What does the North Carolina debate retreat mean? Update: AOL Hot Seat poll added

posted at 8:39 am on April 22, 2008 by Ed Morrissey


The North Carolina Democratic Party canceled what looked to be the final debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton yesterday. Hillary had agreed to another debate, but Obama balked, citing scheduling conflicts:

The North Carolina Democratic Party has dropped plans for an April 27 debate, which would have been moderated by CBS’s Katie Couric.

Clinton had agreed to the debate; Obama did not, and the party said in a statement that the clock had run out to organize a debate. The party also cited worries about “party unity,” after last week’s combative debate in Philadelphia, a focused grilling of Senator Barack Obama on topics he would have preferred to avoid. …

The scrapping of the April 27 debate leaves the prospect for further showdowns between the two candidates unclear.

I’d say that it leaves the prospects very clear — Obama will not debate Hillary any longer. And the reasons are pretty clear after last Wednesday’s debacle in Pennsylvania. Obama simply doesn’t fare well when forced to defend himself extemporaneously. He gets almost incoherent, and not just on the supposed “distraction” questions, but also on policy His answers on capital-gains tax increases had Hillary smiling and the rest of the nation wondering if he had bothered to study the issue at all.

Marc Ambinder believes that Obama just doesn’t want to give Hillary any more oxygen, but even that explanation has its problems in terms of Obama as a candidate. If Obama has to worry about Hillary gaining exposure at this stage, it doesn’t bode well for his ability to beat McCain in a similar fashion. The man who transcended experience to charge to the front of the Democratic race has to be able to go toe-to-toe with both the other candidates and the media on a national stage, and Ambinder’s explanation suggests he can’t do that in a competitive environment.

Even worse, after last Wednesday, it looks like a retreat. Obama got a bloody nose, and suddenly he doesn’t want to appear on national TV, even up against a cupcake like Katie Couric. The strategy may be sound, but only if one has no confidence in Obama’s ability to stand up to tough questioning. In fact, his withdrawal from the debate appears to be an admission of exactly that.

This won’t hurt him much in North Carolina, where he will win by a comfortable margin. It may affect Obama’s standing in other primary races if voters perceive him to be running a little scared. People who cast their vote on electability may wonder whether Obama has what it takes to go against John McCain in a general election, and may reconsider Hillary on that basis.


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Obama should be beat over the head with this.

Running scared from a girl. Can’t take the heat.

Maybe he will debate his whining moonbat of a wife, his lunatic preacher, one of his terrorist buddies or one of his puppeteers.

The Democrats had eight years and this clown is the best they could come up with? Pathetic.

NoDonkey on April 22, 2008 at 8:44 AM

First CBS, now the debates, all killed by the Couric connection…

Mr. Bingley on April 22, 2008 at 8:44 AM

Worried about party unity, or a diversity of opinions and ideas?
Yeah, that’s the leader the Dems want, gets a little *ss kicken and he runs and hides…
And would this be a moment to say, he gets beat up by a girl, and then won’t sit in on a debate led by a girl? Maybe Michelle has him “shell shocked”, here a woman’s voice and “duck and cover”…INCOMING…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 8:44 AM

Old Conventional Wisdom: Don’t pick on the girl.
New Conventional Wisdom: Don’t get beat up by a girl.

jgapinoy on April 22, 2008 at 8:46 AM

Good lord! This bum is beyond pathetic.

rplat on April 22, 2008 at 8:50 AM

Maybe this classic will explain it…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 8:51 AM

What does it mean?

Quite simple; your caption of a few days ago showing a couple of pussy cats in tiny mugs was dead on accurate! Obama’s debating skills are equal to his bowling skills…

Keemo on April 22, 2008 at 8:52 AM

Maybe it has to do with the fact that North Carolinians have heard enough of the Shillary/B.O. blather and figures it best to just head to the voting booths and get it over with. They are probably as sick of this primary thing now as everyone else in the country is.

pilamaye on April 22, 2008 at 8:52 AM

Faux revolutionaries are always huge cowards.

