Lets go to the judges’ scorecards

Just keeping the boxing theme going, though by now it doesn’t seem to work as well. It was a much tamer debate than expected, with very little of the sharp confrontation we saw between McCain and Romney last night. Obama hardly allowed his criticisms to come out in the open, using allusion and indirect references to attack his opponent. Clinton, on the other hand, deftly parried most (though not all) of Obama’s attacks, and hardly countered with any attacks of her own, instead steering the discussion toward her own main talking point: experience.

As expected issues of importance to Latinos (immigration) were sharply examined, with Clinton seemingly coming out on top with a clearer position. And as expected, Obama subtly hit Clinton on her Iraq record. Between those two issues, it was pretty much a wash: neither candidate seemed to come out the winner in the debate.

The generally cordial nature between the candidates, the regular jokes and even laughter during the debate, was likely the biggest surprise of the evening. What seemed impossible even days ago — a Clinton-Obama ticket for the presidency — is now not so far fetched after all. The two candidates’ positions were clear well before this last debate: their apparent willingness to work together after the nomination was possibly the only real revelation from this debate.

A Clinton-Obama (or Obama-Clinton) ticket?

Despite the contentiousness of the campaign, neither ruled out the possibility of a Clinton-Obama ticket after the nomination. They made it clear that they are each committed to winning the nomination, but Hillary said that come November, the Democratic party will be unified. Their friendly hug and banter at the conclusion of the debate (and the relatively cordial nature of the debate) seemed to make the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket even more plausible.

Hollywood and out-of-control spouses

Obama says, at the risk of offending some in the star-studded audience (among them Rob Reiner, America Ferrara, Jason Alexander, Stevie Wonder and Topher Grace), that he would work with Hollywood as president to help them “voluntarily” curb sex and violence on movies and television.

Asked about how she would control husband Bill in the White House (referring to his outbursts on the campaign trail, not his indiscretions as president), Hillary said like Obama she has a “strong spouse” who is outspoken in protecting her, but that ultimately she is the one running as president, not William Jefferson Clinton.

Iraq leads to attacks on McCain

Both use the question of how they would handle Iraq to attack John McCain’s statement that the U.S. could be in Iraq for “100 years.” It’s the first time the Republican front-runner comes up in the debate.

Hillary, with her decision to give Bush the authority to go to war looming heavily over her, states unequivocally that she would begin withdrawing troops within “60 days” of taking office, with “most troops” out within a year. Obama, in what are becoming regular indirect attacks on Hillary, says that we need to be “as careful getting out of this war as we were careless going in.” Wolf Blitzer again enunciates the attack for Obama, asking Clinton if she “was naive” in voting in favor of the war. Hillary gets slightly defensive, getting into a convoluted explanation of the minutiae of the war authorization.

Obama responds by simplifying the issue, saying the vote was “an authorization to go to war” and repeating another regular anti-Clinton catch-phrase of his: “It is important to be right on day one.”

This time it is Clinton who comes out looking a bit sheepish, as Obama did with the immigration question (though she gets a double-dig in by mentioning Rep. Maxine Waters’ support for her and pointing her out in the audience. She says Waters was one of the original “Get-out-of-Iraq” caucus members. She also happens to be African American).

Obama makes a funny

Question: America is like a big corporation. How can two people without experience in the business world qualify to be what is essentially the CEO of the United States?

Obamas answer: Well (former business executive Mitt) Romney hasnt had a very good return on his investment into his campaign for the Republican nomination.

Experience versus charisma

As expected, Hillary uses the first chance she gets to tout her 35 years of experience, though she is immediately confronted with the comparisons between Obama and JFK, comparisons made by none other than Ted Kennedy in his endorsement of Obama. Hillary quickly brings up her own endorsement by three of the Kennedy clan, and deftly changes the historical allusions to Kennedy by bringing up the humbling and historic experience of being a woman alongside an African American vying for the Democratic nomination to the presidency.

Immigration rears its head

Obama sidesteps a question from Politico.com about African
Americans losing jobs to cheap immigrant labor. Obviously here is his cautiousness about scaring off the very voting block he  has been losing to  Clinton. But Clinton steps up the heat, saying the question “deserves an answer.”

She goes against the blanket amnesty called for by some in the Latino community and expresses her opposition to granting drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, a policy Obama has supported in the past (again, another attempt by him to pander to the Latino vote).

 She then snatches the question away from Obama, saying she met an African American man who
said he “used to have a lot of construction jobs and now they only go to people 
without documentation. She calls for comprehensive immigration reform, listing some of the standard arguments: tightening borders, cracking down on employers of illegals, helping improve the
economy of
our neighbors down south.

But in a standard balancing act for a politician considered by many as the embodiment of centrist policies, she says that those talking about deporting people,
rounding them up are
living in another
.  She then echoes the “path to citizenship” favored by those straddling the middle on the opposite side of the aisle, namely President Bush and John McCain, saying she would have illegal immigrants come out of the shadows,  pay a fine, learn English and get in line for citizenship, while deporting those with criminal records.

“Once this happens, then we won
t have a labor market that cuts into peoples wages,” she says to applause.  Her handling of the immigration question is  done forcefully and covers all her bases (both the left and centrist of the party ) in classic Clinton style. Obama clearly loses points in this exchange. All we get out of it is that he supports drivers’ licenses for illegals.


Tax and spenders, and proud of it

Both candidates make it clear that they intend to pay for their multi-billion dollar insurance plans by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on the wealthiest Americans. In response to Wolf’s statement that eliminating the tax cuts would affect millions of Americans, Obama again reiterated that he would only allow the tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest 1 percent, offsetting effects on those making less than $75,000 a year by reducing their payroll taxes. But he said he wasn’t shy about who the taxes would affect: “There are a lot of well-dressed people in this hall tonight,” he said to laughter.

Obama is on stealth attack mode

Besides his indirect “future versus past” jabs, mentioned twice already, he asks for C-SPAN coverage of government negotiations with drug companies for lower prices. But Wolf Blitzer calls him out on the sneak attack, asking him if the statement is a veiled reference to his past suggestions that Clinton is too close to lobbyists. Obama, slightly flustered, merely repeats his call for an open and transparent government.