One Less Challenger For Hillary Clinton, But Two Liberals Continue To Oppose Her

Chafee Drop Out

The number of challengers to Hillary Clinton has fallen even further. After Jim Webb left the race earlier this week, and Joe Biden announced he is not running, Lincoln Chafee has also dropped out. While he never had a chance, it is a shame that he was not able to do more with his campaign themes of prosperity through peace and support for ethics in government, considering how they respond to two of Hillary Clinton’s biggest faults. (Chafee’s support for conversion to the metric system never had a chance in presidential politics.)

The rapid decrease in the number of candidates running has led to calls for Lawrence Lessig to be included in the debates. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has acted to freeze him out, apparently not happy with his reform message, which runs counter to the politics of Schultz and her preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton. (Should I have said three in the title of the post?)

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley remain in the race against front runner Hillary Clinton. Clinton has had a good week politically. She did great at the Benghazi hearings. However, being more sane than a bunch of idiot Republican Congressmen is not sufficient to make someone a good choice to be president. Nor does being a polished debater, while wrong on the issues.

While the attacks re Benghazi are nonsense, Clinton’s hawkish positions on Libya, Syria and Iraq, along with her conservative views on economics and social/cultural issues, continue to make her an unacceptable choice. Hopefully the Benghazi witch hunt comes to an end so we can concentrate on the real reasons Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president, both ethically and on the issues.

It is going to be difficult to keep the Democrats from nominating a Republican-lite candidate such as Hillary Clinton, but upsets have happened many times in past nomination battles, including to Hillary Clinton eight years ago. As I have noted multiple times, the national polls are not at all predictive in a nomination battle. A news report from December 2007 described how Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Joe Biden Announces He Is Not Running, While Continuing To Criticize Hillary Clinton And Having Praised Bernie Sanders

Joe Biden has announced he will not run for president, saying he no longer has the time to mount a campaign, and then proceeded to give what sounded like his campaign speech. I wonder if he wrote this speech before deciding, figuring he could use most of it regardless of his decision.

It is notable that he continued to take a few jabs at Hillary Clinton, as he has in recent days. The New York Times reports:

Without mentioning her by name, Mr. Biden criticized Mrs. Clinton’s assertion in last week’s Democratic debate that the Republicans are her enemies. “They are our opposition; they’re not our enemies,” he said, repeating a point he has made several times in the last 48 hours. “And for the sake of the country, we have to work together.”

Reading from a prepared text flashed on flat screens in the Rose Garden, Mr. Biden argued against the sort of hawkish interventionism Mrs. Clinton has championed in the Middle East and elsewhere. “The argument that we just have to do something when bad people do bad things isn’t good enough,” he said. “It’s not a good enough reason for American intervention and to put our sons’ and daughters’ lives on the line, put them at risk.”

Mr. Biden seemed to chide Mrs. Clinton for distancing herself from Mr. Obama lately, as she has done on trade, Syria, Arctic drilling and other issues. “Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record,” he said.

While Biden declined to run in the primaries, it was clear he would like to have run if the situation were different, and he would like to be president. By criticizing Clinton and speaking like a candidate, Biden made it clear that if Clinton’s campaign should implode, which remains quite possible, he is ready to serve. With multiple investigations in progress regarding Clinton’s unethical behavior as Secretary of State, it is certainly a possibility that Democrats will wake up before the convention and realize how dangerous it could be running with her heading the ticket in the general election. If Sanders is unable to defeat her, it is easy to see the math play out where the Sanders delegates and the super delegates could outnumber committed Clinton delegates and create an open convention. If the news were bad enough, it is even conceivable that some of Clinton’s delegates would rethink their support.

Unfortunately the Democrats should probably change their symbol to the ostrich instead of the donkey as, other than for Sanders (until recently an independent), they seem oblivious to the trouble the party is in nation-wide. They might also take a few lessons from Justin Trudeau, as John Nichols discussed in The Nation.

Most likely Biden continued to express his reservations about Clinton in order to influence her behavior and to keep himself in a position to be the nominee if conditions change. There is another thought which also comes to mind. Is it possible that Biden does prefer Sanders? Biden would clearly support Sanders over Clinton in terms of ethical character of the candidate, but even the types of issues which Biden discussed sounded far more like Sanders than Clinton. (There are also certainly positions which Biden has taken in the past which are quite different, but today does not seem the day to discuss the negatives in Biden’s record.) While Biden has repeatedly criticized Clinton in recent weeks, he has also praised Bernie Sanders, saying, “he’s doing a helluva job.”

