Remember a couple of months ago when there was a debate every other day? Voters were getting tired of hearing about the same issues (health mandates!) and bored with the usual answers. Well, after a much-needed though perhaps unnecessarily long break, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are debating (for possibly the last time) tonight in Philadelphia, and it’s actually kind of exciting. So much is resting on this one debate that it might even be interesting without the aid of a drinking game.
• Carrie Budoff Brown previews tonight’s debate by looking at what each candidate may expect to accomplish: Obama has to address, and try to put to rest, both his “bitter” comments and maybe even the Reverend Wright controversy, which he hasn’t had to face yet in a debate. Likewise, Clinton may face questions about Bosnia, and while she has to challenge Obama on Bittergate, she risks alienating the crowd with negativity and divisiveness. [Politico]
• Reid Wilson expects fireworks at tonight’s debate and says Obama is likely nervous because the entire outcome of the debate depends on Clinton, who can either be “the feisty debater she was before voters in Ohio and Texas went to the polls” or “the bland, boring debater who looked like she had given up before New Hampshire.” [Politics Nation/Real Clear Politics]
• Chuck Todd and friends note that a lot has happened since the last debate two months ago, so there is much ground to cover tonight, possibly including Bittergate, the reporting on Bill’s conflicts of interests, Mark Penn’s work for Colombia and his subsequent demotion, the Clintons’ tax records, the should-she-stay-or-should-she-go stories, Bosnia sniper fire, Obama’s race speech, and Jeremiah Wright. [First Read/MSNBC]
• Larry Eichel and Amy Worden write that the Obama campaign would like to move past Bittergate, but whether that happens depends on the questions from the moderators and the willingness of Clinton and Obama to discuss the issue. They note that Clinton’s communication director, Howard Wolfson, said yesterday that Bittergate was “an issue of tremendous importance to Pennsylvanians.” [Philadelphia Inquirer]
• Vaughn Ververs presents five questions heading into the debate, including whether Clinton will overplay her hand and whether Obama can begin “looking and sounding presidential.” Plus, can the candidates square their current pandering to rural, red-state voters with their messages for the rest of the country? [Starting Gate/CBS News]
• Mike Dorning writes that western-Pennsylvania blue-collar workers will be both a vital constituency in the upcoming primary and a bellwether of the effects of Bittergate on working-class voters in general. [Swamp/Chicago Tribune]
• And so Jonathan Allen explores how Pennsylvanians are reacting to Bittergate and, predictably, finds some unfazed and others offended. [CQ Politics]
• The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorses Obama in an editorial today, comparing Clinton’s politics of the past to Obama’s politics of the future and his offer of “real change.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
• David M. Shribman, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s executive editor, basks in the attention Pennsylvania is now getting, boasting that the state has forced candidates to focus their messages on jobs, while the campaign spotlight has also resulted in a surge in voter registration and interest. [Boston Globe] —Dan Amira
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.