Hillary's bad night

More

Occupied elsewhere on Tuesday night, I watched a recording of the Democrats' Philadelphia debate, and by the time I got around to it I had already read a lot of the commentary. That may bias my view, but the consensus seems right to me: Hillary made a hash of it. Under real pressure from the other candidates for the first time, the charm slipped. She was tetchy, evasive and most of all uncomfortable. I recall writing of the first debate that the other candidates deferred to her, and that she relaxed into the leadership role. No deference on Tuesday--far from it--and no relaxation either. Once or twice her jaws were clenched so tight I thought something would snap.



Here's a sample on the issue of driver's licences for illegal immigrants, though in defence of her stumbling performance in this instance I have to say it was not an easy question.  (Chris Dodd evaded as much as she did, but got away with it. "There are ways of dealing with that." Such as what? Tim Russert took Hillary to task for her equivocation but let Dodd off the hook.)



So who won? Not Obama, though he did get better as the debate went on. His delivery is still hesitant and unconfident. His mannerisms are getting tiresome. He is over-rehearsed: he defaults too obviously and too quickly to grand pre-cooked lines (and improbably lame jokes). Edwards, on this occasion, was the winner, and by some distance. Much less waffle than Obama, far more focused and concise, and much more relaxed than either of the two front-runners. Of course, unlike Clinton, he wasn't getting stamped on by everybody else.



The question is, when Edwards does well, who does that hurt more, Clinton or Obama? On balance, it may make Clinton even safer for the nomination. Still, if Giuliani was watching, he must have loved every minute. Not many people bother to watch these debates, but this time those who did are finding it easier than before to imagine how Hillary might still screw this up..   

Jump to comments
Presented by

Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In