The candidates have put forth ambitious proposals on a number of issues, but one of the great unanswered questions of the race has been what each would prioritize in office. The first policy initiative undertaken by the new president will benefit from a sense of first-term energy and momentum. Depending on what happens in ensuing years, there could be no choice about what becomes Nos. 2 or 3. Circumstances tend to intervene.

So what’s that crucial first priority? The biggest news of the night was that Obama answered that question unequivocally: energy.

Here’s the question, from Tom Brokaw:

There are new economic realities out there that everyone in this hall and across this country understands that there are going to have to be some choices made. Health policies, energy policies, and entitlement reform, what are going to be your priorities in what order? Which of those will be your highest priority your first year in office and which will follow in sequence?

It went to McCain first, who punted, saying he’d do all three at once in a garbled jumble of an answer.

Here’s Obama:

Energy we have to deal with today … [energy discussion] … So that would be priority number one.

Health care is priority number two …

Seems like a pretty clear answer, and I can’t imagine it’s accidental or ad-libbed.

So: the first initiative in an Obama administration would be to implement an energy plan including, among other things, $15 billion a year in clean-energy investments.

I hope a reporter follows up with John McCain about this.

Here’s the video:

Embedded video from CNN Video