January 22nd, 2008
09:00 AM ET
6 years ago

Analysis: Sparks fly in most contentious debate to date

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - The gloves came off quickly Monday night as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama traded blows just days before the South Carolina primary, and two weeks before voters in 24 Super Tuesday states weigh in on this wide-open presidential contest.

Former Sen. John Edwards, who has yet to win an early contest, threw his own punches but was unable to firmly position himself in the middle of the Clinton-Obama scrum. It probably worked to his advantage, because he was never really put on the defensive like Obama nor appeared as aggressive as Clinton.

But it might be too late for Edwards to turn around his campaign in what is shaping up to be a two-candidate race.

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soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Bob Diaz

    1. I am a registered Independent; have been for over two years. Although I haven’t commited to any party or candidate, I have been leaning slightly toward Senator Obama. Until I decide where to apply my vote, one thing I’m sure about is “he can do better than what I’ve been seeing and saw last night. He has an authentically fresh and enthusiastic outlook”. DON’T LET THE CLINTONS PULL YOU DOWN. Stay above the fray. State what you’ve accomplished, your positions and plans on our Countries Issues. State the TRUTH and make a COMMITMENT to keep the promises you make. The American public, of which I’m apart of, WANTS TO GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME; IT’S OUR FUTURE. Also, it’s annoying to me to see how the former President has initiated this current bickering. Remember Bill, Lincoln was inexperienced and he is considered to be the “BEST OF THE BEST” of all our Presidents. One last thing, ALL you AUTHENTIC AND REPUTABLE politicians of ANY political leaning that have decided for Obama; GET SOME GUTS and DO THE RIGHT THING; get out there in your various states and proclaim PUBLICALLY your support for Obama and WHY! This petty bickering and political polarizationg is killing my American dream. …………. Bob Diaz

    January 22, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Nancee

    Learned alot last eve-Obama's health care plan sounds good for who? Do the people voting for him understand that it may not cover everyone? It sounds tentative, at best. Even if you like and respect the man-look at what he's saying. To me, he is akin to a slick talking lawyer. He may have a "dream" and a "vision" for America, but could you really trust him to fulfill it? We have so many problems-economy, war, health care, immigration reform, foreign affairs, etc..-Do we want to risk someone who is a relative newbie to reform these problems? Scares me.

    January 22, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  3. Althea

    The high school politics came out in the debate. I"m tired of the fighting and pointing fingers. Democrats please act like adults! Please lets leave race out of this just once. This country is in trouble. Lets stick with the issues. Obama I never liked Regan! Hillary Clinton will be our next President.

    January 22, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. Neutral No More

    What happened last night is exactly what CNN wanted to happen. Obama was baited by a question about a Hillary attack, and, surprise, the sparks flew.

    Shame on CNN for sensationalizing an important debate. Please ask questions about the issues, not ones like "Do you think Bill Clinton is really the first Black president?" Pathetic.

    January 22, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Terry, El Paso, TX

    The debates seem to have convinced all of us that we have picked the right candidate and there is no reason to change our minds. That's nice. I hate to change my mind.

    Everyone hates the bickering and attacks, but they work. We hate the attacker, but we hate the person who was attacked a little more. Psychological experiments have shown that when a person is attacked (verbally), that most people figure he must deserve it or he wouldn't have been attacked.

    I spoke to a person who had been on jury duty. She told me that she voted for conviction because she figured the police would not have arrested the guy if he hadn't been guilty. Besides, she went on, if they arrested him he was probably a pretty shady character. If he wasn't guilty of the offense he was charged with, he was surely guilty of something else just as serious.

    January 22, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Nancee

    Darrin-John Mc Cain is 71 years old. By the time his 1st term is up, he'll be 75-76 yrs. old. That's getting "up there" for the rigors of what a presidency would entail (esp. with the massive problems inherited). I think older folks can really give alot through their experience, but for the presidency, I think this age is rather prohibitive.