“He gets almost incoherent”

Nah, he gets incoherent and thinks we have a state in the US called “Massatoosits“.

benrand on April 22, 2008 at 8:53 AM

Time for some “strategery”! Clinton should challenge McCain to a debate!!

This would really make Obama look like a wimp. They could even agree to make it an “Obama slam fest”. That would be sweet.

Agrippa2k on April 22, 2008 at 8:53 AM

If I were Hillary I’d challenge Obama to a debate…at 3:00am. He couldn’t claim scheduling conflicts, it would be a great story, and people would still go to it. They could just air it during prime-time that day.

watchmen on April 22, 2008 at 8:54 AM

Full scale retreat – at a time when he needs all the practice he can get.

Right now, the debates should be easy stuff. His and Clinton’s policies are so closely aligned all they can argue about is minutia. Yet, as shown last Wednesday, he can’t even do that well. He thinks McCain is going to be any easier? Barack should be begging for debates simply because he needs the practice. You don’t step in to the championship game without spending some time on the court.

It’s like a championship boxer refusing to spar so that his pretty face doesn’t get messed up. Then he expects to step in to the ring and go toe to toe with the real deal and win. I don’t think so.

JeffC_95 on April 22, 2008 at 8:56 AM

Jeepers, neither the harridan nor Hussein can face tough questions, so neither of them are qualified to be President.

dogsoldier on April 22, 2008 at 9:00 AM

To put it bluntly, NC is heavily minority (read Black at 22%), and they will vote for Obama if he was found dancing with Bin Laden, in fact that would help him.
His win is secure, nothing will deter a segment of the voting public from voting for Obama…nothing…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 9:03 AM

I’m old enough to get the apparent Roberto Duran reference. Thanks, Ed.

mikeyboss on April 22, 2008 at 9:03 AM

You don’t step in to the championship game without spending some time on the court.

Exactly and Obama is like a guy who started a few games in college, all of the sudden wanting to be the #1 overall pick in the college draft and then demanding to start on a team in contention for the Super Bowl.

Excecpt that would never happen. No NFL team would be that stupid.

Why do Americans take the NFL more seriously than we take who sits in the Oval Office? Anyone who maintains that Obama is ready to be President is a completely delusional.

NoDonkey on April 22, 2008 at 9:04 AM

So what will he do in 3 or 4 months, if he wins the nomination? Dodge debates with McCain? Say he’ll bring his teleprompter with him to Iran?

Spc Steve on April 22, 2008 at 9:07 AM

3 words. Toughen up, chump.

rightside on April 22, 2008 at 9:08 AM

Hey–can’t a guy eats some waffle in peace?

davidk on April 22, 2008 at 9:09 AM

The issues haven’t mattered yet to the largest Dem turnout in decades. What makes everyone think that the issues will matter in September or October? 2-1, 3-1, 4-1!(Texas) turnout over 2004. Nobody addresses that part of this election cycle. There is the odd ‘dems always vote higher in the primaries’ routine, but that doesn’t fly in the face of such huge turnout (not to mention cash) numbers.

Please point me to an example of one of the ‘hope and change’ cattle that have been turned away from Barry after looking at the issues.

I’ve seen board members here claim they have faith in the American people to keep Barry out of office. Show me who the hell those rational Dems are. Which State had a turnout that spanked Barry on the issues?

Limerick on April 22, 2008 at 9:09 AM

What does it mean?

Obama’s campaign strategy now mirrors his cut and run tactics on the war in Iraq. Girlie-man, plain and simple.

How bad does it get when you are afraid to debate someone who agrees with you on every single issue? How telling is it when you can’t take a few shots across the bow from the liberal media?

Presidential material. Uh-uh.

fogw on April 22, 2008 at 9:09 AM

Can’t wait for the general election cycle to start. Let the bitch-slapping begin!

William Teach on April 22, 2008 at 9:13 AM

Obama is not guaranteed victory in NC. Sure we have a large black population, but the Clintons remain popular among the Democrats.

You are only as good as your last performance. Meaning people will remember him by the last debate. I’d want to have a new debate if I wanted to seem like the guy who should win. I said last night, I bet that Obama goes to a Bruce Springsteen concert that same night. THAT won’t go over well, and Hillary will have plenty of ammo for a new ad about the courage of the future ‘leader’.

ThackerAgency on April 22, 2008 at 9:14 AM

And he’s totally afraid of Hillary and KATIE COURIC (who will just be happy to be on the stage with such royalty). How do we expect him to do against Chavez, or the dinner jacket? Oh yeah I forgot, he’ll just give them everything they want and call it the ‘new politics’.

ThackerAgency on April 22, 2008 at 9:15 AM

right2bright…classic video link

Maybe Obama was so scared he had to CHANGE his boxers.

jgapinoy on April 22, 2008 at 9:16 AM

His courage was hewn as a Community Organizer after a stint at Harvard or some elitist institution.

benrand on April 22, 2008 at 9:17 AM

Obama’s the candidate of hope and change. Hope nobody asks hard questions, and change the format if they do.

petefrt on April 22, 2008 at 9:20 AM

A combination Rose Garden and run-out-the-clock strategy by Obama. Incumbent front-runners for president in the past have used this, because they’ve got their core supporters and a debate can only hurt, not help (Carter did it against Ted Kennedy in 1980, even though looking back, it’s hard to believe Jimmy’s core support as incumbent was actually to the right of Teddy). Barak’s not the incumbent, but he’s got a group that’s so much under his spell, and there are enough of them to hold off Hillary catching up in the delegate count through the Puerto Rico primary, that there really isn’t any advantage to holding a debate.

Obviously, he can’t do that with McCain in the fall. But the betting in the Obama camp is that by late September or October the public will have forgotten about the ABC disaster; the staff will be able to better prepare the candidate by then; and maybe most importantly, the questions won’t be as pointed towards the senator. Stepanopolous and Gibson may have grilled Barak last week, and George may have even accepted questions from Sean Hannity and Steve Maltberg about Bill Ayers, but given George’s past history, that may be more due to the fact that for this brief moment in time, the goals of conservatives and Hillary Clinton supporters are in alignment, and there are still a lot more Hillary backers than there are conservatives in key positions at places like ABC.

That won’t be the case come the fall, when Hillary’s supporters will be dispirited, but more likely to lean towards Obama than towards McCain, despite what many of them are saying today (the only caveat being if the Clintons do decide to take up a behind-the-scenes effort to sabotage Obama in the general election to make sure Hillary still has a chance to run as the “I Told You So” candidate against McCain in 2012. Then you might see damaging things leaked through friendly media against Obama by Clinton people to make sure Obama doesn’t win and then gets to purge the party of Bill and Hillary’s supporters).

jon1979 on April 22, 2008 at 9:21 AM

jgapinoy on April 22, 2008 at 9:16 AM

Obama’s new bumper sticker…
Run away…Run away…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 9:21 AM

Some good news: VERY hard core Dem neighbors are fed up with Obama and make jokes about what a tool he is. Then they say they can’t stand Hillary either so they guess it will be McCain.

Dingbat63 on April 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Let us get one thing clear – what we see on television are NOT debates. They are simply extended Candidate Press Conferences hosted by the MSM to enhance their revenue.

A TRUE debate, as we learned in High School (when High School had the temerity to teach students how to think critically) would be something along the lines of:

Resolved: America is/is not ready for a Socialist President Let these two Alinskyites go toe to toe defending their long-held, but rarely seen, beliefs.

