Schneider: The bottom line
The audience response at last night’s debate was the same as that of Democrats across the country: they’re happy with their choice this year, but they don’t want to have to make it.
I thought overall Barack Obama’s position was still that of the challenger, and Hillary Clinton was effectively the incumbent. He needed to peel votes away from her - and he did make some progress on the Iraq issue. But how many Democrats are still so concerned about the war than about anything else?
Six months ago, being right on Iraq would have been enough. Now? I’m not so sure. It took a while for the issue to take center stage last night, and that’s no accident: other concerns have come to the forefront.
The debate doesn’t kill momentum for either one. But does it help build any? Obama’s strong showing could very well help him. But how much - enough to overtake Clinton? I just didn’t see that.
To the extent that the debate was a draw, it helps Clinton.
Why? Because holding his own wasn’t enough. Obama’s task was to make the case that there were huge differences between them. Just holding his own and looking presidential was not enough: He had to convince Democrats who like Clinton that there’s a reason she shouldn’t be the party’s nominee.
In all, it was an unhelpful debate. They minimized their differences. Last night’s showdown will rally Democrats, no question – but won’t help them make a decision. The biggest applause line of the evening came for the idea of the two of them together on the same ticket.
- CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider