Sunday, November 15, 2015

Take Aways From the Second Democratic Debate


Two debates down, four to go. I don't count the MSNBC and Moveon.org debates. Sorry, this is the major leagues, not the sandlots. So what were the take aways from the second debate? Glad you asked.

1. Hillary Clinton was the winner, again. Except for a very awkward moment when she invoked 9/11 to help explain the contributions she gets from Wall Street - please, Hillary, even Bill wouldn't have gone there - the night belonged to her. She looked, yes, I'll say it again, presidential. She was even better than she had been in her first debate. She went on the offensive more, while being careful not to seem dismissive of her opponents.

Let's admit it, she's had far more experience doing this and it showed. She was cool-hand Luke up there. Hell, she survived eleven grueling hours in front of a Congressional committee; two hours on a debate stage was practically a cakewalk. Her strongest moment came when she defended her plan for how she'll handle the banks and Wall Street by citing a piece by Paul Krugman in The New York Times in which Krugman ostensibly agrees with her. And while she's far more hawkish than either of her two rivals, in a general election that should only benefit her.

2. Martin O'Malley didn't look half bad. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from him, but he comported himself fairly well. While I don't think he'll get much traction from his performance, I think he definitely made the case for a possible VP nod, as evidenced by the fact that when he did go on the attack, he spread the graft around evenly between Clinton and Sanders. Smart move, Martin. No sense burning any bridges, especially when you're polling around 4 points.

3. Bernie Sanders had a bad night. For someone who needed a breakout performance to close the gap between himself and Hillary, Sanders was anything but sharp. Worse, he looked awkward, off was how I put it. I don't know if it was the format, but he just didn't seem comfortable up there. He was clearly out of his element on foreign policy, at times looking clueless. The base may not care much about foreign policy but the rest of the country does. Also, Sanders screwed up big time when he failed to show where Hillary had been influenced by Wall Street. You can't base your entire campaign on the distinction between your small donors and her soft money, then fumble the ball on the one-yard line like that. A terrible moment for him; one that will come back to haunt him. And not to nitpick, but he never properly defined his "Medicare for all" plan, one of the pillars of his campaign, which allowed Hillary to define it for him. As I said, not a good night.

4. All of the Democratic candidates were head over heels better than their Republican counterparts. Let's face it, the GOP debates have looked more like dress rehearsals for the movie Animal House than actual debates. Even the Fox Business debate, which everyone agrees was the best of a terrible lot, was little more than a series of infomercials for a group of people who still haven't explained how they plan on paying for $2 to $3 trillion in tax cuts, most of which will go to the top 1 percent of the country.

While all three of the Democratic candidates took turns criticizing one another, they never sank to the level of the Republicans in their debates. All three were respectful of one another and all three had cogent and defendable arguments for their positions that come next fall will resonate with the voters. In short, we had a chance to see how adults behave in public.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. These debates are the best forum for Democrats to prove to the country that they deserve to hold the White House and retake the Senate. So far, they've done a pretty damn good job showing it.

No comments: