I watched the New Hampshire debates last night, the first debates I’ve watched this election season. (I would have watched more, I’m sure, but for the fact that I don’t have a television.) And after watching first the Republicans and then the Democrats, I’m increasingly convinced that Barack Obama not only should be the next president of the United States, but that he will be.
For me, the low point of the evening came when Hillary Clinton, asked to compare herself with Obama, instead desperately compared Obama to George W Bush:
In 2000, we unfortunately ended up with a president who people said they wanted to have a beer with, who said he wanted to be a uniter not a divider — who said that he had his intuition and, you know, really come into the White House and transform the country. And you know, at least I think there are the majority of Americans who think that was not the right choice.
Ugh. And that wasn’t her first attack on Obama, either; Obama, by contrast, while defending himself, managed to stop short of attacking Clinton, leaving that to John Edwards.
Clinton did well in the first part of the debate, on foreign policy: she was lucid and forceful and presidential. But she lost all of the goodwill she earned early on by becoming shrill and needlessly oppositional in the middle of the debate. While Barack Obama is going out of his way to appeal to independents and Republicans, I still see Clinton having very little appeal to non-Democrats.
And it’s not ridiculous to think that many Republicans would indeed vote for Obama. Ron Paul’s supporters, for one, are going to find it very difficult indeed to vote for a pro-war candidate. And Mike Huckabee really is the Republican Obama, in many ways: a nice, approachable guy with an anti-establishment message. I can definitely see his supporters voting for Obama over the likes of Romney and Giuliani.
If Obama gets the Democratic nomination, then, I think he has much broader appeal than the polarizing Hillary Clinton: I just can’t see many if any Republicans voting for her. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of things, the likes of Larry Lessig are really excited about Obama, and very unexcited at the prospect of Another Clinton Presdiency.
Obama also has the ability to get a lot more votes than Clinton, just because he energizes people and makes them want to go out and vote for him. Democrats will, if given the choice in the presidential election, vote for Clinton over any Republican. But I’m not at all convinced that they’ll do so in the numbers that would vote for Obama: Obama is a man who can reach hearts as well as minds, and that’s very, very important.
Will Obama be a better president than Clinton would have been? That, no one can know. But Job Number One right now is to get a Democrat in the White House. And the best way to do that is to give the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.