Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

If they debate in Wisconsin, do they have to wear those cheeseheads?

February 13, 2008 |  5:28 pm

Maybe the Hillary Clinton campaign assumes folks in Wisconsin don't get cable?

After her drubbing at the hands of Barack Obama over the past few contests, the Clintonites are looking ahead to Wisconsin on Tuesday as a place to start the countertide. And they think a debate might help. But the Obamans say "Fuhgeddaboutit, done enough of 'em." (And, really, they do have a point).

But Obama's rejection of a debate in Cheeseland armed Clinton with a spitwad, delivered in the form of this ad:

Of course, an ad is never just an ad. And the strategy here is while Obama does well with the big rock-arena impassioned speech (preferably before young and energetic crowds), Clinton does better in the debate format. And before you start posting "BUT WHAT ABOUT? ..." we're talking generalities. She can move a big crowd, and he can deliver ...

a good bit of repartee upon occasion. But all in all, debates favor her, boisterous youth groups favor him. So that's why she'd rather talk on TV and he'd rather fill a college auditorium -- and have it filmed for local newscasts.

Then there's always the frontrunner-challenger dynamic. With Obama leading in every category that matters -- money, delegates and states won -- right now he is the front runner, and challengers generally need debates more than front-runners, whose main mission is to protect a lead.

But in the Wisconsin dust-up, two things leap to mind. First off, do Clinton's ad folks really think a debate question would ask, as they say in this Wisconsin ad, "why Hillary Clinton has the only health care plan that covers every American..."?  Dennis Kucinich already did the "ask myself a question" routine.

The other thing: You have to figure some campaign staffer in the back of the room of that strategy meeting was asking, "Debate in Wisconsin? In February? What's the matter with a debate in Hawaii? They vote Tuesday, too. Don't the Hawaiians deserve 'to hear both candidates debate the issues that matter?'"

-- Scott Martelle