George's Bottom Line: On the Democratic Debate

George Stephanopoulos on Clinton and Obama's debate performances.

April 17, 2008 — -- ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos on the two moments from the Democratic debate that could give Republican nominee John McCain an opening to pounce.

Robin Roberts: "And for the bottom line we turn to one of the moderators of last nights debate, our chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos, who was alongside Charlie Gibson. Good to have you back here. Alright, you pressed Senator Clinton about whether or not Barack Obama could win in November. And she said--"

George Stephanopoulos: "Three questions."

Roberts: "You pressed her on it. And it was a 180 from what we're hearing she's saying behind the scenes."

Stephanopoulos: "That's exactly right. Her campaign and Senator Clinton herself, has been making argument to superdelegates that Barack Obama can't win. In public, she was caught in a little bit of a bind. On the one hand, she didn't really want to admit that he could win on the other hand, she was calculating. And I think she was right in this calculation that if she didn't say directly yes at this point, Democrats would blame her. They said she's being too negative, not allowed the parties to come together. She had no choice in the end, but to say he can win and as you saw he did the exact same thing."

Roberts: "Absolutely, and course we knew what was going to come up, some of his recent remarks about some Americans being bitter about what's going on. So, he was asked about that. And he brought up another moment when someone put their so-called foot in their mouth. Let's take a look."

Senator Barack Obama (CLIP): "I recall when back in 1992 when she made a statement. What do you expect should I be at home baking cookies? And people attacked her for being an elitist for this and that and I remember watching that on TV and saying, Well, that's not who she is, that's not what she believes that's not what she meant."

Roberts: "This kind of put the whole issue at rest?"

Stephanopoulos: "I think it may have. And that was a really interesting moment for Barack Obama. First of all, I think Senator Clinton was surprised, I think she was surprised that he brought up tea and cookies but then used it as a way to set the issue aside. He also passed up an opportunity to question Senator Clinton's credibility and said he didn't want to do that as well. She did not pass up opportunities to go at his past. To go to Reverend Wright. To go with his relationship with the former member of the weather underground. She hit that very hard. Now, I just got word from the Obama camp this morning, they say prominent Pennsylvania supporters are going to switch sides from Clinton to Obama, because they perceived her as being too negative. Well, we'll watch to see if it really happens?

Roberts: "That's really what--"

Stephanopoulos: "The dance she was walking through the whole time."

Roberts: "If your John McCain, do you think he was watching?"

Stephanopoulos: "He'll get a tape." (laughs)

Roberts: "Yeah, I'm sure he'll get a tape. (laughs) Was there a moment that his campaign would go, okay, we got something here."

Stephanopoulos: "I think two possible moments last night. The first would be the whole discussion about taxes. I asked the candidates, will you promise not to raise taxes on middle class families. People earning under $200,000 a year. Senator Obama danced around it a little bit more, said he might be willing to raise the payroll tax raise, the cap on the payroll tax. When Charlie pressed him on that he said he might leave open people between $100,000-$200,000. But he wasn't clear and that's something the campaign is looking at. Both Obama and Clinton said. No matter what the military commanders said next year, we're going to start a pullout. That's a popular position with a lot of Americans. Senator McCain will push that and say they'll do that even if there's chaos in Iraq? I I think thatis where he will drive that argument."

Roberts: "Again you said we'll hear news today about the new support for Barack Obama."

Stephanopoulos: "That's what the Obama campaign is saying. They are saying in Pennsylvania, some delegates are switching side. Also they announced another Oklahoma superdelegate on top of three superdelegates yesterday."

Roberts: "All right George, great job last night. If you're John McCain or if you missed any part of last night's debate, you can watch it all on our website at ABCNews.com."

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