Seeing Biden continue to criticize Clinton today raises the question of whether he will continue to knock Clinton, hoping to increase the chances of her being forced from the race. Plus if he does prefer Sanders, would he ever openly support him over Clinton?

I don’t think it is very likely Biden would openly endorse Sanders, but if he did it would be a move comparable to when Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. Both Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy endorsed Obama in 2008, citing the same types of faults we continue to see in Hillary Clinton. Such a move from Biden, this time endorsing Sanders, would provide a tremendous boost to Sanders’ campaign.

For now, the same media which has downplayed Sanders prospects from the start will promote the idea that Clinton is the inevitable winner. We must keep in mind that such media predictions have frequently been wrong in the past. While there is no doubt Clinton is the front runner, her nomination cannot be said to be inevitable months before a single vote has been cast. As I noted earlier in the week, the polls are not at all predictive in a nomination battle.This polling report from December 2007 described how Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

This race is far from over. While the media is dwelling on the Benghazi hearings this week, and this could have a bearing at how she is perceived, the real scandals which will harm Clinton in an election campaign are not based upon this Republican witch hunt, and are not going to go away. Bernie Sanders could pull an upset, like Obama in 2008 or Kerry in 2004, or the party might yet still call on Joe Biden.

Biden Drop Out

Webb Dropping Out And Considering Futile Independent Bid

Jim Webb has dropped out of the race, leaving the question open as to whether he will run as an independent. He acknowledged that his views “on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party.” As to whether he will continue to think of himself as a Democrat, he said, “We’ll think about that.”

Webb might see himself as having a chance as an independent, being ideologically between the Democrats and the far right wing Republican candidates, but the system makes it quite difficult for an independent to compete. If Webb thought he did not receive enough attention in last week’s Democratic debate, he will likely receive even less as an independent. The Democrats and Republicans will continue to shut independent candidates out of general election debates, despite fights from the Libertarian and Green parties.

Webb will also have to raise far more money than he has been able to raise so far, having new expenses such as achieving ballot access.Politco described how poor his fund raising has been:

Webb struggled to raise cash against his Democratic opponents and has reported taking in just under $697,000 in his recent filing statement with less than $317,000 on hand — less than Harvard law professor Larry Lessig, who did not qualify for last week’s debate in Las Vegas, an event where Webb felt he did not get enough time to speak. In the same period, Hillary Clinton raised nearly $30 million with $25.7 million on hand.

Sanders raised a comparable amount of money as Clinton in the last quarter, but was able to keep more of this as he did not spend money on lavish fund raisers. Only Lincoln Chafee has raised less.

If Webb is to have any impact as an independent candidate, most likely it would be to affect the outcome in close states. The best case scenario is that, if Virginia is close, he takes more support from the Republican candidate and enables the Democrats to win the state.

It remains unknown whether the number of Democratic candidates will remain the same after this week, with Joe Biden appearing to be planning to announce his candidacy but no official word as to this. The Washington Post inadvertently put out a story  stating that Biden was running and had to retract it.

Update: The answer to this came on Wednesday with Joe Biden announcing he is not running. More on this later.

Bernie Sanders Again Shows That The Pundits Are Wrong–Improving In The Polls After First Debate

CNN Debate Sanders Clinton

The pundits who have been downplaying Bernie Sanders’ campaign form the start declared that Hillary Clinton was the winner of the first Democratic debate, despite the focus groups who considered Sanders to be the winner. As usually occurs, polls showed that after the fact the majority went with the pundits as to the winner (with many probably not having seen the debate). However the pundits did not predict what has actually happened. Voters are telling pollsters that Clinton won, but an increasing number want Sanders to win the nomination.

CNN reports Hillary Clinton wins debate, but Bernie Sanders rises:

With the first Democratic debate in the books, a new CNN/ORC poll finds most who watched think Hillary Clinton had the best performance of the night, but her strong showing hasn’t boosted her standing in the race for the party’s nomination…

Compared with pre-debate polling, Sanders’ support is up five points since mid-September, but no other candidate showed significant change.

Gravis Marketing similarly found that a majority thought Clinton won the debate, but also that Sanders pulled within eight points of Clinton nationally–overall a favorable outcome for Sanders. Clinton is welcome to accumulate debate points if Sanders is picking up voters.

One item of concern was that the Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll did show Clinton pulling even with Sanders in New Hampshire, but now the Franklin Pierce-Herald poll shows Sanders maintaining his lead:

Sanders holds a 38-30 percent lead over Clinton in the first-in-the-nation primary state, while Biden draws 19 percent in the poll of 403 likely Democratic primary voters conducted immediately after last week’s debate.

