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Sweet JJ live blog 4: Watching the Obamas watch Clinton. McAuliffe warns "go negative at your peril"


DES MOINES, IA.—Hunched down with the photographers at the Iowa Democratic Party dinner, I’m about three feet from White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and wife Michelle. I’m watching them at their ringside table watch chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) who is about three feet from me up on the stage.

The Obamas sit with their hands folded. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is introducing Clinton, they stand with everybody else and clap politely when Clinton gets on the stage and hugs Pelosi. The Obamas neither smile nor react to the sea of photographers wedged in the area I am in. The photographers are swinging between shooting Clinton and them and the Obamas oblige by keeping up a pose.

“There are some who will say they don’t know where I stand,” Clinton tells the crowd of Democratic activists. “Now I think you know better than that. I stand where I have stood for 35 years. I stand with you and with your children and with every American who needs a fighter in their corner for a better life.”

The “don’t know where I stand” comment--that’s a pre-emptive strike at Obama, who has been saying just that. I pivot to see if Obama reacts. I am right in front of him. He puts first one, than two fingers to his lips. He looks pensive, absorbing what Clinton is saying. The photographers—still and video—are shooting. For a moment, Michelle Obama looks annoyed.

Seated next to Michelle is Jill Kraus and her husband, Dr. Steven Kraus of Carroll, Ia. He is part of Obama’s leadership team for the Jan. 3 first-in-the nation Iowa caucus.

Up on the stage Clinton is saying, “I’m not interested in attacking my opponents.” She brings out her new slogan. She wants to be “turning up the heat on the Republicans.”

Clinton’s sections in the bleachers chant back the new refrain, “Turn up the heat.”

I pivot again to look at Obama, who keeps a bland look on his face. For now, Clinton has refrained mostly from making direct references to Obama and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as Obama and Edwards are willing increasingly to hit her—directly and indirectly.

Before the speeches began, I talked with Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe. “We don’t need to get in a fight with the other Democrats. They want to get negative against us, they want to get frisky, that’s their decision. I tell you this, though. You go negative at your peril. In Iowa they don’t like it.”

Clinton is now alluding to the electability issue. It’s the shadow hanging over her campaign. In Iowa, voters want their caucus to produce to general election winner. Clinton’s rivals have been mounting the argument that no matter what, in the end, she won’t be able to overcome her baggage and appeal to cross-over voters—Independents and Republicans, especially in swing states.

“Not only Democrats,” Clinton is saying, “but Independents and Republicans. She ticks off big endorsements from leaders in red states, including Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio. “Democrats know, when we win Ohio, we win the White House.”

She’s done. Pelosi is introducing Obama and he has that pensive look still. On the way to the stage, he stops and shakes a few hands. He’s getting looser. Then, the transformation. As Obama bounces up the nine stairs to the stage his Cheshire grin breaks out and his energy surge is palatable.

Someone in the balcony shouts to Obama, “I love you.”

He’s on. “I love you back.”


I watched Clinton and Obama's speeches. I didn't think Obama was very energetic. He seemed to be falling asleep on stage at times. If it hadn't been for his campaigns busing in Chicagoans to cheer on que, he might have put everyone else to sleep as well.
Hillary drove home her message that if she is the nominee she will win in November 08. She was the winner of the two speakers.

I agree that Hillary was more inspiring. She had the best message and radiated confidence. She looks presidential and the others shrink in stature when they appear with her.

The John Edwards attacks are really getting annoying. I can’t imagine he thinks this is a good strategy. Loved Hillary’s line about not attacking her opponents but instead attacking the problems of America – well said!

"Hillary drove home her message", "Hillary was more inspiring"... just listen to yourselves. Ofcourse that's what you think. After all, you're Hillary supporters. Anyone who supports such a flawed candidate for the Democratic nomination is totally misguided and lacks judgment.

If you truly want to know whose speech was more inspiring or who won the night, listen to undecided caucus-goers and influential political columnists:

Wow! Another attempt by Hillary folks to engage in reality manipulation... no one who watched this event could conceivabley have come away with the idea that Hillary performed well last night. I read that she was on cold medicine; it appeared to me as if she was over medicated on something before reading that. Obama's appearance was highly dignified and the outpouring of support from that auditorium was reminiscent of his 2004 speech. These comments are absolutely ridiculous.

I was there in the hall. It was no contest: Obama won the night. His speech was full of passion. Hillary seemed a little tired. She posed for a picture with me shortly before she delivered her speech and she seemed a bit stiff, a little out of it. I went to the J-J Dinner supporting Edwards, and I still feel more certain that Edwards is electable. But I agree with Lynn: Saturday was Obama's night.

Hillary gave the standard workmanlike speech interspersed with that silly Turn up the Heat. The noisemakers were more annoying and bit childish to me. She spoke like she was lecturing and so slow it felt like she was dragging the words out.
How anyone can take that as inspiring is beyond me. It was subpar even for the usually subpar speaker Hillary is.

I thought Obama was spectacular. Hillary's speech sounded so... scripted and careful, Obama seemed genuine and natural.

MacAuliffe is trying to say that in a primary contest, no candidates should actually point out their opponents' weaker points ?


Hillary Inspiring?

Yeah, she has inspired my A.S.S to stand up with turn to Obama.
Hillary was a joke. Her divisive message did not jin with me.
She plays tough when it suit her, and plays the baby girl when she cant answer the tough question. What kind of leader is that?

Obama won the night, Edward was second and Joe Biden was third.

Lynn, do you read Taylor Marsh? Last week she had an interesting piece about the Axelrod/Trippi connection and the possibility of some real under handed stuff going on. Either they are using Edwards to derail Edwards & Hillary or they are (with Edwards knowledge) working together to derail Hillary. All of this with Edwards hoping for an Obama/Edwards ticket. I have come to the conclusion after reading the Chicago press coverage that the story (if it's true) ain't gonna break here. Too many of your fellow writers abdicated long time ago and became Obama's PR folks. You're the only one (if it's true) would break the story, even though your colleagues would vilify you. Can you check into it, might be something REAL interesting going on.If it's true, then I would have to say "Politics of hope" is swimming is in a sea of hypocrisy. Thanks

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 11, 2007 12:55 AM.

Sweet JJ Iowa live blog 3: Scoop--Clinton to unveil new "Turn Up the Heat" theme. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet JJ live blog 5: At the dinner.... is the next entry in this blog.

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