Yes, my fellow Americans, there is an issue beyond Iraq. It might even be one that outlasts the war. Consider that before you read on, because long after we’re out of Iraq we’ll still be dealing with the current health care crisis in America that reaches from single people to families to veterans to seniors.

Sitting in the bleachers among the voters today at the CAP/SEIU event, I learned many things. One is that some candidates don’t make it past the stage; that is their message doesn’t carry and neither do they. As a former Broadway babe this is something I not only appreciate politically, but also know matters in electoral politics. It was part of the reason a clear winner stood out today, regardless of your willingness to swallow your prejudices and judgments and preconceived notions and accept someone who on certain issues stands above the rest. But way a minute, that’s too small. It’s not about “certain issues.” It’s about shining above the rest in message, performance and personality.

The clear winner today was Hillary Clinton. Period. No one came close to her passion, energy and details, as well as the humor and, yes, humility she brought to the subject at hand: health care. After the health care defeat she suffered during her husband’s tenure it’s clear she has come to terms with the issue as well as cultivated a sense of humor about her mistakes.

The big loser today was Barack Obama, who wasn’t at all prepared.

But don’t take my word for either judgment.

An African American man sitting next to me in the bleachers wearing an SEIU shirt said he liked Barack Obama but he “wasn’t prepared” today, because he didn’t even have a plan ready. The look on his face said it all. He wasn’t ready, he continued, but he just “had to come.”

“She’s probably the brightest person on the trail,” the woman sitting next to me (also an African American) said when I asked her if she liked Hillary Clinton. But the problem, she continued shaking her head, is Hillary getting her message out because so many people in the country don’t like her. Her frustration was evident. She clapped throughout Hillary’s opener and discussion segment.

What I came away with from Obama was that he punted. He felt he absolutely did have to show up in Nevada, especially after flying over the state previously, but he simply wasn’t prepared. It was obvious. His speech was on point and he’s a gifted man in front of people; clearly comfortable with speaking without a
script, unlike so many other politicians, but when he talked about the series of round table discussions he had planned before he announced his health care ideas my eyes glazed over. It was obvious he wasn’t up to speed for this event. I can’t say it more plainly, except to add that no one in the audience was fooled. Barack Obama blew it. Hey, but it’s one event.

As for John Edwards, he was on his message, with Elizabeth thankfully by his side looking fabulous, but there was something missing. It’s been one hell of a week for John Edwards, no doubt, but he’s lacking serious excitement and energy, in my opinion. This has been the case for a while. Considering what he’s been through it’s understandable, but it’s clear the stress is taking its toll. As an aside, I can’t seem to get my emails returned from the Edwards camp either, which is infuriating. (Hillary camp always responds.) I hope Edwards regroups, because his stance on the Fox “News” debate was right on, he’s brilliant on unions, as well as health care, but he also had the courage to admit his mistake on Iraq. However the communication gap signals a larger problem, especially when they contacted me to see if I’d have conversations with John Edwards as the campaign evolved. So far, nothing. Not a good sign. But I think you’ve got to give Edwards a pass for this week. His performance and content, especially, were good today, but he was just weary, which anyone can appreciate.

As an aside, I keep waiting for Bill Richardson to make his mark. Today he spoke well, but he wasn’t focused and looked clearly off balance. I also just don’t get the cowboy boots with a suit, especially as we all try to put the current cowboy in the White House in our rear view. I’ve got fancy Justin cowboy boots, so I get the appeal, but the fact that Richardson couldn’t seem to walk in them was a problem. It was a distraction.

Now to Hillary Clinton. She was the star today. If you were in the room, listening, watching and taking it all in, she simply rose way above everyone else. That she came after Obama did her some good, because she, quite frankly, made him look like an amateur. She was personable. Likable. Knowledgeable in the extreme. There were also specifics to her delivery that were unmistakable and could not be ignored, except by those who refuse to give her a chance. The voters in the room took to her and got her, responding with laughter and applause. I specifically appreciated her choice to stand rather than sit next to Karen Tumulty, the moderator. She was comfortable and natural in the setting, clearly loving this new role, something I can only imagine she’s dreamed of manifesting her whole life. Her Midwestern twang is definitely back, which I can appreciate, though it illustrates something else. Hillary Clinton is coming into her own. She’s feeling some momentum or maybe she’s just having a damn fine time. Whatever it is it shows. Could it be contagious? One never knows, but that brings me back to where this day started. Three GOP white guys with signs slamming liberal women. This is a challenge for Hillary and the rest of us. As Clinton continues to take heat, much of it justified, what also shows up is the over the top criticism and judgments that few males have to endure. Clinton is going to take a hit for her stance on Iraq, so be it. But when you consider the other issues we’re all facing today, health care is one of the most important to us all, individually and in our families, it’s a mistake not to give someone as bright and well prepared as Senator Clinton serious consideration. Hillary Clinton did herself a lot of good today. Whether it’s something she can build on is up to you.

UPDATE (12:30 p.m. – 3.25.07): More fodder: a pro and con Clinton president debate.

UPDATE: The emails are getting weirder, not to mention very ill-informed. Seriously, get a grip.

Hilary and the big dog should read the writing on the wall. Back out. The rightwing is salivating at the thought of the Clinton’s as the Democratic standard bearers. This is a huge opportunity to take the White house back and try to fix the carnage. Trying to paint Obama will not work. Out here we are more in tune with the Dickhead Morris triangulation than you “sophisticated” politicos think. We will not be detered by polls and how much money the Clinton’s raise. I myself like other of the like minded will not vote for rightwingers as we are aware of their bull@#*!. But, we are watching the subtle shots by the Clintonista at whoever to stay in front in the Dem party. The media polls show Hil in front but, we know otherwise. Obama is our chance to beat the rightwing and your Hilary cheerleading is being noted. Hilary can’t win. Our guy can. And the young shall lead us. You’ll see….. We will forgive you IF you keep the ripping to a minimum. We know you can’t. – bf