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Philadelphia Story

I saw another pretty strong night for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia. On both substantive and stylistic levels we learned nothing virtually nothing new about the candidates tonight. In the media's funhouse of expectations and conventional wisdom, however, I suspect Barack Obama will again be judged to have come up a little flat. It may be a matter of his delivery, but even with sharpened critiques Obama somehow doesn't break through and grab your attention.

A couple of things I haven't seen discussed elsewhere jumped out at me. One was Hillary's response to a question about her experience. I've written before about Hillary's conspicuous reluctance to detail her role in her husband's administration. And once again tonight she tiptoed around the question. Listen to her here, responding to what I believe was Rudy Giuliani's charge that she lacks relevant experience to run the country, citing:

my experience of 35 years as an advocate for children and families, as a citizen activist, as someone who helped to bring education reform and health care reform to Arkansas. Bringing the children's health insurance program to fruition during the years in the White House. My time in the Senate. I think my experience on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue....

All she has to say about eight years in the White House is that she worked on the children's health insurance program? Very odd. At some point in these debates someone needs to ask her to talk specifically about her role shaping foreign and domestic policies beyond health care.

I was also quite struck by this line from Clinton, a retort to the drumbeat she'd been getting from Edwards and Obama:

Change is just a word if you don’t have the strength and experience to make it happen. 

How amazing that the one woman in the race can effectively call the men around her weak. But somehow she pulls it off. That's Hillary for you.

P.S. I did think John Edwards turned in a strong performance tonight--enough so that I wonder whether we're nearing the point where he could leapfrog Obama as the real anti-Hillary, at least in a media narrative that is getting close to writing off Obama.

--Michael Crowley