Live Blogging from Ohio's Democratic Debate

10:48 pm ET: Again, gang -- great comments and discussion tonight. Thanks for participating -- and if this is the last debate of the season, thanks for clicking your way through all of them.

10:42 pm ET: That was an exhausting 90 minutes -- just to watch. Probably as close to a draw as you can imagine -- really, two very talented politicians and debaters fighting it out extremely closely.

On one level -- no clear winner is good news for Obama, the frontrunner, who avoided any significant missteps. But there are plenty of scattered moments for the Clinton campaign to be proud of (though that bizarre reference to the SNL skit, to me, was a low point). All told, she made it substantive, kept the focus on Obama's record (or lack thereof).

They did not break much new policy ground this evening. But for a Clinton campaign that's looking to fight out the final week before Ohio and Texas, maybe, just maybe, there's some pieces here that she can work with. Obama entered and leaves Cleveland State as the frontrunner. But there's a big week left...

Thanks, all, for the fantastic comments and feedback. Check back tomorrow, as always, for a full wrap in The Note.

10:35 pm ET: "I still intend to do everything I can to win, but it has been an honor," Clinton says. "Either one of us will make history. The question that I have been posing is, who can actually change the country." She doesn't say what Sen. Obama has to prove, just puts herself out there as better.

10:31 pm ET: Obama: "She would be worthy as the nominee." That puts her in a tough spot on the same question...

10:31 pm ET: This time it's Obama extending the olive branch! Interesting. "I'm very proud to have been campaigning with her." He's winning -- so this doesn't sound like a valedictory, like her close did last week. But Obama decided to include this, must have been deliberate. How does it play?

10:28 pm ET: Clinton wants to take back her Iraq vote -- no surprise there. I haven't heard Obama say he should have stepped up in the Schiavo matter before. "That's an example of inaction, and sometimes that can be as costly as action," he says.

10:22 pm ET: Meaty foreign policy for Clinton to strut her stuff with. (But she needs some help in pronouncing that name -- and Russert was willing to pitch in, despite the pop-quiz nature of his query.)

10:21 pm ET: This rather silly National Journal ranking is with us to stay, I'm afraid.

10:19 pm ET: From ABC's Sunlen Miller: "Words matter…even in this debate. Obama decided to reject and denounce Farrakhan.

According to dictionary.com

Reject = " to refuse to have, take, recognize…"Denounce = "to condemn or censure openly or publicly"

10:13 pm ET: Clinton: "I would not be associated with people who said such inflammatory or untrue charges. . . . I was willing to take that stand. . . . I thought it was more important to stand on principle." That's one heck of a suggestion to let linger out there, isn't it? Obama: "I would reject and denounce."

10:12 pm ET: I don't think there were as many questions about the sources of Sen. Kerry's fortune as there are about Sen. Clinton's.

10:10 pm ET: Is Obama good for the Jews? I think he handled this exchange well -- didn't take the Russert bait on Farrakhan, but stayed measured and calm. Sounded reasonable, comforting.

10:06 pm ET: Yes, the point is that loan though - where did that money come from, Sen. Clinton? Why let general election voters see your tax returns but not primary voters? "Word toward releasing" your tax returns? Why not just get your accountant to run off some -- gulp -- Xeroxes?

10:05 pm ET: ABC's Sunlen Miller, who covers Obama, contributes: "When speaking about inspiring the American people Obama says there is "nothing romantic or silly about that" - Obama is addressing the criticism that his supporters are delusional  - he's been pushing back against this for a couple days now."

10:04 pm ET: Obama would have so much more of a high ground if he'd just say he'd commit to his word on public financing. But Clinton has a hard time exploiting this weakness because that's not a commitment she's prepared to make.

9:58 pm ET: Clinton brings more attention to Obama's legislative record -- it's late for this sort of thing, but every little bit helps. Some good Obama pushback though -- he's so much better as a debater than he was six or eight months ago.

