Back on March 13, Barack Obama accepted offers to debate in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Clinton immediately also accepted -- in Pennsylvania. No mention of North Carolina. ("North Carolina? Where I expect to lose?" Crickets.)
Now, though, Obama's position in Pennsylvania polls is moving steadily upward. If Clinton doesn't win big in PA, she's a goner with any Superdelegates she still hopes to pull her way with her spurious "electability" argument. The only way she could survive a close shave in PA (let alone a loss, which was unthinkable back on March 13) is for her, by some miracle, to take North Carolina, which Obama expects to win -- and/or for Obama to make some huge, unexpected gaffe, which he's unlikely to do in scripted appearance. And, of course, if her campaign's so far in debt that she can't even pay her own staff's medical insurance premiums or the bills of the small businesses she hired to set up stages and lighting for her campaign appearances, and raising so little money that she's initially afraid to even release her March fundraising numbers (she switched course a few hours later and admitted raising about half as much as Obama did), these next primaries are her last chance to pull something out of a hat (all her protestations about going "all the way" aside).
So, seeing Pennsylvania (and her shot at President, at least this election cycle) slipping away, Clinton's folks announced yesterday that she WILL debate him in North Carolina as well.
This isn't transparency: back in March, Clinton kept challenging Obama to more debates (20 wasn't enough) -- yet 22 was too many? No: it's strategic. She'd only debate where she expected to win, until she expected to lose, at which point she might as well debate where she expects to lose in the long-shot hope that she'll win.
Complicated? Yep. But then, so is Hillary's electoral math -- and all sleight of hand requires some complicated distraction.
The Pennsylvania and North Carolina debates should be a lot of fun, at least. In their last debate, Clinton was still playing nice, even plagiarizing John Edwards and saying that she was "proud" to be on the same stage as Obama. But now her campaign has not only announced that it intended to "throw the kitchen sink" at Obama, but has tried its best to do so. The gloves are off, Obama has shown that while he won't attack he will vigorously defend -- and this may be Obama's best chance to, in his statesmanlike way, put Clinton down for the count. Which, after a good run but for the greater good of the entire Democratic Party at this point, is where she belongs.
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