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April 22, 2008
Obama Bails on NC Debate
From the standpoint of pure strategy, Obama's refusal to debate Hillary in North Carolina is probably a sound decision. He must eventually start acting like the presumptive nominee and debating another Democrat at this point plays into Hillary's narrative that she still has a chance.
But from a PR standpoint, it is a disaster. Given his horrid performance at last week's debate, Obama ducking a the North Carolina televised contest - especially with Obama-friendly Katy Couric moderating on CBS - looks like cowardice.
The Caucus blog at the Times has the reaction from Clinton's campaign:
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign issued a statement saying: “It is unfortunate that Senator Obama has chosen to brush off the people of North Carolina by flatly refusing to debate. But we are willing to move forward with another time and location for the debate so that he has no excuse for not participating.” Ed Morrissey explains the consequenecs:
An Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, replied: “It’s unfortunate that the Clinton campaign decided to play politics with this — especially considering that Senator Obama agreed to a North Carolina debate long before Senator Clinton did, and their campaign took three weeks to consider and ultimately reject that proposal.”
I’d say that it leaves the prospects very clear — Obama will not debate Hillary any longer. And the reasons are pretty clear after last Wednesday’s debacle in Pennsylvania. Obama simply doesn’t fare well when forced to defend himself extemporaneously. He gets almost incoherent, and not just on the supposed “distraction” questions, but also on policy His answers on capital-gains tax increases had Hillary smiling and the rest of the nation wondering if he had bothered to study the issue at all.The more debates between Obama and Hillary, the more chances there are that he will make a huge gaffe - the kind of mistake that cost Gerald Ford the 1976 election when he stupidly said that Poland was not dominated by the Soviet Union.
So Obama will skate on having to participate in any more debates with Clinton. But it won't save him in the general election when he will debate John McCain 3 times before election day.