Friday, February 1, 2008

A Strange Consensus

Usually after a debate you will find that there is very little consensus about who won or lost. There may be a slight majority opinion one way or another, but there's usually a good number who disagree. Last night does not fit that mold, though.

Nearly every centrist or Progressive source I've read so far has called the debate either a tie or a slight win for Obama. I've yet to find one such source that called it for Hillary or said that it was a knockout blow for Obama. A few examples: Josh Marshall, Chuck Todd, Marc Ambinder, Noam Scheiber, Ron Chusid, and of course libertarian me.

Despite this, there seems to be a consensus among conservative commentators and bloggers that Hillary won the debate by a good margin, as discussed in this post at Newsday's Spin Cycle. See also: Lisa Schiffren.

I suspect there's a very clear reason for this unanimity of opinion: Obama won or tied the debate thanks largely to the section on Iraq and foreign policy. These of course are the two areas where Republicans are most blind to Obama's appeal - they still don't seem to grasp that most Americans and nearly all Democrats oppose the Iraq war and are strongly opposed to Bush's unilateralism and pre-emption doctrine. To the extent Obama won or pulled even with Hillary in the debate, he did so on this issue, which is a blind spot for the Republican commentariat.

Another reason for the strange unanimity of opinion on the Right is probably that they thought this debate was a chance for Obama to deliver a knockout blow by going hard after Hillary. In their Hillary Hate Rage (which I often share), they seem to forget that most Democrats really, really like Hillary, and that Obama probably cost himself New Hampshire by going hard after her.