a senior adviser to the Hillary campaign said early Friday. 'He was outstanding, and did not gang up like Russert did in Philadelphia. He avoided the personal attacks, remained professional and ran the best debate so far. Voters were the big winners last night.'
Rival campaigns had a slightly different view:
A rival campaign insider charges: 'Wolf turned into a lamb. No follow-up question on Clinton's huge flip on drivers licenses?'
Or, for that matter, her dodge on Iran-special-forces-as-terrorists vote.

(*-The irony of the Clinton campaign utilizing Drudge is not lost.)

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