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This Obama campaign video may be too explicit for you to watch

February 20, 2008 | 10:46 pm

We have to warn you in advance, this video is really extremely painful to watch.

First, some background: Every presidential campaign knows that the most valuable resource it has, even including all the money it takes to get into the Oval Office, is their candidate's time. There are only so many days before each election and only 1,440 minutes in each day. And the poor candidate needs to sleep some too.

So every campaign builds a list of surrogates, supporters who are briefed on the current campaign message, and booked onto TV and radio shows to spread the word in an enthusiastic, informed and intelligent way. These surrogates range from the candidate's spouse and children to U.S. senators and governors to state legislators.

Even Chuck Norris has been able to talk on TV. Mike Huckabee' s veteran communications consultant, Kirsten Fedewa, has helped spread the campaign's modest budget farther by booking him and his surrogates on shows worth more than $100 million of free air time, for example.

Cable TV shows with all that time to fill are the hungriest spots for....

free talking heads to make their pitches. And they can be intimidating experiences for newcomers to the pressures of live national TV. (Have you ever had that dream about showing up for class and learning it's actually the final exam?)

After Tuesday night's election Barack Obama's campaign booked Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson on the MSNBC "Hardball" show with Chris Matthews. Opposite Streeter was Hillary Clinton surrogate Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio.

She made the standard case for her candidate. Matthews turned to Watson and asked him to name some legislative accomplishments of the Illinois senator. Dead silence. As they're taught to do when cornered, surrogate Watson tried to turn the conversation in another direction.

But Matthews, smelling blood, would have none of that. He interrupted and pressed the senator over and over again to name one thing Obama had accomplished in the Senate. More silence. You could almost hear Clinton campaign workers smiling while Obama's groaned.

Today, Watson posted a good-natured message on his website saying, "So...that really happened." And explaining that he had anticipated talking about Obama's big Wisconsin win or the March 4 Texas primary and when thrown a curved hardball on national television, "my mind went blank."

Clinton, for her part, couldn't resist twisting the knife, delightedly talking about the incident during a speech in New York City Wednesday as proof that her opponent is all eloquent talk and no substance, while her campaign helpfully e-mailed the video clip to reporters across the country as "must-see TV."

If you insist on viewing the painful interview, here it is.

--Andrew Malcolm