Postmortem On The Debate

Dateline: Wed 27 Feb 2008

CINCINNIAT, She was peevish. Crazy-eyed. Desperately angry. And "sad, sad, sad."

That's the view of some Democratic women working for Barack Obama in Cincinnati, as we paused Wednesday morning to consider Hillary Clinton's debate performance last night in Cleveland.

"And why did she start off with that thing about always getting the first question?" asked Carol. "What on earth did she prove with that?"

Michelle acknowledged she felt a little sorry for Clinton. The former first lady is trying to make it in a man's world, she said. It's obviously hard for poor Hillary to strike the right tone.

The chatter was interrupted by a young Obama field organizer. He strolled over and idly picked up a Clinton flyer on the table.

On the second page was that image of the candidate in New Hampshire when she teared up after a woman asked her how she keeps going.

"Why," he mused "are they still using this photo?"

Is he for real?

Hillary, who's style range is by turns fighter-strident, wonkish, and humorless, with an occasional burst of hysterical laughter has learned best that she does best when she appears vulnerable.

And that tiny incident may have been her one brief shining best moment on the campaign trail. That includes 20 debates.

Poor Hillary.

The woman volunteers working in Obama's camp here are equally tough-minded, savvy Democrats. Michelle and her husband did two tours of duty in the Army and opposed the war; Michelle has a doctorate degree. She and her husband are raising two children.

Carol is retired from the Foreign Service. She is analytical and cool and deeply involved in her community, having returned here from Washington D.C.

They are both women of color, but they never mention their candidate's race. Instead they talk about Obama's character, oratory, humor, and hope.

When they speak of Hillary, they speak of her sex.

Last night, in the final moments of the debate, she played the gender card. A woman president would do things differently, she said. But Hillary will probably never know.

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