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Sweet column: At NH debate, GOP filet Obama. Edwards defends Obama as change agent


GOFFSTOWN, N.H. -- Back-to-back GOP and Democrat presidential debates Saturday provided a preview of how newly minted Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will be fileted by the GOP if he is the Democratic nominee.

The double-header came as Obama is poised to win the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary after scoring a decisive victory last week in the Iowa Democratic caucus. A new WMUR poll is showing he is closing the gap with chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY.), and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) may end up in third.

The frontunners -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- slammed Obama as either too inexperienced or too liberal or both. They are doing what would be unthinkable by any of Obama's Democratic rivals: bluntly calling him unqualified to be president practically to his face.

McCain said, "Senator Obama does not have the national security experience and background to lead this nation," while Giuliani said, "I think the problem Barack Obama would have is, first of all, he's never run a city, never run a state, never run a business," and Thompson and Romney slammed him for being a liberal.

Obama, asked about this GOP blitz, swatted the assault aside and said he was barely paying attention, instead keeping an eye on a football game.

He also did not strongly engage Clinton. Clinton signaled on Friday that she would take swings at Obama and she did -- but a focus group I was watching on WMUR's Web site showed that when she took on Obama -- on how he switched his one-time position on backing a single payer national health care plan, for example -- the graph line showing the support of independents went down.

Independents make up a substantial voting bloc in New Hampshire, and Obama is counting heavily on getting their support with his message of change -- also shared by Edwards.

In an interesting move, Edwards came to Obama's defense after Clinton talked about Obama's evolving positions on universal health care and mandates since he was a state senator in Illinois, citing a story about Obama's record Chris Wills, the respected AP's Springfield statehouse bureau.

Edwards, blocking for Obama said, "Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. That's exactly what happens."


As I listen to the debates, I find myself, having always leaned Democratic, wanting to vote for the Democratic nominee. I see the freight train carrying Sen Barack Obama to the nomination. But, I have a deep unease. This uneasiness HAS to be addressed by him. Clearly he does not have the experience of older politicians like Biden or Clinton. But, where does he stand? I admire his lofty goals of change...but I need more. I want to be able to vote for him, but who am I voting for? Another Neville Chamberlain? Has GWB turned the next nominee of the Democratic party into someone who will not be able to take us to war under any circumstance? These are more than just academic questions. If history has taught us anything, it is that fascist regimes cannot be appeased, and trying those approaches inevitably leads to real consequences, horrible consequences, with the deaths of millions as one tries to undo the errors of those policies. So, my hope is that the Senator will address those issues, for if he does not, the standard bearer for the Republican party will do it for him...and at some point in time, simply shrugging off those criticisms will no longer wash.

Filet? Slammed? Not sure we watched the same debate, Lynn. They praised him!

"he is for change"

"bringing out new people to the process"

"attracts young people"

If the worst they can say about Obama is that he is liberal...they've got nothing.

Good point Michael, Obama gives 60 minute speeches but after those 60 minutes, you are left asking yourself "where does he stand on the issues"? Obama is a creation of the liberal media. He has no more substance than a preacher. If he gets the nomination, which as a republican I hope he does, his republican opponent will expose him for what he is. His democratic opponents can't expose him because they are afraid of being called a racist if they do expose him.

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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 January 6, 2008 7:00 AM.

Sweet: At New Hampshire debate, Obama gets slammed, slapped and slaughtered by GOP presidential contenders. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet: Former Sen. Bill Bradley endorses Obama on Sunday. Bradley statement. New poll Obama 33/Clinton 31 is the next entry in this blog.

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