Tuesday Reads: The First Democratic Debate

Dem debate cnn

Good Morning!!

Tonight’s the night! Hillary Clinton will be center stage for the first Democratic Debate, hosted by CNN. To her right, Bernie Sanders will probably have to wear a suit instead of rolled-up shirt sleeves. The other three spots will be filled by people most Americans have barely heard of: Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee.

Hillary is obviously the most experienced debater of the five, although I imagine Bernie Sanders will be able to hold his own. Can Martin O’Malley increase his visibility and voter recognition? Will Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee be able to explain why they are supposedly running for President? We’ll find out tonight.

We’ll have a live blog tonight beginning around 8PM, and I hope you can join us. It’s always more fun watching these events with friends.

So what are the pundits saying this morning?

From CNN: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders finally face off.

Though Clinton and Sanders have rarely mentioned each other’s names, they are clearly reacting to each other and their rival’s potential weaknesses. Sanders took aim at Clinton’s Wall Street record and Iraq vote over the weekend; she put him on the defensive on guns and his poor standing with minority voters.

Until now, they have each had good reason for avoiding full contact with the other. Clinton hasn’t wanted to elevate Sanders and his surprisingly strong poll numbers, while Sanders has wanted to maintain his untraditional, above-the-fray image.

On Tuesday, that calculus will change. And the distinctions they’ve subtly staked out on a range of issues are only likely to grow sharper.

dem debate 2

The focus of the article is mostly on ways that Bernie will be able to attack Hillary.

As he limbered up for their clash, Sanders threw down the gauntlet on the Iraq War — a thrust that Clinton has struggled to counter in the past — hinting that she has hawkish views that are out of step with the majority of Democratic voters.

His campaign issued a statement reminding voters that he, then a member of the House of Representatives, voted against authorizing the Iraq war in late 2002. At the time he argued that the conflict would destabilize the Middle East, kill large numbers of Americans and Iraqi civilians and hamper the war on terror against al Qaeda….

“Democrats are no more fond of the Iraq war now than they were back then. That could be a problem,” Peter Beinart, a foreign policy expert and CNN contributor, said Monday. He added that another Democratic candidate, former Virginia senator and Vietnam war veteran Jim Webb, who was also against the war, could double-team with Sanders to cause trouble for Clinton on the issue.

Sanders has also been staking out territory to Clinton’s left on Syria. The former secretary of state recently distanced herself from Obama’s much-criticized policy on the vicious civil war by calling for a no-fly zone to be set up to shield refugees.

Sanders issued a statement earlier this month pointing out that he opposes such an idea, warning that it could “get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never ending entanglement in that region.”

Fine, but Hillary’s Iraq vote was a very long time ago. Right now, she has laid out specific policy proposals to deal with America’s present-day domestic problems. Tonight, she’ll get a chance to explain her policies. Will Bernie have specifics about how he plans to achieve his ambitious policy goals?

CNN's emergency Joe Biden podium

CNN’s emergency Joe Biden podium

CNN is still fantasizing about getting Joe Biden on stage tonight. They supposedly have a podium ready for him if he shows up at the last minute. Last night Stephen Colbert poked fun at CNN’s “Biden fever.” Read about it and watch the clip at the Washington Post.

The New York Times’ Amy Chozick had an interesting article on Hillary as debater on Friday: In Debate, Hillary Clinton Will Display Skills Honed Over a Lifetime.

When Hillary Rodham’s high school government teacher in Park Ridge, Ill., insisted she play the role of Lyndon B. Johnson in a mock debate of the 1964 presidential election, she protested.

Ms. Rodham, one of the school’s standout debaters, was a proud Barry Goldwater supporter (she wore a hat with an “AuH2O” logo) and an active member of the Young Republicans. But the teacher, Jerry Baker, was intent on challenging her to argue the other side.

Always a dutiful student, she agreed, settling into the library to pore for hours over Johnson’s positions on civil rights, foreign policy and health care. She prepared with such ardor and delivered such a compelling case that she even convinced herself. By the time Ms. Rodham graduated from college, she was a Democrat.

