February 21st, 2008
07:47 PM ET
12 years ago

Schneider: Clinton has a harder task than Obama

The stage is set for tonight's debate.

The stage is set for tonight's debate.

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) - The Democratic debate here in Austin, Texas begins in about 15 minutes. The questions remain secret and no one is quite sure what will happen tonight. But one thing is clear: Hillary Clinton has a much tougher task ahead of her than Barack Obama.

Clinton has got to be the candidate of change tonight - she needs to change the race. Obama has won 10 straight contests (11 if you count today's "global primary"), and the momentum is clearly on his side. The pressure is on the New York senator to have a defining moment that changes how voters view her – and how they view Obama.

But can she stop his momentum without harming herself? She clearly needs to draw distinctions with Obama and knock him off stride - without appearing overly negative. That’s because Obama thrives on her negativism - it boosts his argument that he is a different type of politician, the candidate that can change the highly-partisan tone of Washington.

Clinton also needs to get voters to see her in a different light. Bill Clinton has talked recently about his wife's ability to empower people - if she can convey this message tonight, she will likely be well-received. But it’s a tall order.

Obama's task, on the other hand, is easier. He merely needs to avoid a big slip up, and fend off anything Clinton throws at him with a smile while calling her out on her attacks.

He also needs to introduce himself to Texas' Latino electorate. Hispanic voters are expected to play a key role in the state's March 4 primary, and many here still don't really know who he is. They know the Clintons well - and the New York senator is banking on their support to carry her to victory.

But tonight's debate is co-sponsored by Univision, and will be broadcast in Spanish, giving many of these voters their first opportunity to get a long look at Obama. If they warm to him, Clinton is in trouble on March 4.

Let the debate begin!

–CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider

soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. john from oregon

    Stick a fork in her, she is done!

    February 21, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  2. Frank Meister

    So let me get this right, Senator Obama is the only political candidate that is running for office and/or has run for office with a desire to make a difference? Senator Obama really needs to get a reality check — does he really think that the two-party system is going to welcome him and embrace his politics of change without a fight? The political changes needed are going to require power, experience, and understanding of how to build coalitions. Mr. Obama carries on like he is the only candidate with authentic desire for change, did I miss hearing one or more examples from his limited career that could be used to support his primary supposition that his experience and politics of change are right for the job? Maybe during all his non-present votes he was out building those coalitions. Did he not hear anything John Edwards said about the need to fight and take power away from the large health care companies. I have a rental movie suggestion for all those Obama supporters — "The Candidate" starring Robert Redford… if Mr. Obama's good-feeling words infatuate and cloud voters and main stream media the we will have the next movie sequel being broadcasted in our living rooms for the next four years. Haven't we had enough candidates with silver-tongues pretending to be the ones who will finally change our 2-party system and attempt to relate to a working families struggling to remain in their house as they spend a billion dollars on a job interview. Give ME a break

    February 21, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  3. J.J.

    Hillary is finished after tonight.....Good riddance...I could not stand another four years of Bush-Clinton.

    February 21, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  4. Bo

    Clinton really does have an harder task especially if you have lost 10 straight and the Democratic Aboard. She is back to negative ads, which really shows no statistical advantage for her. HOPE is something she is looking for in this debate and in Texas/Ohio. Look ahead to step down Mrs. Rodham Clinton because everything happens big in Texas and her downfall is going to be BIG. Go OBAMA 08!

    February 21, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  5. Juan Carlos(Vegas)

    I agree. She is running against the media, Obama, haters and misogynist.

    February 21, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  6. Oy

    The expression is "row to hoe" not "road to hoe." CNN journalists...worth every penny.

    February 21, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  7. SeattleDad

    The link to this article says "Clinton's got a tough road to hoe."

    I wasn't aware that one could hoe a road. I'm not a farmer, but I do know that you can hoe a ROW.

