After the Pennsylvania debate, who could blame Obama for shying away from another head-to-head debate with Clinton? He was not at his usual peak performance in Pennsylvania because his method of operating is presenting lofty speeches to audiences. These speeches – which I have to admit are good – divert attention from his lack of solid and reasoned answers to questions asked in a one-on-one environment.
His ability to use this “slight-of-hand” has served him well since the beginning of his presidential run. However, since the race has been narrowed down to two people, he is struggling to find his niche when the spotlight shines solely on him in a two-person debate.
The nation-wide viewing audience was not well-served by the two hosts who preferred to dwell – and did so for 40 minutes – on issues other than those impacting American families and the economy. When the hosts finally managed to turn their attention to real-life issues, it became apparent that Obama was not as well-versed in specific topics as his supporters would have hoped.
On several occasions he appeared to be searching for words to answer the hosts’ questions. He not only had to search for words but also appeared to not understand the topic of some of the hosts’ questions, in particular, the issue of the capital gains tax. This gave the the appearance both of a lack of knowledge about the relevant topic and of a degree of uncertainty not visible when he is plying an audience with his oratory.
I would imagine his answer – the one he used to decline to debate Clinton – had to trigger quizzical looks. He indicated that they – Clinton and Obama – had already had 21 debates. I tried to think of the 21 times they had debated, and I came to the conclusion he was counting some or all of the the debates held over the past number of months which included anywhere from three to eight candidates.
A debate format involving multiple candidates does very little to give the viewers a sense of each candidate due to time constraints. But when those seven or eight are winnowed down to the final two as is the present case, then one-on-one debates can be crucial. This environment provides not only a view of positions but also how well a candidate has mastered topics through solid experience and the ability to articulate these positions to the viewing audience.
It is no wonder Obama has declined to give Indiana viewers a well-deserved debate. He knows he cannot afford a repeat of his Pennsylvania debate performance. His refusal to debate for Hoosier voters is unacceptable since Hoosier voters are entitled to just as much information and presentation one-on-one as the Pennsylvania voters received.
Obama has debated one-on-one before other “important” primaries. We have heard consistently over the past couple of weeks that Indiana is the make or break state in this race. So, if we are so important, why won’t Obama agree to debate?
Hillary was ready to debate in Indiana; Obama was not. Could it be he sees the writing on the wall and would rather not open himself up to another dismal performance such as the one in Pennsylvania? His lack of topic mastery was painfully displayed at the Pennsylvania debate. Obama’s refusal to debate for Hoosier voters should cause not just consternation but concern about his reasons for ducking the opportunity to debate for us.
A dismal performance in Indiana might very well seal his fate – a loss to Clinton – in Indiana and, ultimately, his fate with the remaining uncommitted superdelegates – a possibility that surely has not gone unnoticed by the Obama strategists.