Chozick notes that Hillary is a genuine policy wonk.

The first Democratic primary debate Tuesday on CNN will provide Mrs. Clinton with an opportunity to present her policies to voters — policies that have been largely overshadowed in the news media by developments over her use of private email at the State Department and by the rise of her insurgent opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

But more important, the debate — perhaps more than any late-night appearances or social media gambit — will provide Mrs. Clinton with the largest platform yet to make a connection with voters and show off her genuine passion for policy.

“It’s who she is at her core,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who was an aide to Mrs. Clinton from 1991 to 2008 and managed her last presidential campaign. “She’s an avid studier. She does her homework. She’s a massive preparer.”

The characteristics that viewers will see in Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday are in many ways the same ones that Mr. Baker spotted in his ambitious high school student a half-century ago.

Read much more at the link.


Here’s a hilarious headline from today’s Washington Post: Hillary Clinton’s declining image numbers inch upward. The article itself is quite revealing (emphasis added). The charts are from the article by Philip Bump.

This is the story of Hillary Clinton’s favorability that’s usually told: a steep and accelerating drop over time.

New polling data from The Washington Post and ABC News, though, paints a different picture. Since August, Clinton’s approval rating is . . . up slightly, to 47 percent from 45 percent. Her net favorability — the percentage of people who view her positively minus those who view her negatively — is up six points.

Clinton’s net favorability didn’t change among Democrats, we’ll note, while both Bernie Sanders and non-candidate-and-maybe-never-candidate Joe Biden saw improvements with Democrats. Clinton gained with independents — and Republicans, where she essentially had nowhere to go but up. Biden saw the biggest gain in net favorability with Republicans, though, gaining 12 points.

Clinton and Biden both saw improvements in their favorability and declines in their unfavorable numbers. For Sanders, the picture was different. Since August, both his favorable and unfavorable numbers increased by about the same amount, nine and eight points, respectively, among registered voters, even as he became much better known….

We’ll note that, for her recent improvement, Clinton is still the least positively viewed Democrat among the three that poll the highest. At least on net. She is also the most popular Democrat among Democrats, with 79 percent favorability to Biden’s 72 and Sanders’s 47. It’s just that she’s viewed far worse by Republicans.


Gee, I wonder why Biden’s favorability has improved so much among Republicans? /s

How have the candidates been preparing for tonight’s debate? Politico claims to have the lowdown on what Clinton and Sanders have been up to. In the article on Clinton, you have to look for informative tidbits scattered through the Hillary hate. Inside Hillary Clinton’s debate prep.

Her debate strategy is now expected to be two-pronged, according to campaign officials and people with knowledge of the debate preparations: She will attempt to embrace some of Sanders’ ideals while dismissing his solutions, and simultaneously try for a third time to introduce herself to the American public and explain her rationale for running.

She will arrive on the Las Vegas debate stage having poured over briefing books that underscore Sanders’ problematic gun control votes, like his lack of support for the Brady Act, which established mandatory checks on gun sales, and his vote for the 2005 law that gave protection to firearm manufacturers from lawsuits filed by victims and their families. (She also unveiled her own specific gun control policies Monday, just eight days ahead of the debate.)

She is also expected to hold her ground on any attacks that question her fight for progressive values, and hammer home the point that it’s not about great rhetoric or speeches, it’s about results and who can deliver them.

Clinton’s team has also discussed how to inject skepticism into the minds of viewers by questioning how her challenger plans to pay for trillions of dollars in new initiatives he has proposed (The Wall Street Journal tallied his proposals to cost $18 trillion over 10 years), sources said.

The article had little to say about Hillary’s actual debate prep methods, but there’s a more informative article at Glamour Magazine by Jackie Kucinich. It’s an interview with Neera Tanden, who helped prepare Hillary for the debates in 2008. It’s well worth reading. According to Tanden, Hillary likes to participate in mock debates and practice question and answer sessions. She is always very well versed on the issues.


