Final Democratic Debate: Preview

Well, here we are, the final debate before the strange ritual of the Iowa caucus.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to liveblog, and I’m rather skeptical about whether I’ll even be able to watch it, but fret not, I’m here to at least provide a bit of insight so you know what you’re getting into over the next two hours.

First things first, if you live outside of Iowa, you can still watch the debate on C-Span 3, or you can watch it live here.  Also important to note is that both Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel will not be in attendance for failure of meeting the criteria established by host Des Moines Register.

To be honest, I’m rather glad of this.

More than any other debate in this primary season, this debate has the potential to have the biggest effect on the Democratic contest.  That’s saying something considering that only a few debates ago we saw some exchanges that were the starting point to Hillary’s downward spiral in early voting states and Obama’s rise.

Also, keep in mind that while John Edwards is struggling elsewhere, he’s still in the running in Iowa, so a big showing for him could give the former senator from North Carolina a big enough boost to win the state.  This will undoubtedly throw a monkey wrench in the current Obama vs. Clinton narrative.

But the big thing to watch for, of course, is Hillary or Obama.  Now, if this debate is much like yesterday’s, there is likely to be no clear winner, and thus I think polling trends will continue as they have (good for Obama).  On the other hand, if the moderator is as strict as yesterday’s, that does open the door for Hillary to keep up with her attacks on Obama without Obama having a sufficient opportunity to defend himself.  If she does it right, this could give her the edge going into early state voting, but if her attacks backfire, much as they have in recent weeks, again, advantage Obama.

The thing to take into consideration here is not current polling numbers, but momentum.  Obama has it.  He’s rising in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.  A big win for Hillary, or a major gaffe on Obama’s part, would most likely result in that momentum slowing, if not reversing, to a point where it would be very difficult for Obama to cross the finish line with the momentum on his back.

On the other hand, a huge win for Obama, or a poor performance from Clinton, would most likely accelerate the current trends, and really give Obama a big push across the finish line, and potentially set the stage for a clean sweep across Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Alright, they are announcing the debate, so go watch, and you can expect my final analysis either later tonight, or tomorrow morning.

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