Clearly there are those who think that the Presidential Campaign has already begun, and in a sense it has: For John McCain.
And John McCain is directly addressing the presumed nominee, Barack Obama. But will Obama really be the nominee?
The conversation between Senators McCain and Obama about Iraq began at the Democratic debate in Cincinnati Ohio
You both have pledged the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. You both have said you'd keep a residual force there to protect our embassy, to seek out al Qaeda, to neutralize Iran.
And then asked Obama
...do you reserve a right as American president to go back into Iraq, once you have withdrawn, with sizable troops in order to quell any kind of insurrection or civil war?
...Now, I always reserve the right for the president -- as commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad. So that is true, I think, not just in Iraq, but that's true in other places.
...I think we should always cooperate with our allies and sovereign nations in making sure that we are rooting out terrorist organizations, but if they are planning attacks on Americans, like what happened in 9/11, it is my job -- it will be my job as president to make sure that we are hunting them down.
Senator McCain picked up on this and responded in public
“I have some news,” he said at a town-hall-style meeting in Tyler, Tex. “Al Qaeda is in Iraq. It’s called ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq.’ My friends, if we left, they wouldn’t be establishing a base. They’d be taking a country, and I’m not going to allow that to happen.”
Senator Obama responded
“I have some news for John McCain,” Mr. Obama said at a large rally at Ohio State University. “There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.”
Which of course simply sidesteps the issue because he is running for President now. Given that it is clear that al Qaida is in Iraq, that al Qaida has proclaimed to the world that Iraq is the central front in their declared war on the United States, why would anyone leave the field of battle when we have the enemy on the run, allow them to refit and rearm, and then return?
"The fact is, al Qaeda is in Iraq," McCain said. "Al Qaeda is in Iraq today. If we left Iraq there's no doubt that al Qaeda would then gain control in Iraq and pose a threat to the United States of America. Ask anyone who knows about the situation on the ground in Iraq. I look forward to continuing this debate...."
"I guess that means that [Obama] would surrender and then go back," McCain said.
Now this is something Senator Clinton has been unable to do for the past year: Attack Obama from the right and when that happens, it is clear that Obama is at a severe disadvantage. And Democratic voters who are set to go to the polls in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont next Tuesday now have a preview of how it will go in the General election.
Will this raise doubts about the efficacy of Obama's candidacy? Will this exchange make some of Obama's supporters give Clinton a second look?
A recent poll of Democratic primary voters showed that a plurality think Clinton is a strong and decisive leader, has a clear plan for solving the country's problems, and a majority think she can get things done.
Yet a majority think that it is Obama that can beat the Republican in the General. What's more only 21% of primary voters think that experience is the most important trait in their nominee.
A majority of primary voters also think that Obama has the advantage in dealing with corruption in government but as I have shown, when we begin to have that conversation, McCain will come out ahead.
But most primary voters don't know that yet.
What they do know, if they want to know, is that Obama is at a severe disadvantage to McCain on the war issue. And that deficit will raise doubts among the General Election voters as to his qualifications with regards to Foreign Policy in general.
I think that there is a better than even chance that this exchange helps Clinton and that in the future primaries, many former Obama supporters might switch their support to Clinton.