    February 21, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  8. Dana

    Can't wait until she makes him look like the child he is in this debate. There is no way he should be our next president. Maybe in 2012 or 2016, but not now. The American public has lost their mind. It's like watching American Idol and Obama is Sanjaya.

    February 21, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. LatinoNation

    As A Latino from California , I Believe that the latino Vote will stay Sen. Clinton. My Family and friends continue to support her so you Go Girl make history !!!

    February 21, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  10. JOHN


    February 21, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  11. jo

    stop swiviling in your chair obama – it looks smug.

    February 21, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  12. Stacy

    She looks like she is chomping at the bit to rumble. Should be interesting.

    February 21, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  13. Joe

    Hey that guy is right, It's not her fault, it's Bush's fault.

    February 21, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  14. Janet

    Hillary is laying it out, she is so strong, she is making him look juvenile, you go girl!!!

    Hillary '08

    February 21, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  15. Tom

    I wouldn't underestimate either of these candidates in their ability to turn the tide

    February 21, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  16. jo

    hillary – ask about cheneys energy bill – why did he vote for it? – has it anything to do with his pal rezko and the contact he was awarded in iraq...

    February 21, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  17. Steve From Missouri

    I agree with Frank on this one. Wake up folks! He aint all they say he is and quite frankly, if Oprah backs him – RUN! Incidentally, the title to this article was "Clinton's got a tough road to hoe." Just wanted to correct this as the old saying is "tough row to hoe", relating to gardening or farming and removing rocks and weeds from between rows of produce that are growing in the field with a hoe. Never have you ever seen anyone hoe a road. Poor twenty-somethings getting paid good money to write dribble.

    February 21, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  18. Donna, Antioch TN

    BO is giving another word performance – does he think he can change Washington just because he's president – it takes Congress to change Washington so why doesn't he stay there and fight that fight. We need a leader who is not going to spend time trying to talk us to death but who is going to work hard every day and not just be "present".

    February 21, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  19. Andrew Kenneth

    i feel that she was a good candidate who has been mismanaged, and i personally blame Bill Clinton for wrecking her campaign. She was doing just fine without him.
    They underestimated Obama and thought that he would be buried on Super Tuesday, its looking likely that she will crash land in Texas
    I think there should be a law prohibiting former presidents from directly campaigning, that way they can preserve the dignity of this esteemed office.

    February 21, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  20. Mike Kay

    Yesterday in Dallas, I ventured into Obama land to listen to his message of change and hope. It was contagious and the crowd drank it up like cool aid on a hot Texas summer day. It sounded good... almost too good.

    I wish him well, but I am a practical man and cynical about Washington politics. Obama started his speech by thanking all the currently elected Texas democrats in Washington (i.e. the establishment) the only group with worse approval ratings than Bush and his administration.

    With any candidate we will get change in the White House. I just hope the person we choose will not sell their soul to the special interest groups and political establishment just to get elected.

    February 21, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  21. jm24

    She's screwed! Barack got four interupted applauses during his opening speech, she got NONE.

    Go Barack!!

    February 21, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  22. Tim, Austin, TX

    Came here to hoe a row, but others beat me to it.

    It's not news, it's CNN.

    February 21, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  23. joanna

    Women have to work harder to prove themselves while men don't have as much to do to prove themselves because they are men and everyone knows that men rule and women obey and stay out of sight.

    February 21, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. Andrea from IL

    Hillary is tough! Obama needs to look out!

    Clinton in 2008!!!!!!!!!

    February 21, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. Richard

    What this election boils down to, according to the people I talk with-Is this: They are growing tired of dynasty politics. Bush, Clinton, Bush. The last inspiring president, even though I didn't agree with his policies – was Ronald Reagan. Voters are rejecting a 3rd Clinton term and will, in November, reject a 3rd Bush term and elect Barack Obama as president of the United States. I always knew that this election was going to be about change. Let's just say that Clinton would be a 90 turn and Obama would be a total 180 degree turn. I think the country is ready for the 180 degree at this point.

    February 21, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
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