Sanders’ 8-point lead is essentially unchanged from the 44-37 percent advantage the Vermont senator held in a stunning Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August — the first to show the former Secretary of State behind in New Hampshire.

The new poll also has Sanders holding an even bigger 10-point lead over Clinton if Biden isn’t in the presidential field.

The results suggest Clinton will have a tough time overcoming the deficit, as more than half of notoriously finicky Granite State voters now say they have made up their minds.

Seven in 10 Sanders supporters say they’ve made a “firm choice” to vote for him, a 26 percent increase from the last Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August. And 62 percent of Clinton backers now report they’re firmly in her column, compared to just 40 percent in August.

This does show that the pundits who claimed that Clinton was once again unbeatable after the first debate got it wrong. Beyond that, I wouldn’t believe any predictions that the polls today will accurately predict what will happen when people turn out to vote. If you need an example of that, check out this report  from December 2007 describing how Clinton has a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Polls in a primary battle mean very little, and a single debate will not decide the nomination. Nothing is even close to getting settled until people start to vote, and ignore those pundits who tell you otherwise. A lead in the national polls is especially meaningless as these often change dramatically afte the results of the first contests are known. Strong performances by Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire can totally redefine the race.

The pundits also said after the debate that Clinton’s performance meant that Joe Biden was not going to enter the race. That argument never made much sense. Biden had said his decision was based upon personal matters. Even if he was watching the debate to decide, a strong debate performance by Hillary Clinton would not suddenly erase Clinton’s major flaws and weaknesses. If she could beat the other candidates in the debate, that might even be seen by Biden as meaning there is room in the race for him to challenge her.

Despite all the predicti0ns from pundits that the debate would keep Joe Biden out, the headlines on Monday were full of predictions that Biden might be announcing that he is running imminently. Whether or not he runs, the debate did not settle the matter.

The pundits are probably right about one thing–Jim Webb has no chance at winning the Democratic nomination. Now there is speculation that he might be planning to run as an independent. If he does, I’m not sure if he will take more votes from Democrats or Republicans, and if he can pick up enough votes to matter. Maybe he has a shot at receiving some votes, however few, if he is seen as a rational Republican, in contrast to those who are currently running.

The Democratic Debate: Clinton Wins On Style And Gets Support Of Pundits; Sanders Wins On The Issues And Wins The Focus Groups

CNN Democratic Debate

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each entered the first Democratic debate with different goals, and both accomplished them. Clinton was more polished, with both more debating experience, and having prepared in a conventional manner. She was also better at evading questions she did not want to answer. She won the chattering class. The same journalists who have underestimated Sanders from the start, and have not taken his campaign seriously, say that Clinton won.

Sanders won on the issues, and did what he intended to enhance his campaign. Sanders won the focus groups. He gained 35,163 followers on Twitter, compared to 13,252 for Clinton. Although unscientific and of questionable meaning, he won the online polls by large margins. Alternet summarized:

Bernie Sanders by all objective measures won the debate. Hands down. I don’t say this as a personal analysis of the debate – the very idea of “winning” a debate is silly to me. I say this because based on the only objective metrics we have, online polls and focus groups, he did win.  And it’s not even close.

Sanders won the CNN focus group, the Fusion focus group, and the Fox News focus group – in the latter, he even converted several Hillary supporters. He won the Slate online poll, the CNN/Time online poll, 9News ColoradoThe Street online poll, Fox5 poll, the conservative Drudge online poll and the liberal Daily Kos online poll. There wasn’t, to this writer’s knowledge, a poll he didn’t win by at least an 18 point margin.  But you wouldn’t know this from reading the establishment press. The New York Times, The New Yorker, CNN, Politico, Slate, New York Magazine, and Vox all of which unanimously say Hillary Clinton cleaned house.

Sanders went into the debate with an unconventional preparation as I discussed last week. Sanders did not go into the debate memorizing zingers or planning to try to take down Hillary Clinton. He used the debate to get access to potential voters who were not aware of him, and succeeded. This is also seen in the number of Google searches for him. To some degree this could be the novelty factor, from people who already knew about Clinton but not Sanders, but the large number of people expressing interest is bound to translate into some new supporters.

While Clinton did receive far more favorable reviews from the mainstream media, there are exceptions. Philip Bump at The Washington Post did point out how Sanders was the candidate breaking through. The Chicago Tribune considered Sanders to be the winner. Russell Berman at The Atlantic  argued that Sanders might receive a bigger bounce from the debate than Clinton. As might be expected, many blogs on the left also felt that Sanders won the debate.