SeniorD on April 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Bottom line: A significant majority of Blacks and all far left Democrats are firmly locked in to Obama and there is nothing that will change this fact. Everyone that doesn’t fall into one of these categories had better get their butts to the polls in November or prepare to suffer the consequences.

rplat on April 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

This also gives him and his staff a lesson on how to “dodge” a debate. They will find what “excuse” works best with the media and his supporters.
Later on, if he is losing debates one after another, he will have a game plan on how to maneuver out of these debates.
Obama’s “exit” strategy…fight for six months then run, it fits with his Middle East strategy.

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 9:25 AM

Bottom line: A significant majority of Blacks and all far left Democrats are firmly locked in to Obama and there is nothing that will change this fact. Everyone that doesn’t fall into one of these categories had better get their butts to the polls in November or prepare to suffer the consequences.

rplat on April 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Yes, don’t count on the blacks not voting this time around, here in NC they are “fired” up. He will be the nominee, the unspoken work is that if Obama is not selected, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, D.C., and others will burn…the Dems leaders know it, they just can’t say it.
And if he is defeated in the general, same thing…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 9:28 AM

If I were the Clenis, I’d be pushing to make the debate happen without him; just Katie, Hillary, and an empty suit where Obama is supposed to sit.

In Obama’s defense, his wife would probably get a little mad if he did the debate, what with Katie Couric kneeling down and knobbing him right there on national tv…

Jaibones on April 22, 2008 at 9:30 AM

…temerity…
SeniorD on April 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

First time this word has ever been used on any of these posts…we will have none of that (intelligent prose) be allowed…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 9:31 AM

BO is willing to confront Iran’s Ack-my-dumb-jihad face-to-face, but not Hillary.

jgapinoy on April 22, 2008 at 9:34 AM

Smart move. There is little to no advantage for Obama to debate Clinton anymore and it would provide her the potential for her to score points or for him to screw the pooch.

As much as I’d like to see another debate, he would have been a fool to do so. His base is solid and the super delegates will not pull the rug out from under Obama.

However, there is probably a sinking realization that a percentage of Clinton’s labor Democrats will likely back McCain.

moxie_neanderthal on April 22, 2008 at 9:35 AM

Will the American people wake up and see what a useless piece of garbage this idiot is? If he isn’t standing in front of his swooning brain dead flock or being handed set up softball questions he crumbles into pieces. He isn’t remotely qualified to be President let alone be put in charge of anything. Empty suit is an enormous understatement!!!

Good God this guy is probably going to be POTUS. Kiss America goodbye folks.

libhater on April 22, 2008 at 9:38 AM

What a surprise; Bamm-Bamm wants to cut and run from Iraq and won’t debate Hillary in NC. I wonder what his commanders on the ground had to say about this. He may win the battle against Hillary but lose the war against McCain with this sort of pussified, er, pusillanimous move.

Buy Danish on April 22, 2008 at 9:50 AM

And if he is defeated in the general, same thing…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 9:28 AM

Well isn’t that smart, burn down your own cities if you nominee isn’t elected.
That will GUARANTEE that no one will vote for another black in the future.
I wish there was a Republican Black who could run.
What the hell would they do then?

ArmyAunt on April 22, 2008 at 9:56 AM

jon1979 on April 22, 2008 at 9:21 AM

has it right. As does

moxie_neanderthal on April 22, 2008 at 9:35 AM

After Pennsylvania, Obambi is running ahead; no need for more negative publicity. Even a sycophant like Katie Couric can’t be trusted not to ask an embarrassing question. And no need to give Missus Slick any more air time.

Just coast into June as the Pied Piper leading the young, the moonbats, and the self-identified ‘blacks’. Then dare the ‘super-delegates’ to deny him the nomination. The only way they could do it would be to find a White Knight to save the party, and even that would be enough excuse for the ‘blacks’ to riot and loot. So the supers will likely cave in and give Obambi the nomination, then hope he doesn’t drag the party down to Mondale and Dukakis and McGovern levels.

Missus Slick’s only chance is to find something to damning about Obambi that the party simply cannot nominate him. He’s already survived Wright and Ayers, and the ‘bitter’ comments, and probably will skate by the Rezko trial. What else is there? A Communist Party membership card?

