Clinton is likely to be in the center of fire at tonight's debate.
While the senator from New York is far ahead of her rivals in all the national polls, there are expectations that Obama, D-Illinois, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards will step up their attacks on Clinton in tonight’s debate.
“Obama has raised the expectations for the debate, and that may not altogether be a good thing,” says CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger, adding that “he has signaled very strongly that he intends to be sharper in his criticism of Hillary Clinton, so all eyes will be on him."
The question is whether he can execute it well enough to keep Clinton from complaining that he’s "gone negative"—a notion, she says, that would "undermine the ‘hopeful’ politics of his campaign.”
But in what’s known as a pre-buttal, Clinton Campaign chief strategist Mark Penn said in an e-mail to reporters that “considering that both Sens. Obama and Edwards made their names by pledging to be positive, the last thing one would have expected was for either of them to go out and announce with pride that they were now going to go negative on a fellow Democrat.”
The Obama campaign quickly responded, with chief strategist David Axelrod telling Borger that “it’s the height of disingenuousness, for these people, who a run hardened political machine, to turn around and profess that any legitimate exchange is out of bounds.”
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser