Thursday, February 28, 2008

The benefits of competition.

About seven weeks ago, after Obama's victory in Iowa opened up the road to a long campaign instead of a quick coronation, I wrote, "I'm for Obama, but I can live with Clinton or Edwards, and I think the candidate who prevails will be the stronger for the experience." It would seem that most political insiders feel the opposite way, wanting to be done with the primaries for fear that process will expose or weaken their candidates. The fear is not unfounded -- for example, one can imagine a desperate Clinton campaign unleashing attacks that divide Democrats at a time when they could be uniting to challenge McCain -- but I think it is overstated, and part of the reason is that the benefits of the prolonged campaign can be harder to perceive. But Gail Collins, on today's Times op-ed page, sees one:
Back around Debate 10 β€” lo those many debates ago β€” Hillary routinely wiped the floor with Barack. He was reluctant and stumbling. She was confident and presidential. Then, as Adam Nagourney pointed out in The Times this week, he suddenly evolved. Now, he’s better than she is β€” calm and witty at crucial junctures, always to the point, never obsessing on the small stuff.
All those debates have left Obama (and Clinton, if she can somehow come back) better prepared for the fall campaign. [eta: John Dickerson agrees.]

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