Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times):
White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) injected a new element in going after chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) -- that she does not have the personality to pass universal health care. At Wednesday’s debate in New Hampshire, Obama offered himself as a contrast; someone who can “inspire” people to get things done. He did not use the word “consensus,” but that is what he is talking about.
It was not exactly a major confrontation. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) was much sharper in drawing distinctions and going after Clinton. But it’s clear Obama is opening a new front as he appeals to independents and Republicans to come into the Democratic primary.
After the debate, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe sent out a statement in which he talked about Obama as the candidate of consensus. An Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, sent out a research memo recapping the abundance of criticism Clinton received for her failed health care effort in 1993 and 1994. Health care coverage is the dominant domestic issue in the primary.
Here's how Obama bored into Clinton. All the leading Dems have health plans on the table. They are more alike than they are different. Obama said the issue is not who has the plans but “It has to do with who can inspire and mobilize the American people to get it done and open up the process. If it was lonely for Hillary, part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in that process. At that time, 80 percent of Americans already wanted universal health care, but they didn’t feel like they were let into the process.”
In his statement, Plouffe, said “Barack Obama offered a commanding debate performance where he showed that while he may not have the experience Washington likes, he has the experience America needs right now – the ability to bring people together, stand up to the special interests, and tell the truth to the American people on the major issues facing America, from Iraq to Social Security.
“He’ll approach major challenges like health care reform the same way he’s approached every challenge he’s faced through two decades of public service –- with an open, transparent process that brings people of differing views together to build a real consensus for change,” Plouffe said.
Obama also again asserted that he was risking his political career back in 2002 when spoke out against the Iraq War as he was getting into a primary race for a Senate seat from Illinois. Coming out against the war then was a boost for his election, because the anti-war Democratic activists in Illinois --with a number of influential people in their ranks -- rallied around Obama.
During the debate, moderator Tim Russert, noting that Obama has no landmark legislation asked why he was running after about 33 months in the Senate: "Why does it make sense now?"
Obama said basically it is because the country needs him. Obama's answer is yet another example of how he is casting himself as the consensus candidate. He has also made an interesting language adjustment. The issue is not his experience, he said. It is his "experiences" that make him ready to lead.
Labels: barack obama, hillary clinton