9:56 pm ET: "I'm not interested in talk. I'm not interested in speeches," Obama said. I'm confused -- I thought words matter, Sen. Obama?

9:55 pm ET: ABC's Tahman Bradley (noticing media bias?): It seems like Clinton is sitting lower than Obama and that isn't helping her.

9:54 pm ET: Obama gives Clinton "points for delivery." Clever.

9:53 pm ET: From ABC's Sunlen Miller: "Here in Cleveland were watching a campaign ad during the first commercial break  from  former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich who's now in a new battle: to hold on to his seat in Congress!"

9:48 pm ET: Somehow, Brian Williams managed to cut off Hillary Clinton to get to the break. A tense evening so far -- no clear winner, as far as I'm concerned. Two pros at the top of their games.

9:46 pm ET: Clinton accuses Obama of holding "not one substantive hearing" on NATO oversight. A new line of attack, as far as I now.

9:44 pm ET: A big break from last week -- nobody's rushing to say they agree with each other this evening.

9:43 pm ET: I'd score the last chunk of time for Obama -- he's more than holding his own on foreign policy. But the emphasis on substance -- not that it's bad for Obama (he's got this stuff down pat, it seems), but this is the kind of debate Clinton wanted going in. If she can go 90 minutes without having to say "superdelegate," she'll be happy.

9:40 pm ET: And the discussion of foreign policy takes Sen. Obama to friendly territory -- talking about Iraq. (Another measure of how far this campaign has traveled -- remember when that was THE issue?)

9:36 pm ET: Once again, Clinton will not back up what she's saying about Obama's qualifications to be commander in chief. She's ducking by turning to his Senate record. Go back and read that speech she gave yesterday -- she was very strong in suggesting that a President Obama is a risk on foreign policy. Maybe she doesn't feel comfortable saying it to his face?

"I will have a much better case to make" - that's as close as she'll get to it.

9:35 pm ET: "Sen. Clinton, I think, equates experience with longevity in Washington," says Obama. He's used variations on that line before, and it's an effective one because it wraps so many of his campaign rationales into one.

Notice that Obama is the first to try to turn the argument to Sen. McCain -- their battle has already begun, if tentatively, and Obama welcomes it.

9:32 pm ET: An intriguing way into the jobs question, looking at Clinton's Senate record, and promises not fully kept. She blames it on the Bush administration -- and here, you'll notice, she's happy for some reflected glow from the Clinton administration.

9:26 pm ET: Russert read Clinton the record, chapter and verse, on NAFTA. This is difficult for her, with anyone who would remember Bill Clinton with those "NAFTA We Hafta" hats on.

9:21 pm ET: That silly distraction of an SNL reference aside -- it does seem like Clinton has settled on an effective tone this evening. She's mixing substance with style, attacking without seeming overtly negative, sounding like she's playing defense when she's really playing offense.

9:19 pm ET: Clinton: "Maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable." Quick reference to that SNL skit. But sorry, but you'll have to explain this one -- why is it media bias, senator, for you to get the first question?

9:17 pm ET: I score the first tussle of the night for Senator Clinton -- but did she need to force herself to have the last word on the subject?

9:14 pm ET: Bottom line on these healthcare mailings, as my colleague Jake Tapper points out, is that they're both misleading.

But clearly Sen. Clinton is glad to be talking substance now -- they do have real differences on healthcare plans, and they've now spent the better part of the first 15 minutes playing that out.

9:10 pm ET: You get the feeling that they could recite each others' lines, essentially verbatim, on healthcare by now?

9:08 pm ET: Sen. Obama seems very subdued so far. No signs of anger -- that kind of smooth response should make the lines of attack difficult to pursue. "Sen. Clinton has constantly sent out negative attacks about us. . . . We haven't whined about it."