    January 22, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Adam, Los Angeles

    oh and another thing... for all of you who under the impression that presidential candidacy isn't and/or shouldn't be personal, you're dead wrong. Debates should be heated, positions should be fiercely defended, and blemishes need to pointed out. These candidates are running for the highest office in our country, and if they intend to lead us, their social convictions better be personal.

    Furthermore, you cannot be passive in the face of an aggressive world, an aggressive economy, and aggressive world leaders; you have to be able to defend yourself and the United States. Tenacity is a great thing when coupled with wisdom.

    January 22, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  8. Lisa, Texas

    I am outraged that a woman would behave this way. Hillary's behavior was school yard trash. She is a disgrace.

    In the past weeks the Clintons have really shown who they are to Americans. We should all take a good look and keep it in mind.
    Another 4 years with the Clintons is not what this country needs.

    A dictatorship is not what this country needs.

    America does not need the Clintons running the USA again.

    January 22, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Hillary probably got set up by Obama and Edwards and she fell in the trap.

    January 22, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Charles

    The "poor showing" award for last night's debate goes to CNN–hardly the product of the best political reporters on TV.
    The questions were irrelevant to policy issues, sarcastic, divisive, and insulting. The first half-hour was almost solely on race–a great way to distract people from real issues, as the GOP has been doing since 1964 (and the Dixiecrats did before that).
    Wolf Blitzer acted like a sports announcer looking to promote a hockey brawl. He totally lost control of the candidates, and allowed them to bicker among themselves and keep away from the real issues of policy, capability and character. He also didn't give Edwards a chance to get a word in edgewise.
    Asking Obama about the Toni Morrison quote was absurd. Poets speak in metaphor; parsing those metaphors is not what we shuld expect a politician to do. His answer about "checking out Bill Clinton's dancing" was appropriate to the low quality of the question.

    January 22, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  11. PS, KC, MO

    I liked the fact that they generally kept their sense of humor, particularly during the second half of the debate. There were some good 'zingers' in the first half. I didn't care for the way Hillary and Barack quibbled over some of the same old things that really don't seem to matter. I liked the way John Edwards generally kept on message and continued to insert himself in the debate when ignored. I didn't like the way he revisited the 'present vote' controversy after it had already been answered. In short, I found things to like and dislike about each candidate.
    I wasn't particularly surprised by anything I saw or heard – with the possible exception of Barack's comment that he would have to see if Bill Clinton could dance before determining if he was a 'brother'. I'm a little surprised he hasn't been called to task for using that stereotype. To his defense, it was a vacuous question to begin with. So, ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.
    The more I watch these, the closer I get to Edwards. No, it wouldn't be an historic vote – not like voting for a black man or a woman. But he seems to most closely mirror the values of traditional democrats, such as myself, and he seems to be truly fired up by his convictions. He's on a crusade, while the other two are interviewing for a job. I like that enthusiasm.

    January 22, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. Sandy

    CNN gave Obama way too much time to talk vs. the other candidates last night. I was tired of hearing him talk.

    January 22, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. A Toufique

    hilary tough?

    did she loose her voice and cried after loss in Iowa? if she cries after only one defeat in primary how tough she is?

    hilary found her voice?

    the voice is of Bill Clinton was what she found. Bill is so loud after iowa that sometimes it is ugly for the ex-president. and the reality is hilary is the face of bill clintons "first Laddie" campaign. where was bill in 2000 and 2004 campaigns? busy preparinng ground for his wife? with Gore and Kerry lost, brought Hilary's target closer.

    Hilary is experienced?
    without undermining her qualification, is her experience and achievements not rooted in her husband's image? and even now, is she not riding on Bill to win the nomination? if so who will be the real president if she is elected?

    i think chelsea will have 8+8=16 years of white house experience if she runs for the democratic candidate in 2016.

    Race campaign?

    bill and hilary is potraying Obama as a "Black" and dividing the americans towards a racial lines which she expects will benefit her being a "white and Woman" .