Politico on Bernie Sanders’ “unorthodox debate prep”:

Hillary Clinton has had aides lined up to run her debate prep for months. A Washington super lawyer is mimicking Bernie Sanders, and her top policy staffer is acting as Martin O’Malley.

Sanders started studying for next Tuesday’s event not even a full week ago. And that’s because his two top aides sat him down in Burlington on Friday and asked whether he had a plan.

Sanders has briefing books, a couple of meetings with policy experts and an abiding aversion to the idea of acting out a debate before it happens. He knows the stakes are high, his staff says. But the candidate, whose New Hampshire polling and fundraising prowess have put a scare into Clinton, is uninterested in going through the motions of typical debate practice.

The Vemont senator’s debate preparations, in other words, don’t look a ton like debate preparations.

While CNN is billing the event as a showdown, Sanders’ team sees the first Democratic debate as a chance to introduce a fairly niche candidate to a national audience. So his team intends to let him do what he’s been doing. Far from preparing lines to deploy against Clinton — let alone O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb — Sanders plans to dish policy details, learned through a handful of briefings with experts brought in by his campaign.

Hmmmm….I’m just wondering if he’ll have any specifics about how to implement and pay for his proposed policies. It sounds like he’ll mostly be arguing that he’s the best because he opposed the Iraq War, the pipeline, and the TPP “from day one.” We’ll find out tonight, I guess.


I couldn’t find anything about Chafee’s or Webb’s preparations, but Huffington Post has a short piece on Martin O’Malley: Martin O’Malley’s Spin On Debate Prep: An Open Mic Night In Vegas.

O’Malley’s last best chance to become a factor in the race arrives on Tuesday night, when he is set to share a debate stage here with Clinton and Sanders. His goal will be a simple one: to introduce himself in a positive light — with a particularly well-timed one-liner or two as an added bonus — to the millions of Democratic voters who still have no idea who he is.

Many of them may end up liking what they see, as O’Malley’s relative youth and executive experience presents an immediate contrast to his better-known rivals.

As we discovered when we spent a day on the campaign trail with him in Sin City last week, O’Malley is a more compelling figure than his relatively anonymous profile would suggest.

Sure, he can still eat lunch at a strip mall Subway without any substantial risk that he might be recognized, as he did with our cameras rolling. But O’Malley is also able to boast of having complied a host of progressive accomplishments during his tenure in Annapolis on issues ranging from gun control to immigration reform and beyond.

Oh, and he can really sing, too, as he showed us during his guitar-picking open mic night performance on a rainy evening at a dimly lit bar in downtown Vegas.

Okay…..nothing too substantive there.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and don’t forget to come back tonight for the debate live blog!

43 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: The First Democratic Debate”

  1. janicen says:

    I expect Sanders to come out swinging at Clinton primarily because that’s what his rabid supporters expect. If all goes well, she will keep her cool and finesse around him leaving him to appear childish. I hope her debate preppers are throwing Bernie zingers at her so she’s had plenty of practice. At the same time, I hope she doesn’t appear too practiced. Okay let’s face it. Nothing will come of this. None of the Bernie supporters will switch to Clinton and vice versa and since she is a she and a Clinton, nothing Clinton says or does will spare her from intense criticism from the media. Final prediction: Media-1, Clinton-0, and the rest, well who really cares?

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    Good job,bb! You do have a way of breaking it all down for us.

    I like O’Malley. I like Bernie. But I love Hillary! I know she will do well, as she always does, so I have no fear of her “losing it”.

    According to Bill Clinton, Hillary is even smarter than he is which is saying a lot since he was once a Rhodes scholar and a guy recognized as another “policy wonk” who knew the issues inside and out.

    Can’t promise, but I will try to join you all here tonight if I can get my company to leave.

  3. Enheduanna says:

    The fact Bernie doesn’t feel the need to prepare makes me even more skeptical of him as a world leader.

