At the outset, let me say that I’ve only seen about two minutes of tonight’s Dem debate, the portion where HRC and Obama had their scintillating back and forth about Reagan, of all things. But I have to agree with TPM on this being a bad showing for the Dems tonight.
This Reagan stuff that HRC (and Bill) keep pushing on Obama is just wrong. He never said anything like what they are saying he said. And the same is true of this issue about Obama voting “present” so often in the Illinois legislature. They are making it something it’s not, and they obviously know that. So, you’ve got HRC and the figurehead of the Democratic party making silly, scurrilous attacks against Obama. That’s not good, as it reinforces all of the most negative perceptions of what they are as political operators.
Even worse, Obama seems completely unable to concisely parry these attacks. It would be so easy for him to not only refute these claims, but to make HRC look silly for making them. But he doesn’t even come close. He gets caught up in detail, in wanting to offer a point-by-point refutation when the situation calls for something much broader. These “attacks” against him are really a gift, if he were rhetorically nimble enough to call them what they were, desperate attempts to paint him as something they are not. He has let them shift this discussion to the past, to MLK, to Reagan. He can’t talk about the future if he’s always defending the past or talking about it.
He’s going to need to be a lot better than this on his feet. This won’t cut it.