9:05 pm ET: I like starting out with the many voices/faces of Hillary Clinton. "But we have differences," she says. She's making it a debate about tactics as much as it is about issues early on. This has been something the campaign has been focusing on -- but will this discussion over tactics really matter? Seems like a Kindergarten style, he started it, no she started it, fight. But Obama should watch that smirk -- caught in the cutaway shot.

8:43 pm ET: Thinking about how this is possibly the last debate -- it seems like so long ago that Sen. Clinton was untouchable on stage, the one being targeted but happy to smile and laugh above it all. That speaks to how the stakes change depending on the position in the campaign -- back then, Clinton could "win" just by emerging unscathed. No longer.

8:35 pm ET: Obama is picking up support among the superdelegates -- Kevin, add to your list Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D. Clinton still has an edge among the supers, but it's narrowing, even as Obama's advantage among pledged delegates grows wider. That will make the Clinton argument very difficult to make -- unless she can show some real momentum, starting with a pair of victories on Tuesday.

Re Richardson -- I can't get inside his head, though I thought it was telling that he said he didn't feel bound to support Clinton just because New Mexico voted for Clinton, since the margin in his home state was so tight.

8:27 pm ET: Responding to questions below -- the debate is televised on MSNBC -- they control all usage rights, on TV and online.

8:18 pm ET: Any thoughts on how much ANY debate can matter at this point? It is No. 20 -- though you could argue that none have had stakes this big. But the expecations are so high going in for Sen. Clinton -- another reason it's tough to be trailing.

8:11 pm ET: I'm wondering how this theme the Clinton campaign has been rather successfully pushing -- that the media has been going soft on Obama -- plays into tonight's questioning. I've got to think that MSNBC goes out of its way to ask some tough ones of Obama, maybe a little bit tougher, in light of that SNL skit.

6:48 pm ET: Just to underscore the stakes -- another national poll out tonight has Obama up over Clinton. It's 48-42 in the Bloomberg/LA Times survey -- and McCain is ahead of both of them in a head-to-head matchup. Intriguing, no? Not surprisingly, McCain has a huge edge on issues involving national security and terrorism.

6:31 pm ET: Building on that point I made about them having a full week, the Clinton campaign just put out a schedule showing the theme of each of the remaining days before March 4. The message: This is not a campaign in panic mode. Two days on the economy, one on child poverty, one on veterans, than two big days in Texas and one in Ohio. Per the memo, from strategist Mark Penn and spokesman Phil Singer: "This schedule reinforces our larger message: Hillary Clinton is in the solutions business."

5:57 pm ET: My predictions are almost always off when it comes to the tone of the debate. But I'd be surprised if we saw the "kitchen sink" thrown out on stage. First, that's one way to guarantee negative news coverage -- words like "flailing" and "desperate" get thrown around if one candidate takes an overtly and entirely negative tone. Second, the Clinton campaign is very aware of the fact that it has a week to make its case. That's not a lot of time, but it's not two days, either -- so the "kitchen sink" can be unloaded over a few days, at least.

In case you were wondering, I did not make it to C-town. I finally gave up after four hours of smelling stale Subway sandwiches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. So I'm watching on TV, from home, this evening.

-----------

Rick Klein here from ABC's The Note. I'll be live-blogging during Tuesday night's debate in Cleveland -- alas, not from Cleveland as the weather would not cooperate -- starting at 9 pm ET. It's the last debate scheduled -- and if next Tuesday doesn't go Hillary Clinton's way, it could very well be the last debate of the primary season.One way to watch the debate: How much new ground will be covered? The more new material, the better for Sen. Clinton, in all likelihood. She's more comfortable on matters of substance, for starters, and Barack Obama has a lighter record and more areas to be tripped up.But mostly, she can't allow this debate to become a long eulogy for her candidacy -- and if the tone of the questions becomes, "How can you go on, given your setbacks?", this will be a wash of an evening for Clinton. The Clinton campaign is hoping this focuses intensely on the economy -- an area where Clinton can perform at the top of her game.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...