    Does anyone know of any legislative achievements he has? Any bills he saw through and got passed?

  4. bostonboomer says:

    #HillaryMen on the new WaPo poll:

    Major New Poll Destroys Bogus “Hillary Unlikable” Meme (Dems Like Her More than Biden, Sanders)


  5. NW Luna says:

    Nice compilation and analysis of the talk about tonight’s debate, BB.

    I have a meeting tonight and a presentation to give there, so unfortunately will miss the live-blog and the debate — I look forward to reading all the SkyDancer commentary later. Always appreciate the wit and humor here!

  6. bostonboomer says:

    In case you missed it (I did), a great post by Charlie Pierce.

    Enough of Hillary’s Heart Is in Enough of the Right Places

    Recently, the great Alec MacGillis at ProPublica revealed the way a coal company was planning to use the bankruptcy laws to rob the pensions of retired miners. Almost as soon as this trickeration came to light, both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped on the issue with both feet, HRC saying in a statement that:

    “Patriot Coal is trying to take $18 million of the $22 million put aside for retired coal miners, wives and widows and use it to pay its lawyers instead…Ensuring healthcare and retirement security should be the first priority in a bankruptcy proceeding, not the last.” It is the second time in two weeks that Clinton has taken aim at a company. Last week, she criticized Turing Pharmaceuticals AG for raising the price of an anti-infective drug to $750 from $13.50 per pill, sending industry stocks tumbling.

    Say what you will, but this issue was far out of the spotlight of the campaign. (Hell, it only involves the survival of widows and people with black lung. It’s not like it’s a four-year old e-mail from Sid Blumenthal or something.) The public pressure was enough for lawmakers to put the kibosh on the scheme, which is an unmitigated good for all concerned. Neither Clinton had to step in on this situation. Both of them did, including the one running for president. Enough of her heart is in enough of the right places for me, thanks.

  7. William says:

    A few predictions:

    Hillary will have at least six accusatory, demanding questions asked to her in the debate. Sanders will have one, perhaps.

    No one will ask Sanders why he identifies himself as a Socialist, rather than a Democrat, and what is it about Socialism that he most admires. (I have nothing against Socialism as a theoretical political philosophy, but I am betting that 80% of viewers do not realize that Sanders is a Socialist, and would never vote for him if they did).

    Hillary will answer questions intelligently and in depth, just as she did in 2008’s debates against Obama.

    Hillary will try to be very careful to not directly attack Sanders. She will gently chide him about how we need solutions, not a recitation of problems, and impossible to enact agendas. Sanders will respond with heat. He will never concede one point, never moderate a position.

    After the debate, the headlines will all be about how impressive Sanders was, laying out his agenda; and about how Hillary did not effectively answer this or that accusatory question; and about how much more forceful Sanders was; and how the debate will help his campaign and hurt Hillary’s. Many people do not actually watch the debates, they just look at the media headlines, which inevitably will be colored and biased. The media wants a down to the wire race, and most of them don’t like Hilary. So there is the actuall debate, and then there is the media’s own spin, as the media now thinks that it is entitled to write its own version of reality.

    I hope that I am wrong about tnis last prediction; or alternatively, that many people actually watch the debate, and then totally ignore what is certain to be the unfair media spin on it.

  8. Sweet Sue says:

    My two cents:
    Lefties need to ask themselves why, out of all the candidates, the Corporatocracy and its lackeys in the press really want to crush Clinton so that she’s fallen and she can’t get up.
    Maybe those feeling the Bern need to suck it up and support the one that General Electric-for example-doesn’t want anywhere near the White House.
    Hillary gets things done: good things

  9. Fannie says:

    Here’s a song to get us going: Woman in the White House, by Sherly Crow

  10. Fannie says:

    Dak, if you can check this out and comment about Sanders on SS.


  11. Fannie says:

    Here’s an article that pisses me off – this guy says the debate is much like the NFL Super Bowl (never have seen one in Las Vegas), and how Bernie Sanders has already won. I hate when men use football games when it comes to Hillary (they done it in 2008), and here they are, the democrats who want Bernie Sanders, jumping on it. Given the current scandals, and the level of violence against women in football, I’ll tell you Sanders is going to lose. My money is on HILLARY.


