The last debate between the two Democrat candidates before Super Tuesday was held on Thursday, January 31, 2008 in Los Angeles at the Kodak Theater. Outside the theater, a group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), in conjunction with a few other anti-war groups, was protesting the event, citing that neither candidate at the debate intended to get the troops out of Iraq before the end of their potential first term. In Manhattan, where a Generation Obama chapter was hosting a debate viewing event at the Grand in Midtown, that message about Senator Barack Obama''s views on Iraq, being chanted several thousand miles away, could not have more distant.
At the outset of the event, which included music and an opportunity for Obama supporters and undecideds to sit together in posh, comfortable, charcoal gray couches to discuss the election, veterans associated with the campaign spoke on behalf of the Senator.
The first of the four veterans to speak, Matt Flavin, a member of Obama's Veterans Advisory Committee who joined the military post 9/11 and served tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, recalled a story from his time campaigning in South Carolina.
"Last week, while sitting in the headquarters in South Carolina, we saw a person, sitting in a wheelchair come in," Flavin said. "He got up to the entranceway and got in and started saying three words. They were muffled, indiscernible... finally we realized what he was saying. 'Bring change please, bring change please.' And it turns out that when his wife showed up that he and his wife are both homeless veterans, one of 200,000 homeless veterans in this country. He had come a mile and a half in his wheelchair with a sign...... So tonight, my message, based on that plea, is that you all take the opportunity to vote for somebody instead of against the other person."
After the guest speakers had delivered their respective messages, volunteers continued to hand out flyers about the Senator's views on various campaign topics.
"Put it on your fridge and inform other undecided voters," Todd Sutler, a campaign volunteer and third grade teacher from Washington, said of what he characterized as an Obama cheat sheet. Particularly after rumors that Obama is a closeted Muslim became rampant in recent weeks, the volunteers emphasized the importance of spreading the right message to undecided voters.
Beneath Obama's mantra about his global vision lies the section of the flyer devoted to his Iraq war policies. Among the various points that Obama makes, the so-called cheat sheet, entitled "A New Yorker's Guide to Barack Obama", states, "As President, Obama will: immediately being to pull out troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of 2008."
Not only did Obama get an opportunity to address his Iraq war policy in this flyer, but he was also asked about it at the debate. Toward the beginning of the debate, Obama said, " Well, you know, I think it is important for us to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in...So I have said very clearly: I will end this war. We will not have a permanent occupation and we will not have permanent bases in Iraq... When John McCain suggests that we might be there 100 years, that, I think, indicates a profound lack of understanding that we've got a whole host of global threats out there, including Iraq, but we've got a big problem right now in Afghanistan... but I do think it is important for us to set a date. And the reason I think it is important is because if we are going to send a signal to the Iraqis that we are serious, and prompt the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds to actually come together and negotiate, they have to have clarity about how serious we are."
Many people who attended the Generation Obama rally in New York noted the importance of Obama's consistent view on the war in Iraq, mentioning that he is the only Democratic candidate who has been against the war from the start.
The war in Iraq seemed to be one of the winning points of the debate for Obama, as he pointed out that Senator Hillary Clinton was not always against the war and then Wolf Blitzer, during the CNN debate, tried to edge her into saying that voting for presidential authorization of the war was a mistake.