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. rick

    why does the desk clinton and obama are setting at , have space for three individuals?

    February 21, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  2. joanna

    Hillary has an in-depht grasp of the problems we are facing in this country and abroad, and of their solutions. His answers do not have the same grasp, they are somewhat supeficial and in many instances simply repeats what Hillary has said. He is an empty suit with limited experience, not enough to lead this great country of ours.

    February 21, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  3. Lynda W

    Obama will achieve change in Washington because he is offering the voters their seat back at the table of democracy... and we are chomping at the bit to take it! He is the only politician that has even offered to partner with regular Americans.

    February 21, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  4. darrell

    They both need to make constrast between each other. I don't want a fight on stage – but I dont want nicey nice – where are the stance on the issues

    February 21, 2008 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  5. Jean

    I have been a registered Republican for years, but with election with having 8 years of Bush has made me stop and think. I have listened to McCain for weeks and I feel he is phony. I have listened to both Hillary and Obama talk, their debates and etc. I am going to vote for Hillary Clinton for reasons, she can be President from day one, Obama cannot. Hillary is much smarter. Clinton knows the ins and outs, is a much better speaker. I am not impressed with Michelle Obama as a FIRST LADY and saying she is finally proud of America.

    February 21, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  6. David Lyons

    Either one becomes Prez, is everyone ready for the biggest tax increase in U.S. history, not on just the big income earners? Just reinstating the Bush tax cuts can only cover about 33% of what these two want to do.

    February 21, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  7. Oak

    OK ... now they are punching ... and, hopefully, they will land some blows here ... She looks a little ticked off this round.

    February 21, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  8. Fem-Obamacan~

    There's definitely HRC trolls in here! It's only because Obama is a winner. Can someone please stick a fork in her, she's finished.

    February 21, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  9. Paloma

    Obama would make a good president-in-training to President Hillary.
    There is really no reason to elect him now. Would you like to see him in office if there is a new terrorist attack? I have yet to meet a follower of Obama's who has a good reason other than opposing Hillary. Change? Outsider to Washington? He won't be able to get anything done if he is not willing to play with the big boys in Washington and he knows it. We elected Bush because we could drink a beer with him. This "change" for the sake of change is empty rhetoric that will lead to similar failure of an Obama presidency.

    February 21, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  10. Lynda W

    She's blowing it. Right now.

    February 21, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  11. Liz

    Do you really think that when the election comes and if the race should be between McCain and Obama that Obama has a chance? Give me a break. Southern white people are not going to vote for a black president who does not have the experience that McCain has. I am NOT a republican and not racist, but to me you need someone who has the experience and ability. The media only talks about Barack Obama in a positive way. Start looking at the quality of the candidates and pointing that out. Don't count Hillary out. She is one smart lady who has stated what she will do. Obama is a great speaker, but I have not heard him say anything of substance. Wake up people!!

    February 21, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  12. Bob Patterson

    Yes health care is not a constitutional right. It's a HUMAN RIGHT. And there's absolutely no reason... not one... why every single person in the richest country on earth shouldn't get it.

    February 21, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. Carol

    On every topic and every issue that has been made on Cuba, Mexico, and Foreign Policies. But Hillary lost this debate, that she really wanted in the first place, on the first round when they were talking about the Differences between the two. Forget about putting a fork in her. Somebody needs to put a fork in me. And considering I have yet to vote because I live in NC, I'm feeling some kinda of way about this whole thing.

    Silly season in politics...love that...Obama is making sure that America stays focus!!! I'm truly OBAMAFIED..

    I would respect her more if she just bowed out of the race, and supported Obama with her Super Delegates because she is finished after tonight.

    February 21, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  14. Judy T

    Hillary is brilliant! Comforting. Strong. And a winner.
    Obama scares me.

    February 21, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  15. David Maestri, AR

    Obama and Clinton are almost exactly the same on every aspect of their campaigns with minor differences. I was just wondering how everyone feels about them as campaign partners. I think which ever candidate wins the democratic endorsement, should take the other candidate as their Vice-President, because they would know the other candidate would fulfill the plan that each other have set up because they feel the same about the topics. Just wondering how the candidates and everyone else feel about that.

    February 21, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  16. sandra johnston

    Sen. Obama is right on the money. We need new ways of working with the Sen. & Cong. in Wash. Not the same old ways that have not been working with Sen. Clinton in the past. He is the man. Bring in the new, out with the old. Clintons and Bushes.

    February 21, 2008 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  17. dineymac

    Obama is not ready – not yet! Why not a Clinton for President with Obama for Vice President? Then, after Hill's terms, he can run. As far as Bill Clinton and his "contributions" to Hillary's campaign, I think he should have stayed out of it. It looks like he just can't stand to be on the sidelines and that makes it seem like he'd be sitting right beside her in the Oval Office. Reminds me of the 'ol boys who now have kids and can't get over their own days on the sports fields (or not) and insert themselves into every high school game trying to tell the coach what to do and reminding everyone of the time he made a touchdown "back in the day" . Maybe both Hillary and Barak should send their spouses to Fiji for the remainder of the year.

    February 21, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  18. Annette

    America faces too many crises to elect a trainee who must learn on the job. Such a move would be devastating to our country and the world. Put Hillary in her place, the Oval Office.

    February 21, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  19. Joanna Stirt

    Obama talks like a populatis. He sounds ni eave.
    and sweet . there are rules. people need to read alen greenspand's

    February 21, 2008 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  20. Diane, Colorado

    I am really tired of these debates. There is not 5% difference in their stance on any policy. These policy differences are rehashed over and over again. Please pull the plug on these debates. Obama is a gentleman who is running a clean campaign. I just hope he continues to do that in this dirty game of politics. The "Bill" factor is problematic for me in the case of Hillary. Too many signs in TX with "Bill for VP" how scarey is that!

    February 21, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  21. louise coots

    Senator Obama is very presidential, already! Hillary comes across as cold, shrill. I do not know who is speaking. Bill or Hillary! I am tired of the whole Clinton, Bush debacle. I want a change. Hillary is too much of a politician. We need something new. I will vote for Obama, I have voted for Obama, I have given money to Obama, and I will again.

    February 21, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  22. SKay

    Hillary – we NEED you in the white house!!!

    February 21, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  23. hillary 08:

    Go Hillary! Pennsylvania is with you!

    February 21, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  24. Anne

    WE NEED her experience and wisdom, far more than HIS smooth rhetoric; "elequent" that he is...after the disaster Bush has put our country in! IT WON'T HURT THAT HER HUSBAND IS A RHODES SCHOLAR AS WELL AS HER. B.A. IS NOT READY FOR THIS CHALLENGE!!!!!!!

    February 21, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  25. Dale

    They both talk about free medical care and free this and free that. How abnout some of the media asking these two where they will get th money to pay for all of this free medical. I think thye like Bush don't mind giving the money away so that we tax payers can pay for it. remember the Democrats always raise our taxes. MaCain probably will too. Besides what is 400 trillion in debt mean. Like George Washington said, We should only worry about the US not everyone else. I guess no one listened.

    February 21, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
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