Category Archives: Democratic Debates

Who Won Last Night on the Road to #DNCPHL2016?

Before we get into my analysis – what’s you’re take?

Who won last night's debate in Miami?

Off the bat, I thought the biggest loser was Univision. While the young man singing the Star Spangled Banner, their production values flagged after that. The microphones didn’t seem to work well, and the juxtaposition of both English and Spanish made things difficult to understand. It seemed distracting. The interviewers kept interrupting that time was up, which brings up an overall question I have about debates: who’s voice is most important in a debate? If you’ve got two candidates on the stage legitimately engaging in discourse on a topic, do we really want the questioners to move on? I’m not talking about a free-for-all (Little Marco and Big Donald you know who you are) but a legitimate back and forth – I always thought that’s what debates were supposed to be. The moderators do get kudos for pressing for answers on tough questions, and indicating that sometimes their questions were not directly answered, but…. My other overall debate question is that in this time of technology, if moderators at ALL the debates want to enforce time limits, why don’t they just turn off the candidates’ microphones. Okay, I’m done now. onto substance. 

It was obvious that gloves were off in this session. While the candidates still showed basic respect for one another as people, they were all over one another in terms of substance. Sometimes, though, it was off base. Hillary Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders because the Koch brothers put out an ad supporting his stance on the Import-Export Bank. There is not one person who can spell “Koch” who believes that Bernie Sanders is in their pocket. She also cherry picked little pieces of major legislation to knock Sanders’ vote. Most legislation, barring naming post offices in the House, is huge. I remember pouring through the 3,000+ page ACA legislation. There are often good things and bad things in the same bill, and it’s necessary for Senators and Congressmen/women to make an overall judgement on what is best for their constituents even if they must swallow a paragraph they don’t like. It was very disingenuous of her.

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Republican Winnowing; Democratic Solidifying

We are coming up on the November debates — the Republicans on Fox Business Channel, the Democrats on CBS.  The sheer size of the Republican field (and the impossibility of being fair to all of the candidates) continues to drive everybody mad.  Arbitrary criteria lead to candidates being shuffled to the “JV” debate or excluded all together; and the shortness of time leads to candidates being upset about not getting a chance to make their points.  On the other hand, with only five candidates originally and three candidates left now, the time issues are not that pressing on the Democratic side.

For the upcoming Republican debates, three candidates have been excluded from the JV debates (Lindsay Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore).  Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum will take part in the JV debate.  The main event will feature Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Rand Paul.

The number of Republicans running creates a potential paradox in the normal money primary.  At this point in the campaign, trailing candidates routinely find themselves in a catch-22 — they need more funds to become competitive but they need to become competitive to get more funds.  However, putting aside Carson and Trump (as most of the money folks seem to think that both will collapse), several of the candidates can point to a poll showing them within the margin of error of third place in at least one early state.  However, it is highly unlikely that 15 candidates will make it to Iowa.  I would not be surprised if Senator Graham decides that with Rand Paul not being a serious contender that he no longer is needed to assure that the Republican field takes an aggressive stand on foreign policy.  If Gilmore and Pataki were actually running expensive campaigns, I would not be surprised for them to call it a day soon.  Since they aren’t, they might just stick around.  Santorum, Huckabee, and Jindal are all competing for the same slot — currently occupied by Ben Carson.  At some point, the lack of funds will force one or all of them to drop out.  The November JV debate may be the last chance for one of these three to become the alternative to Carson.

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What to Look for in Tonight’s Democratic Debate

Unlike the previous three-ring circuses put on by the Republicans, tonight’s debate will only have five candidates.  More importantly, with so few candidates, there is little need for the candidates to go after each other at this point of the race.  Rather, what each candidate needs to accomplish in this debate has very little to do with the other candidates.  With that said, here is my take on what the candidate’s goals need to be heading into the debate.

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Pre-Labor Day Reflection: The State of the Presidential Race — Democratic Primary

Presidential primary races follow a somewhat predictable path.  We are nearing the end of the first stage of the race for both parties — the stage in which candidates enter the race or decide not to enter the race (or leave the race when their initial efforts as a candidate prove underwhelming).   Time is starting to run out for candidates to enter the race as the last time a candidate won their party’s nomination while skipping the early primaries is 1968.

Right now the field can be split into three tiers.  In tier one, there is Secretary Clinton.  Even in the most unfavorable polls, she is getting near 50% of the vote nationally (roughly the same numbers that she got in 2008).  As long as Secretary Clinton is getting near 50%, it will be very difficult for another candidate to win the nomination given the Democratic proportionality rules.

In the second tier, you have Senator Sanders and Vice-President Biden.  Both are polling well enough that they will get some delegates.  Senator Sanders is more the anti-Clinton candidate and appeals to those who think that the party needs to run a more liberal candidate.  Vice-President Biden is more the not Clinton candidate, appealing to those who think that Secretary Clinton has too many vulnerabilities to win the general election.  Of course, Vice-President Biden has not yet entered the race.  If he decides not to run, some significant portion of those currently supporting him will decide to hold their noses and support Secretary Clinton.  While it is too early to project individual states, Senator Sanders appears to be competitive in Iowa and New Hampshire.  His problem is that both states are likely to be narrow wins.  While there are some other early states that Senator Sanders might narrowly win (although he may comfortably win Vermont on March 1), Secretary Clinton is favored to win other states by large margins.  Vice-President Biden does not currently have any early states that appear to be places where he can win.  Slightly over half (2,050 out of 3,760) of the pledged delegates come from states that hold their first tier (either a primary or local caucuses) by March 15.  While delegate counts from the caucus states are tentative, if Secretary Clinton is at or over 1,000 delegates, and neither of the other two candidates is over 800 delegates, there will be pressure for Senator Sanders and Vice-President Biden to suspend their campaigns.

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The Democratic Debates

The schedule has been set by the DNC for most of the presidential debates.  The participants at this writing will be Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb.  The first four are:

  • 13 October in Nevada and televised on CNN.
  • 14 November in Des Moines, Iowa, with CBS, the Des Moines Register and local television station KCCI as media partners.
  • 19 December in Manchester, New Hampshire, with ABC and WMUR as media partners.
  • 7 January 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina, co-sponsored by NBC and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

The other two are amorphously planned: maybe February, maybe March – one in Miami as a cooperative effort with Univision and the Washington Post, and one in Wisconsin with PBS as a media partner.

Do you think it is reasonable to hold some of the debates until after the primaries and caucuses have started? Some people, including Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, have publicly called for an earlier schedule with more debates.  The feeling is that knowing more about the candidates will enable people to make better choices, not just in terms of primary/caucus voting, but also with respect to political contributions. On the other hand, some feel that it’s better to spread out the schedule as many voters aren’t that interested too far in advance of their primary/caucus.

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