Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Democratic Debate

The first Democrat Debate aired to a substantial amount of interest (15 MM viewers, a record for Democratic debates--but short of the Republican's massive 23MM viewership). This was probably due to (a) questions about Hillary being in decline, (b) Bernie Sander's fandom, and (c) people wondering "Who the hell are these other guys??"

The net results, however, are very clear:

  1. Hillary not only won--but won by a mile ('crushed it' in the words of a Democratic operative). 
  2. Sanders probably did reasonably well--but not well enough to take the lead.
  3. Sanders, Clinton's main challenger, seems to have given Clinton a serious boost by saying the email stories were boring and the American people were tired of them.
Clinton--by bipartisan agreement--proved herself a capable debater. One of her strongest moments was when Lincoln Chafee hit her on the emails, she was asked if she wanted to respond, and she said "No." Partly this was because she's as done as she can be with the email story. Partly this is because Lincoln Chafee.

Observers have noted that if anything can stop Joe Biden from jumping in, this was probably it: Hillary's performance will likely reassure donors, give people inclined but not in the tank for Sanders a reason to take a second look at Clinton, and make her look like a serious contender for the general.

In other words, she nailed it.

Not Everybody Was Happy

In a sense, Hillary's debate was the first real "battle" between the GOP and the Democrats--moreso than the two GOP debates had anything to do with the Blue Team. How is that? Well, when Hillary went out there she was the presumptive candidate (despite flagging in the polls) and would automatically be judged against all of the GOP field. No one was watching and thinking "Gee, I wonder if Lincoln Chafee could beat Marco Rubio?"

If she had stumbled or simply just bored that would have been a serious GOP victory.

The second reason is that there were already two GOP debates. While the GOP candidates haven't entered the cannibalization phase of the primary (where they go full out with attack ads and such) there has been some of that (mostly from Trump and towards Trump) and there is definitely a "crowding" of the various "lanes" (Rubio, Jeb, and Kasich are all competing to be the establishment, centrist, candidate to one degree or another). The Democratic debate showed that while both Sanders and Clinton are competing for progressive votes (and, remember, this is a primary) that the knives are not out. 

Sanders gave Clinton the political gift on emails--but more importantly, she wasn't called shifty, incompetent, or anything like that. Basically the Democrats all refrained from using GOP Talking points against her. This deprives the Republicans of a your-own-team-says-so credibility (remember Gingrich attacking Romney on 'Vulture Capitalism'? They shut that down right-quick).

The contrast between the parties suggests a stronger Democrat and a more damaged Republican by next summer.

Finally, and in the same vein, a third Republican has come out saying that the Benghazi investigation is politically motivated. This is bad because Hillary will build on her momentum from the debate next week at the hearing. If the GOP loses its grip on the email scandal and the investigations, their currently-most-potent-weapon will have fizzled more than a year before the general election (remember: Iran-Contra didn't sink the Bush run--scandals have to be pretty fresh).

If the email story stops working because people think it's just a partisan front (and 15MM people watched Hillary dismiss--and Sanders dismiss it to a standing ovation) they'll have to hope the FBI investigation ends in hand-cuffs for Hillary.

Of course that's gonna happen any minute now, isn't it? Isn't it? 


  1. Maybe I cannot see beyond the wool in my eyes, but let me ask a question. If you contrast this debate with the Republican debates, and could somehow remove any label of "R" or "D" from the candidates, wouldn't the base of the Republican party be cheering on the defense of the middle class that Sanders and Clinton focused on? I believe that a large part of the populace cannot see beyond simple labels to actually listen to the ideas, and end up voting against their economic interests. Frustrating.

    1. Well, no. So--what's animating the Republican base isn't the "Middle Class" stuff--it's immigration, anger at Obama, anger at the establishment for not stopping Obama, a feeling of humiliation after losing two presidential elections (somehow winning the mid-terms just isn't the same), and so on.

      YES: everyone TALKS about the Middle Class (including Ted Cruz)--but that's because studies show that everyone THINKS they're in the Middle Class. This (as noted by The Omnivore) is because we all grew up with a much more forgiving economy so people like folks who, erm, read this blog, live in a decent house with a decently sized flat-screen TV, a nice car or two, etc.

      Of course both parties probably work today--household debt is far less manageable than it was in the past, etc. But the trappings of Middle Class have expanded in both directions (Xboxen and flat-screens are cheap enough for poor families, upper-middle, shall we say, often have the same basic gear--just less debt).

      So, no: the lack of talking about illegal immigrants, the lack of anger towards Obama, and so on--if people were told these folks were Republicans? It wouldn't help.

      -The Omnivore

  2. I find it interesting that Fox and others are spinning the Dem debate as "they want to give free stuff to people! they want to make you dependent on them! free childhood education?#$%@" which to me reads as a concern that what the Dems are saying might be viewed favorably by Fox viewers, so they had to quickly pivot to smearing it with 'entitlement' and 'takers' language so it was clear this was not reasonable.

  3. Omnivore - question. I sometimes wonder if our society is on a knifes edge between two potential futures and would love your take.

    Door number 1 promises a 'full truther' future, where folks just make stuff up and the right/left 'balanced' approach to the news perpetuates outright falsehoods. Some may say we're already here, but I'm thinking about a future where there is not only zero fact base but outright 'up is down and down is up' falsehoods that would make George Orwell weep.

    Door number 2 is perhaps a bit more hopeful, where the gridlock in Washington actually forces a transformation in governance, where coalitions start building across aisles to make government work and be effective. This leads to a dissolution of traditional two-party rule where many factions - tea party, libertarian, progressive, single issue folks, evangelicals, etc form governing coalitions so common in other democracies.


    1. Firstly, we already have media-bubbles and to one degree or another, we all live in one. That's already happened. Secondly, to reach across the aisle, you have to assume that the person on the other side of the aisle doesn't hate you.

      Today that may not be an assumption too many people are making. HOWEVER: there IS such a thing as hitting rock-bottom. It's possible that losing a 3rd Presidential election, nominating Bernie Sanders, or failure to select a House Speaker could result in some serious soul-searching.

      Don't count on it.