Professors give views on debate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 28, 2008

As former President Bill Clinton hit as many stops in southern Ohio earlier this week as a low-budget bus trip through Beijing, campaigning for his wife, the senator went up north for her last nationally televised shot at pulling in the state and possibly the nomination.

Tuesday night’s debate in Cleveland between Clinton and Barack Obama took on a more issue-driven tone than had been heard before.

But did it help Clinton who keeps losing precious ground to the Illinois senator, especially in the parts of the state trounced by a rampant and bleak economy?

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“I don’t think there was a clear winner,” Dr. Michael McTeague, Ohio University professor, said. “It was pretty much as in the last debate both were making points. If there is a movement a foot, it is they are raising issues. You are starting to see questions about background information …. whether NAFTA was supported by Clinton. Obama tries to make a point he was always against it.”

As Clinton’s stand on NAFTA keeps in debate play,

McTeague predicts past positions — or lack thereof — for both candidates will start resurfacing.

“They are going to have questions raised back further than the immediate two or three months,” he said. “It’s going to be what happened five years ago. And Obama has very little hard core legislative support.”

As to next week’s outcome, will Clinton pull it off? McTeague predicts her chances for a win in Texas are stronger than in Ohio.

“Obama is gaining ground in Ohio,” he said. “I’m not sure about Texas. Texas will still be hard (for Obama) with the Latino vote. She needs big wins. To split states is not good. She needs 60-40 wins.”

However, McTeague’s colleague, Dr. Ken Heineman,

saw the debate in more clear-cut terms.

“For the first time since the campaign began, there might be a chance for him to win Ohio and the Democratic nomination,” Heineman said. “He was grownup, mature, calm. Hillary

had a meltdown. She was shrill, angry. She was losing it before the first commercial break … not presidential.

“I would have thought she would have been more prepared. She looked like someone beginning a campaign. She blew it.”

Heineman called Bill Clinton’s two-day

campaign tour through the small towns in the southern and central parts of the state a desperate struggle for votes that implies the campaign’s internal polling is showing trouble in the more populated areas.

“It told me they are scrounging … They are not getting the votes in the Lake Erie area … Cleveland … Toledo,” he said. “Some local people feel shut out of the campaign. They have not been using local grass roots.”

Right now nationally, Obama is ahead. In a CBS-New York Times poll Obama has a 54-38 margin. USA-Today results are about the same — 51-39 — against Clinton.

In Ohio the margin is tighter. Current polls show Clinton only ahead by eight points.

“She may pull off a win in Ohio, but it will be tight,” Heineman said.