In the LA Democratic Presidential Debate Obama explained his policy proposals on topics ranging from immigration to Iraq to health-care in a manner this was simply more accessible. What's more, he was far less canned than Hillary, and warmed the audience with sponteneous shots of humor. He did all of this without setting her up for a command performance of the crying game we witnessed (winced) at about this stage in New Hampshire.
In his key moments on offense and defense, Obama hit the right buttons. First, he successfully made the case that if warrior John McCain is the Republican standard-bearer (which looks to be more imminent minute by minute) that an Obama candidacy can claim a clear distinction on Iraq -- that the GOP spin machine will lob the rhetorical grenade at Clinton, that she was in fact for the war before she was against it.
"I don't want to just end the war," Obama said. "I want to end the mindset."
On health-care, he won the argument on what Clinton has long sought to claim as her home turf. Obama, whose plan seeks to make it affordable but doesn't mandate insurance for adults (it does for kids) asked the legitimate question of Hillary's compulsory health-care system: What happens to people who don't get insurance? Are they fined? Or otherwise punished?
Clinton's best line of the night is one she appears to have come to Los Angeles armed with and ready to fire. When asked about the Bush (VP)-Bush(POTUS)-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Clinton-Clinton dynastic possibility (32 years straight in White House) she argued that it took a Clinton to clean up George H.W. Bush's shortcomings.
And .... drum roll ...
"It might take another one to clean up after the second Bush," Hillary Clinton said.
Near the end of the debate, though, when pressed about her husband's at times incendiary role in her campaign, Hillary Clinton said she's the boss. Will she call off the Bill dog, or like Michael Vick, just stand back and profit from his bites?
"The fact is, I'm running for president and this is my campaign," Hillary Clinton said.
The Clinton marriage of convenience is complete, apparently. She runs to his record in the 1990s, practicically rolls up her wedding dress (presuming she didn't burn it in a post Monica rage) and wraps it around the Clinton years, as if Hill and Bill were some kind of Jonathan-and-Jennifer team from the 1980s TV show "Hart To Hart."
But when the topic of his role emerges today she suggests Bubba is like the dude married to queen of England.
There are more reasons this is a good night for Team Obama.
If the Obama campaign was listening closely, they could hear the echoes of the Bush administration case for the war in Iraq as Hillary Clinton defended her vote on authorization -- noting that the following all seemed reasonable to think about life there in 2003: there could be a "a lot of bad stuff" there, you had a leader who was a "meglomaniac," all of which added up to "legitimate concerns" -- and a Hillary "yes" vote on the military charge.
Whether she was duped or just made a bad call, Obama, correctly, is having none of it.
"Part of the argument I am making is that it is important to be right one Day 1," Obama said.
This commentary is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.com.