Politics

This was an interesting (though long and protracted) debate where the front runners did most of what they needed to do. Hillary Clinton is better in a debate format that in a lot of venues. The interaction helps her and she appears smart, well-informed, and engaging. She plays well off of others. Toward the end of the debate when she got a question on maternity leave she even showed a flash of Bernie Sanders’ style outrage. And, it became clear over the course of the night that she will increase position herself as an outsider as a woman.

Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders, consistent, forthright, and genuine. Going into the debate, I was unsure how he might come across but the fact that is unapologetic about who he is is endearing. He likely “won the debate” with his sound bite on being tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton’s damn emails. It was a great moment that allowed him – at once – to be generous to an opponent and critical of the news media and Republicans.

Some of his answers may not play well in the long run – embracing democratic socialism, for example, where he seems far outside of the mainstream. The fact that he embraces these answers and uses them as an opportunity to explain his views works well for him. The question remains, however, as to whether it expands his base?

Martin O’Malley did fine but I don’t think we’ll enough. He had an important misstatement on Assad and Syria, though I think he just misspoke. The problem is – he needed to have a home run and he didn’t hit it out of the park. I thought he was at his best when he responded to Sanders saying “we already did that in Maryland.” If his campaign ever took hold, he claim the mantle of a “reformer with results.”

Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee were not helped at all by being on the stage.

Finally, I have no idea what Joe Biden will do, but I don’t think this debate opened the door to a presidential run any wider. If Biden was waiting for a sign in the form of a crumbling Clinton campaign, I don’t think he got it.

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2015 Democratic Debate Notes

Aside
Uncategorized

Scott Walker v. Martin O’Malley in 2016? (No, Not Really, But Maybe?)

Instead of talking Jeb Bush v. Hillary Clinton in 2016, maybe we should discuss Scott Walker v. Martin O’Malley. I am not entirely serious about this but here is what we know:

  1.  The Republican Party will have a crowded field but will essentially be competing for two sets of voters. Conservatives appealing to the ideological base versus establishment candidates appealing to moderates and “practical” conservatives. Scott Walker, elected in blue-state Wisconsin and the survivor of union-led recall election, has the potential to appeal to both sets of voters.  In 2000, Republican money and organization very smartly united behind George W. Bush early in the campaign process minimizing competition. The only wrinkle was John McCain who apparently didn’t get the memo and made the nomination look potentially interesting until getting decimated by negative campaigning in South Carolina. The Republican Party heading into 2016 is considerably more chaotic making such a strategy untenable, the process far less predictable, and Jeb Bush far less inevitable.  Bush unquestionably brings a lot to the table in terms of money and organization, but he is no sure thing when it comes to the nomination.
  2. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton looks unbeatable but it is worth remembering that she also looked unbeatable in 2008. The ideological base of the Democratic Party never really embraced the Clintons (Bill or Hillary) and the politics of compromise and triangulation, and has ongoing doubts about a Hillary Clinton presidency. Those doubts are starting to emerge and will be expressed more loudly and clearly as we move closer to the nomination.  The email scandal and the reemergence of Monica Lewinsky are just the beginning. While it is tempting to believe these stories will be pushed solely by Republicans, there are plenty of Democrats willing to play along.  Assuming no other serious candidates emerge, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has the potential to capture this dissatisfaction and mount a serious challenge. How serious may well depend on the deftness of the Hillary Clinton campaign and her ability to reassure doubters and unite an uncertain base.

Neither of these outcomes is particularly likely, but the field for 2016 is hardly set, and voters may well be in a mindset of rejecting “politics as usual” which means rejecting the obvious and safe political choices.

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