The polling is in and Hillary made a big mistake in her sharp disagreement with Obama over whether the president should meet with leaders of rogue nations. According to the Rasmussen Poll, Democrats agree with Obama over Hillary by 55%-22%.
Without a poll to pretest her comments, Hillary instinctively took the "insider" position that the president should only meet with such leaders after extensive probing by subordinates to assure that the meetings would be productive. But she was wrong. Democrats want the president to meet with leaders of such nations without pre conditions.
At the South Carolina Democratic Presidential debate, Hillary and Obama clashed over Obama's statement that he would meet with leaders of rogue nations like North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran if he were president. Hillary said that she would not do so and would not allow herself to be used for "propaganda purposes."
All week, Hillary pounded out her message, enlisting former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and her possible future Secretary of State Dick Holbrooke to speak up on behalf of her position. She blasted Obama as "naïve," one of her few direct attacks on her opponent. For his party, Obama ridiculed her position as "Bush Cheney lite," a comment that got under Hillary's skin.
The exchange had little real significance during the two hour debate, but Hillary's obsession with the issue all week has given it real importance. She made a big mistake in the debate and amplified it all week.
Why? Perhaps Hillary is not using polling the way Bill always did – to pretest and post test all important issues. If she had, she would not have locked into the minority position among Democratic primary voters and would not have stayed with that view all week.
Maybe her campaign staff was caught flatfooted for once.
The fact is that this week's debate was the first time the two Democrats have clashed seriously since the contest began early this year. This round definitely goes to Obama.