MrLynn on April 22, 2008 at 10:00 AM

Oops: “something to damning” = “something so damning”

MrLynn on April 22, 2008 at 10:01 AM

The liberals are going to elect a fairy-boy with zero capability for concentration. A poster boy. Looks good. And that’s all you can say about him.

Griz on April 22, 2008 at 10:05 AM

Shut up and let the man eat his waffle!

gridlock2 on April 22, 2008 at 10:33 AM

Somebody needs to do a “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!!!” vid that lays “LET OBAMA EAT HIS WAFFLE!!!”

gridlock2 on April 22, 2008 at 10:34 AM

To put it bluntly, NC is heavily minority (read Black at 22%), and they will vote for Obama if he was found dancing with Bin Laden, in fact that would help him.
His win is secure, nothing will deter a segment of the voting public from voting for Obama…nothing…

In NC we’re so full to the brim with sociopaths it’s pathetic. Obama this, Jena 6 that. We have our amount that just will not listen as to why this is not the best candidate for the office of the President. Speaking of Jena, what about the Jena 1? Does he still have a head? Hey, a good t-shirt idea!

Arthur 2Sheds Jackson on April 22, 2008 at 10:35 AM

Off topic, Ed, but the kittens in the cups was a good thing. I use it as my computer background. The wife thinks I have a heart….. lol

MNDavenotPC on April 22, 2008 at 10:56 AM

…temerity…
SeniorD on April 22, 2008 at 9:22 AM

First time this word has ever been used on any of these posts…we will have none of that (intelligent prose) be allowed…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at

Well – Neener Neener Neener!

SeniorD on April 22, 2008 at 10:59 AM

How did Rove work all this out so well? Only that magnificent illicit child could have possibly come up with something so diabolical ast whats happening on the Dem side. It can’t be the Dems are that inept; nobody can be that inept….can they?

michaelo on April 22, 2008 at 11:02 AM

MrLynn on April 22, 2008 at 10:00 AM

Pretty accurate. They will make Barry the sacrificial lamb in the general to salvage party unity and try to avoid a Denver spectacle. However, if Barry gets steam rollered in the general the fault gets placed at the feet of the superdelegates whose function was to prevent just that. They can’t hide. It’s lonely at the top.

a capella on April 22, 2008 at 11:27 AM

What the hell would they do then?

ArmyAunt on April 22, 2008 at 9:56 AM

There are no black Republicans, when a black becomes a conservative he is no longer black…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 11:34 AM

…and i was so looking forward to seeing perky Katie schmooze them ’til my bucket over-flowed! (Actually, I wouldn’t have watched it.)
“The Democrats had eight years and this clown is the best they could come up with? Pathetic.”
NoDonkey on April 22, 2008 at 8:44 AM
When McGovern got slammed by Nixon, I asked my dad why the Demos couldn’t beat Richard Nixon. He told me that they never pick anyone who can win the majority of votes. Even Billy didn’t get the majority of the ballots cast.
John better not squander this perfect opportunity and allow this Demo tradition to end.

Christine on April 22, 2008 at 12:05 PM

right2bringht is right.
A friend of mine called Condi the c-word while she was cutting my hair and nipped my ear, drawing blood. (I bled for Condi!) Yes, whenever there’s a smart black Republican, (even a liberal one like Condi), they are reviled as step-and-fetch-its. It’s all jealousy and Projection.

Christine on April 22, 2008 at 12:11 PM

Chris Wallace interview, No, Hillary, Yes.
“Cupcake like Katie Couric.”, No, Hillary, Yes.
Leftie CBS, No, Hillary, Yes.

Michelle O. locked up almost, after gaffes, and appearance with Mrs. Heinz. She’s almost fallen off the radar, or contained very well, for now.

The emperor lost his halo, then his magic, then his clothes, then is balls. What’s next?

Entelechy on April 22, 2008 at 12:39 PM

“Marc Ambinder believes that Obama just doesn’t want to give Hillary any more oxygen….”

