Final Face Off?

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had what may be their final debate last night…

The Democrats had gathered in Cleveland, Ohio for the MSNBC-sponsored event, which obviously must have been an exhausting endeavor. Obama must have been feeling the love, because he didn’t look at slovenly as last week’s exhibit, where we thought Clinton excelled. The tables were turned last night: Obama seemed cool and confident, while Clinton very nearly went nuclear a few times. We’re specifically referring to her comments on how the press treat Obama.

Well, could I just point out that, in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don’t mind. You know, I’ll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious. And if anybody saw “Saturday Night Live,” you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.’

Whether or not Obama has been getting more favorable press hardly matters in this situation. What matters is that Clinton let herself go – the comment, we think, made her look petty, insecure and – worst of all – whiny. Things only got worse when the moderators attempted to switch from health care to other topics, which set Clinton into a flustered, “This is important” moment. With regard to health care, however, Mrs. Clinton dominated Obama and made her package seem far more clear than the Senator from Illinois’.

The former First Lady also excelled when discussing NAFTA, which will no doubt prove to be a key point for Ohio and Texas voters. Clinton’s come under fire for being too supportive of NAFTA, which her husband signed into law, but made clear last night where she stands:

…We will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it. And we renegotiate it on terms that are favorable to all of America… There are lots of parts of New York that have benefited, just like there are lots of parts of Texas that have benefited. The problem is in places like upstate New York, places like Youngstown, Toledo and others throughout Ohio that have not benefited.

Clinton did well here, we think, and the fact that she was asked first may have helped, because Obama’s similar response came off a bit like a carbon copy. The same can be said for their replies on foreign policy, where Clinton seemed to know more about Putin’s successor than Obama.

Regardless of their individual performances and political points, we came away from last night’s debate sensing death’s hand on Clinton’s campaign. Her attitude was not congenial and she looked worried. Obama, on the other hand, seemed to be thinking, “I’ve got this in the bag”. Whether his confidence will turn off voters remains to be seen.

Overnight polling by Rasmussen suggests that Obama’s still got his momentum. Clinton, meanwhile, may be falling a bit:

On Wednesday morning, market data suggests that Clinton has a 50% chance of winning the Ohio Presidential Primary. That’s down eight points from 58% the day before. Roughly half the decline took place before the debate and half following the debate.

In Texas, Obama is favored to win (current prices: Obama 72.4% Clinton 27.9%. Those figures changed little yesterday.

Clinton is seen as having a 68.0% chance to win in Rhode Island. In Vermont, expectations for Obama to win are high: 98.5%.

Overall, Rasmussen Markets data now shows Obama’s prospects for winning the Democratic Presidential Nomination are at 84.4%. Expectations for a Clinton victory are at 15.6%.

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