Sitting mere inches apart at a public broadcast desk Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton exemplified civility in the Texas debate last night. It could have been less civil had Clinton attempted to score points with a more aggressive attack on Obama.
She could have been more forceful on his relatively short experience in congress, Obama's "just words" versus substance angle she's been aiming at lately, and his "borrowing" of Gov. Deval Patrick's words. She raised the issues, and made a jab about him talking "change you can xerox" referring to Obama's use of lines from a colleague's speech. The comment was not applauded but rather there was booing from the crowd. He defended himself well on these issues, using the experience issue as an opportunity to outline what accomplishments he had achieved.
He was spoke "presidentially" on the U.S. presence in Iraq, on Afghanistan, and his approach to foreign affairs - to open communication with friends, as well as enemies, which was applauded.
Clinton was strong on questions about the economy. She highlighted the home foreclosure problem, and listed a couple of solutions - putting a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures, and freezing interest rates for five years. Her experience working on health care since the 1990's brought out her passion on this issue as well, where she was strong, and chippled away at Obama's approach to universal health care. She said that his approach, voluntary inclusion, versus her mandatory health care coverage, would not work because it was voluntary.
The issue of superdelegates possibly being the deciding factor in the outcome of this nomination race was thought not to be an issue by Clinton. She said that it would sort inself out.
Given how the evening ended, with her, in a particularly friendly moment, telling the audience that it was an honor to be in the race with Barack Obama, and using John Edward's previous lines, "whatever happens, we're gonna be fine," she reached across to shake Obama's hand, she showed acceptance of where they both stand in terms of delegate support.
One felt the sense that she would be content if superdelegates did indeed vote to reflect Obama's popular vote lead. That moment was a feel good point. It got a standing ovation, touched an emotional chord with viewers, and made a positive and memorable impression of Hillary Clinton as a likeable person. If anything were to score her voter support this was it.
Like previous debates, both were very impressive, showed their individual styles, and in at the end, probably brought the Democratic party closer together overall.
The debate showed both in a positive light. Perhaps she chose not to attack more vigorously because there is a mutual admiration, goal commonalities, and similiar visions, if not always similiar approaches.
If the trend in the last three weeks stay the same for Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island on March 4, then Obama's support will just continue to rise from now till March 4. Bill Clinton even said yesterday that if his wife does not win in Texas, then it's probably not going to happen.
In the debate, Hillary the nice person, came through, especially at the end. One of the last questions posed was about how each of them had handled a crisis in their lives. Here, we were reminded of her strength as a person, when she told the crowd that her past pain, (Bill's affairs & impeachment), was nothing compared to what some people are living with each day. That was received well and showed her caring side. She knows the reality of the momentum of Obama, the numbers, the trend of demographic shift, and in the debate, wanted to end with her image being presented as positive and caring. This could be the last time both will debate each other for the Democratic nomination. Texas polls show them neck and neck, though she has a slight lead going into Ohio, at least at this date.
If anything, this debate was a good example of the way competitors in a race like this can exchange their ideas, compare, contrast, while not mud slinging. Many other politicians and aspirants could learn from last night's exchange.