    Obama campaign instead is trying to stay away from the racial campaign. Obama's campaign is different from shaprton and Jesse Jackson, in my opinion, they could not get themselves above their races.the campaign could not go beyond "Black first policy".

    the success of Obama in that his campaign is not dominated by his race. he won iowa where 93% voters are white, in NH he got strong second where 96% voters are white. Obama is a "American who happens to be black".

    Comments from some black clinton supporters "Obama is not Black enough" "acting like White" are shameless and are still patronizing racial division.

    what percent of the us voters are black? to win a presidential nomination and win an election in the US, you have to come above your race. Obama is doing just that. and the nation is ready for a "Black" president.

    January 22, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. Phil of Colorado

    I'm getting tired of hearing about Hillary's "experience." Eight years living in the White House as a spouse, while somewhat insightful, does not count as actual presidential experience. Eight years in the Senate, as claimed by Hillary, is also a "stretch" since she was only elected seven years ago and has been campaigning full time for the past year. Under her theory, Sox should be running since the cat also lived in the White House for eight years. None of this demonstrates an ability to function in an executive capacity at this level. Senators do not run anything but their own campaigns (and Bill is running Hillary's). The (hopefully) decide on legislation, but that is NOT executive experience in making the tough decisions and managing the massive bureacracy of the Federal Government. She may get points for "style" in her new presentation, but her lack of integrity in describing her actual expertise is worrysome.

    January 22, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  15. JH

    How smug of Hillary to claim that "it's not about the spouses." Bill and Hill have been a team since day 1, and a national disgrace to boot. Finger-wagging "above the law" Bill is looking for that 3rd term in the White House on a technicality. Here's a guy who had sex in the Oval office and was impeached by the House. She's a blatant lier and power monger. She's got her "secret police" out there smearing anyone who stands in her way. The two of them are steeped in sleez and have no scruples whatsoever. Did anyone really listen to what Hillary said in the debate? Totally superficial, no substance. At least Obama seems sincere.

    January 22, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. Susan Jones

    The debate in South Carolina was an actual debate. Thank you candidates. No more pretense of "having tea" while we "discuss" what the public would like us to say. Gloves off. Issues debated with a passion. Loved it. I think Hillary can take care of herself and folks, Bill isn't running. Hillary is. Get over it. Also, I'd like any American (despite all the Republicans giving their views of a past President) to think of this: Would you take the Bill Clinton Presidency and our country's economic and social state (even with the brutal attacks thrown his way by Bush Sr. and a Congress whose majority we still don't have as Dems) or this war, the recession, the way we're now hated in most of the world, and the fact that homeowners (let alone business people) are barely holding on. Also, despite the fact that Clinton left the only and largest surplus in history....Pres. George W. spent it all within the first nine months of this sham of an Administration. Watch Frontline's "Cheney's War", and you'll get a real picture of how George Bush was chosen to "front" the real makers of this mess....Cheney, Rove, and Bush Sr. The debate was for thinkers and not for those who believe rumors and untruths. Kenneth Lay didn't find anything to indict Bill over because every piece of questionable "get him" antics came up with nothing. Also folks, Hillary is running...not Bill. She's quite capable, and as Bill said, she's the real "Brains of the family". I believe it. Don't patronize a woman who is strong nor condemn her if you didn't like her husband. I still say I'd like under a Clinton administration of any kind for years not to return to the ruination of our Democracy under the Bushes. No one is blaming Elizabeth Edwards, Michelle O'Bama, nor any other "Female" spouse when trying to blame Barack for not having the answers one would like. I guess we're still in the "no woman or Black man" era after all. Give me a break! For those still not satisfied with Hillary Clinton....just listen for a change. She has answers...not generalizations. Most "amateur pundits" are spouting any and all things heard on ultra-conservative radio or in their churches. The Clintons are not evil people. They are passionate about this country. Is that a sin also???

    January 22, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  17. Karen

    the problem with Obama in the debate, was not all the questions asked could be answered with quotes from his speeches.

    January 22, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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