  12. janicen says:

    Completely OT but it made me laugh out loud so I had to share this article about that insufferably annoying phrase, “We are pregnant”. Enjoy the laugh before the debates.


  13. Fannie says:

    I was cracking up listening to CNN go back to this song and Hillary, and cookies when she was the First Lady in White House. They just don’t link Tammy, so here she is:

  14. Fannie says:

    So hope you don’t mind, I’m going back in time, to some of the ladies who loved Hillary, and they are gone, but tonight, I heart them, and all the women who have fought in the last 150 years for a woman in the white, and some never had the right to cast their vote, here’s giving a little credit to those women:

    https://youtu.be/Acltji95qPM Keep fighting for us Hillary

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Thank you, Fannie, just lovely.
      I live outside of Cleveland and loved and admired Stephanie with all my heart.
      What a loss.

      • Fannie says:

        You are welcome Sue: Stephanie was the greatest, like Hillary she was strong. Like Harriet Tubman strong, fierce.

        All these ladies before us, those who created a moment when we knew that we had to help push/pull other women, and girls to make the journey, and that someday we will fulfill that journey, and I have all the confidence in the world, that she will do it tonight.

        Wherever all these ladies are, we honor their spirit, and we know they are watching over Hillary tonight, and saying: keep fighting for us Hillary.

        This night brings back a feeling “one that I guess I will never let go of”…………Hillary as President of United States of America.

  15. Fannie says:

    Here’s remember Stephanie Tubb Jones

  16. Fannie says:

    Shirley, who I adored in 1972:

  17. List of X says:

    I think the real winners of the debate will be O’Malley, Webb, and Chafee, since they finally get undivided national attention on the grown-up stage when they answer their questions, and they have nowhere to go in the polls but up. Sanders may also benefit, but probably not nearly as much, but he could just as easily lose if hasn’t been taking debate preparation seriously.

    • bostonboomer says:

      We’ll see. I doubt if they will get many questions, but if any of them goes up much in the polls, I’ll be surprised. Chafee could easily go down after voters see and hear him. Webb and Chafee have only been “Democrats” for a very short time. I have no idea why either of them is running.

  18. List of X says:

    Speaking of Hillary’s vote on Iraq (and on Patriot Act) – I am glad she now realizes it was a mistake, but I would hope a leader should try to realize that a certain option is a mistake while making a decision, and not years later.
    And as for it being long ago – it was, and maybe today’s Hillar would have decided differently back then, but if we’re going to excuse her “long ago” votes, we should extend the same courtesy to all other candidates and ignore their records prior to the same date, including Bernie’s pro-gun votes.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t think anyone is ignoring Hillary’s record on anything. In fact the media busily creates “records” that don’t exist. I don’t think you need to worry about Hillary getting off easy on anything.

      • List of X says:

        I don’t think we have to worry about her getting a pass on anything from the media.
        But it seemed like with your “very long time ago” comment you were giving her a pass on her vote on Iraq war, which (the war) was arguably the worst mistake the country made in this century.

  19. Fannie says:

    X – Hillary didn’t just say it was a mistake about her vote for the war. It wasn’t NOW. However, Sanders is just NOW reconsidering his pro gun votes!

    • bostonboomer says:

      She said it more than eight years ago. Bernie is still arguing for only limited gun control. He doesn’t believe gun dealers should be held accountable, for one example.

      • Fannie says:

        Thanks BB, I might add that besides Webb and Chafee just tuning into being democrats, let we forget, it’s only been a little while that Bernie has equally declared he was a democrat socialist.

        Bye the bye, my eyes where rolling seeing Erin Barnett on CNN……..she asked if Hillary is genuine person. Maybe she might want to ask the same question of Tammy Duckworth. I mean to say, what the hell does it take to be human?