Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went from polite exchanges to pointed arguments in a Thursday debate ahead of March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas, which Clinton’s campaign concedes she has to win to stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton said in her closing statement that she was “honored” to share the stage with Obama, in what analysts agreed was an acknowledgement of his growing momentum. (The Washington Post, free registration)
What the commentators said
It’s hard to know what to make of Clinton’s big finish in the debate, said Jeff Mason in Reuters.com. It drew a standing ovation, and her campaign says “her words—which touched on her personal trials while complimenting” Obama, marked a turning point and the beginning of a comeback. But it also might have been “the swan song of a candidate who may be nearing the end of her U.S. presidential bid.”
It would be "melodramatic" to say one debate response can "rescue a drowning candidate,” said Walter Shapiro in Salon. But Clinton at least inspired Democratic voters to give her one last look. In a single stroke, she revealed her human side with “dignity and emotional power” by talking about her personal trials -- but saying they paled compared to those ordinary Americans face -- then described an emotional visit with wounded soldiers in San Antonio, grabbing voters in “careful geographical precision.”
Make no mistake, said Lawrence Kudlow in The Washington Times. “The race is over. Hillary Clinton is over. Her electability is over.” Obama has “out-organized her, out-fund-raised her, out-speechified her, out-hustled her, outdressed her, and out-presidentialed her,” and he beat her in the rush to the left by “bashing” business before her, “with a style and elegance Hillary couldn't match.”
If it were Obama who had just lost 10 states in a row, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post (free registration), we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. If Clinton were the one with the lead in fundraising, states won, the popular vote, pledged and total delegates, the conventional wisdom would have proclaimed long ago “that Obama was toast.” The question now is “whether she does her party more harm than good if she stays in the race until the convention.”
These “post-mortems” on Clinton are “premature,” said John Hood in National Review Online. “Any size win in Texas and Ohio on March 4 will be seen as a political comeback, and if followed by wins in Pennsylvania in April and North Carolina and Indiana in early May, the dream of a Clinton Restoration would stay alive.”
Clinton certainly isn’t giving up, said Amy Chozick in The Wall Street Journal. She is “honing her message” with an increased emphasis on issues such as health care to “reconnect” with women and low-income voters, who have drifted toward Obama recently. She is spending millions in an “on-the-ground” push to “reconnect” with these bread-and-butter supporters in time for Ohio and Texas, and if her new “populist tilt” works she can “bolster her strength.”
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