Going First Most of the Time

Published: February 27, 2008 
WASHINGTON — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton sounded almost put upon.

“Can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time,” she said to Brian Williams of NBC News, a moderator of Tuesday night’s debate between Mrs. Clinton and Senator Barack Obama.

She has a point.

Mrs. Clinton has received the first question of the night in all three of her one-on-one debates with Mr. Obama — about Cuba, about the North American Free Trade Agreement and about their biggest policy differences.

In other debates before the Democratic field narrowed, she received the first question at 6 of the 10 most recent events.

And in the one-on-one debate last Thursday, she received the first question on the overwhelming majority of topics and thus spoke first about twice as often as he did.

In the course of the 20 Democratic presidential primary debates so far, Mr. Obama has occasionally received the first question. On Jan. 5, for example, the debate opened with a question to Mr. Obama about whether he stood by his support for a United States military strike in Pakistan if its government failed to act against an identified terrorist target.

Some might wonder if receiving the first question is an advantage or disadvantage.

There is some indication that Mr. Obama is happy following his opponent.

In the previous debate, on CNN, the moderators said they selected one candidate at random and offered that candidate the choice of giving the first or second opening statement.

Mr. Obama won the draw, and he chose to speak after Mrs. Clinton.


One comment

  1. What happens is that she gives a well-informed, detailed answer to the question. Then he piggy-backs with “I agree wtih Hillary” and goes into his usual stuff, which has nothing to do with the question.

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