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. Kevin Finneran

    Mark my words....Campbell Brown will be biased towards Clinton all night

    February 21, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  2. Pam

    The last thing Obama is is smug!!!!

    February 21, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  3. Stephanie

    Hillary, healthcare is not a constitutional right. So those without are not "discriminated" against. It would be nice if we all had it.

    February 21, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. Pierre D. Boisrond

    If Senator Clinton wants to be the nominee for the democratic party, then she needs to perform at the highest level. Obama now has the momentum. It won't be easy for Mrs. Clinton to win Texas though she had the support of the Latinos. However, Senator Obama has shown that he is capable of getting the votes of the Latino. 10 consecutive wins have shown the ability of Senator Abama. He is capable of winning Texas and Ohio, now it is the time for Senator Clinton to change his campaign strategy. If not, Senator Obama will be the democratic nominee.

    Thank you,


    February 21, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  5. Mike

    What exactly has Hillary done that makes her so President worthy? She was the clear nominee 6 months ago not because she was the best but because the Dems didn't appear to have anyone ready to go that could compete. It turns out that wasn't true and now that more and more people are learning about Obama the tide has turned. Obama is the only chance we have to repair our image abroad.

    February 21, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  6. Kevin Zelko

    Obama is the only electable candidate. He will bring Republicans over and independents. Especially with McCain alienating the Christian right.

    Hillary will scare them all off with her baggage.

    February 21, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  7. Paul K

    I'm a registered Independent in PA; I try to watch all the debates and consistently Hillary beats Obama! I notice the only time he doesn't stutter and stumble is when he's on a stump speech and no one is asking any questions on the issues.

    February 21, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  8. JC

    Ask Hillary what she has done for NY

    February 21, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  9. Ron

    I feel that Senator Clinton would not be a good president for U.S.A. Because she is making promises that she will not able to keep. This Country is looking for change, and change does not mean putting the same people back into the White House. I think she would better off working as secretary for former President Bill Clinton's. Obama, needs the opportunity to bring change as President Of The Untied States. I think he will be able to make that difference in the 08 election. Go ! OBAMA

    February 21, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |

    Seems like people don't care for experience… They want Obama whether he knows what he's doing or not, that is the peoples right, but they will suffer any consequences of an improper or ill advised decision. (but still all the people have not spoken… the fat lady is still waiting -till march 4th- to sing

    February 21, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  11. albert

    OK, first she was for the border fence and now she's against it. First the Michigan and Florida primaries sholdn't count and now they should. She goes wherever it appears to be politically expedient and that's why I'm not voting for her. Enough of the Clintons, it's time for someone new.

    February 21, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  12. Andrew from Alabama.

    I am seeing a different Hillary in this debate than I have seen in a long time.

    Where has the real Hillary been? She is really on a role tonight.

    If she had been this on the mark the past few months she would be far ahead of Obama.

    February 21, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. Pam

    Hillary wants to "mandate" health care. I don't want the government telling me what I HAVE to have or do any more than they do now.

    February 21, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  14. Katie

    I am a (woman) and I don't want her to be my next president. She is a different talking head to the same tired story. America has spoken, we want to hear a new story. We want Obama. On substance, Obama answers questions, she answers nothing.

    February 21, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  15. vera souza

    Hillary Clinton has a much tougher task ahead of her than Barack Obama. She looks like our President and he looks like a student.

    February 21, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  16. Ron

    I feel sorry for Hillary Clinton, she haveing to put her foot in her mouth to try and beat Obama for president. I thought Bill would have preped her before she went to texas for the show down. Obama, keeps putting fire to her feet she might just starting running.

    February 21, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    why does clinton and obama's desk have 3 spots?

    February 21, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  18. Dearel Friend

    I'm a 22-year Air Force Retiree that cannot use the VA Hospital because I make 24 thousand dollars per year on my pension, which is my only income. That's because the Clinton administration put in place "means testing" for VA health care. If you make more than $20 k per year you are not elgible for VA care. So I find it laughable that Senator Clinton proposes care for veterans. They screwed me terribly when they were in office.

    February 21, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  19. David Ostrowidzki

    WHat's up with Hillary always having to go first. It should be varied. Hillary has a great response then Obama can say I agree and add seven points and comes off like he is even more prepared and takes credit for what she says.

    This is really not fiar.

    February 21, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  20. Jim

    They're both playing like quarterbacks afraid they'll throw an interception. Hopefully, the panel can get them to be more specific.

    February 21, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  21. Lynda W

    Obama is coming across as strong and impressive.

    February 21, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  22. Jay-New York

    Hillary is the most qualified candidate. We gambled with Bush who we wanted to have a beer with now Americans want a guy who gives them hope..we need to stop risking our future with feelings and get pragmatic.

    February 21, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. Violet

    On the bi-lingual debate, I agree with teaching our students a second language. Just not necessarily Spanish. They are invading our country, make them learn English.

    February 21, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. Sherry Smith

    I have heard Senator OBama comment more than once that we have to stop agreements like NAFTA which results in shipping jobs to overseas and closing American factories and shipping the jobs to China. NAFTA is a North American Agreement and has nothing to do with overseas or China. Are his other statements across the board equally ill informed???

    February 21, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  25. eileen

    Obama looks like he doesn't know what to say, he is not answering the questions. Wake up and smell the coffee. It is Hillary .

    February 21, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
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