So, would a “President” Obama would try to “withhold oxygen” from a nuclear-threatening Iran by not meeting with Ahmadinejad….

Wow, now that says alot about the level of courage and integrity of his presidential timbre.

Lockstein13 on April 22, 2008 at 12:56 PM

…best said: he’s a professional OSTRICH….

Lockstein13 on April 22, 2008 at 12:57 PM

The emperor lost his halo, then his magic, then his clothes, then is balls. What’s next?

Entelechy on April 22, 2008 at 12:39 PM

Hopefully the election.

saiga on April 22, 2008 at 1:01 PM

I said last night, I bet that Obama goes to a Bruce Springsteen concert that same night. THAT won’t go over well, and Hillary will have plenty of ammo for a new ad about the courage of the future ‘leader’.

ThackerAgency on April 22, 2008 at 9:14 AM

I’m betting he’ll be in the front row for Springsteen (fingers crossed). Thanks for the heads up about the concert! It will be interesting to see just how audacious he can be.

NTWR on April 22, 2008 at 1:04 PM

52% in the poll say it hurts Obama.

RushBaby on April 22, 2008 at 1:09 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 04/22/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

Thunder_Run on April 22, 2008 at 1:15 PM

As a north carolina voter I’m “shocked” that BHO would run away from a girl…what a beta male.

unseen on April 22, 2008 at 1:41 PM

Jaibones on April 22, 2008 at 9:30 AM

You have absolutly no class! Great insight into the behind the sceens (or should that be under the table?) politics of Couric; but no class at all. Of course, I loved it. ROFLMAO. Thanks

Unquiet on April 22, 2008 at 1:41 PM

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/4/22/112924/197/631/500752

This is BS!
They are trying to get the tax exempt status for this church revoked but are totally ok with obamas church.

ArmyAunt on April 22, 2008 at 2:22 PM

Obama’s afraid of a girl!

Chakra Hammer on April 22, 2008 at 4:04 PM

Christine on April 22, 2008 at 12:11 PM

You are the first one to say I am right in over 2 years of posting…although BuyDanish longs for me…Thanks.
It just shows you a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in awhile.

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 4:23 PM

He can’t stand up to Maureen Dowd’s criticism, much less a real journalistic test.

SouthernGent on April 22, 2008 at 7:06 PM

Well, Bill O’Reilly can just kiss his much-talked-about interview with Obama goodbye. O’Reilly has been bending over backwards to be “fair” in his treatment of Obama to get the “get” and at times it’s been a bit ridiculous. With Obama running scared, clinging to his waffle, O’Reilly has no chance. O’Reilly is so concerned about what the other media think of him that I doubt he would have risked their wrath by actually asking any substantive questions anyway.

inmypajamas on April 22, 2008 at 9:31 PM

Obama’s afraid of a girl! Chakra Hammer on April 22, 2008 at 4:04 PM

His wife or Hillary?

Mojave Mark on April 22, 2008 at 11:15 PM

First time this word has ever been used on any of these posts…we will have none of that (intelligent prose) be allowed…

right2bright on April 22, 2008 at 9:31 AM

What– “knobbing” by Jailbones?

leftnomore on April 22, 2008 at 11:25 PM

Does he have a choice after losing in PA? The Hillary team now has a won battle, so they can issue their “Emancipation Proclamation” and make chicken noises at Barack. If Hillary can keep her winning ways, Barack has no choice but, like the Graf Spee, to come out either to do battle or be sunk.

unclesmrgol on April 23, 2008 at 12:04 AM

The Audacity of Chickenfeathers.

hillbillyjim on April 23, 2008 at 3:08 AM

What do we expect from the party that is too cowardly to appear on Fox?
Obama is an intellectual and moral coward. Of course he is going to dodge a debate when things are tough. He has to now sell faux outrage to go along with his faux statesmanship.

hunter on April 23, 2008 at 7:49 AM