With his lack of conventional debate preparation, there were areas in which Sanders could have explained himself better, along with other points where Sanders clearly won on the issues.  He should have been  prepared for a question based upon the recent Meet the Press interview. I recently discussed why the Democratic Socialist label is not hurting Bernie Sanders. Despite the labels he prefers, Sanders seeks to reform capitalism, not eliminate it. It is notable that he did point out his support for small and medium sized business:

SANDERS: I think everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course, we have to support small and medium-sized businesses.

But you can have all of the growth that you want and it doesn’t mean anything if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. So what we need to do is support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake…

Sanders could have also done a better job on guns, but he did note his D- lifetime rating from the NRA (with Sanders also receiving an F at  least once).

Let’s begin, Anderson, by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting rating (ph) from the NRA. Let’s also understand that back in 1988 when I first ran for the United States Congress, way back then, I told the gun owners of the state of Vermont and I told the people of the state of Vermont, a state which has virtually no gun control, that I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly avoided instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole. And I think we’ve got to move aggressively at the federal level in dealing with the straw man purchasers.

Also I believe, and I’ve fought for, to understand that there are thousands of people in this country today who are suicidal, who are homicidal, but can’t get the healthcare that they need, the mental healthcare, because they don’t have insurance or they’re too poor. I believe that everybody in this country who has a mental crisis has got to get mental health counseling immediately

While some Democrats will attack his record, I believe that Sanders’ approach of considering both the need for gun control and the rights of hunters to be a stronger position for a general election. Sanders would also be in a stronger position than Clinton to bring both sides to the table to work on sensible gun legislation.

Sanders was more prepared for the questions about Black Lives Matter. Note that Sanders repeated the phrase, but Clinton did not. Sanders wins a point over Clinton in his support for expanding Social Security. In contrast to the Republicans, it was good to see a political party which faced reality on climate change, but there are also aspects of Clinton’s environmental record which could have been challenged.

Sanders was right in arguing that war should only be considered as a last resort. Clinton was unable to defend her mistakes on Libya or Syria, but her opponents could also have done a better job of criticizing her on these. Perhaps it would have been different if Joe Biden was there, considering how he spent four years opposing Clinton’s hawkish views. Sanders was also far better than Clinton when discussing civil liberties, including his opposition to NSA surveillance, and marijuana laws, including opposition to the drug war. Despite calling himself a Democratic Socialist, in many ways Sanders is the most libertarian candidate running from either party (at least for us left-libertarians who concentrate on civil liberties as opposed to greater freedom for giant corporations).

Clinton was right in saying that the economy does better when a Democrat is in office. It was clear that any of the participants in last night’s debate would have been better than the Republicans running. She was knocked for her flip-flopping on the issues. Factcheck.org exposed her for trying to throw her previous statements on TPP down the memory hole:

Clinton revised her earlier position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries, claiming that she merely said she “hoped” it would be a “gold standard.” But her earlier support was more unequivocal.

The topic arose when debate moderator Anderson Cooper asked Clinton if some of her recent position changes were tied to political expediency, and he specifically referenced Clinton’s recent decision to oppose the TPP.

“You supported his trade deal dozens of times. You even called it the ‘gold standard.’ Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it,” Cooper said. “Will you say anything to get elected?”

Clinton said that over the course of her career, her values and principles have remained consistent, though some positions have evolved as she “absorb[s] new information.”

“You know, take the trade deal,” Clinton said. “I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans. And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, ‘this will help raise your wages.’ And I concluded I could not.”

But Clinton didn’t add the “hoped it would be” qualifier when she made the initial comment about the TPP in 2012.

“This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field,” Clinton remarked in Adelaide, Australia, on Nov. 15, 2012. “And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.”

Two days later, in Singapore, Clinton again sang the praises of the TPP.

“The so-called TPP will lower barriers, raise standards, and drive long-term growth across the region,” Clinton said. “It will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and establish strong protections for workers and the environment. Better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions, including for women, migrant workers and others too often in the past excluded from the formal economy will help build Asia’s middle class and rebalance the global economy.”

The same article also noted that Clinton has repeated some of the same lies she told in the past about the email scandal which have been debunked in the past by fact checkers,

When asked about her unusual email arrangement as secretary of state, Clinton said, “What I did was allowed by the State Department.” That’s not the full story.

Clinton conducted government business exclusively using a personal email account (hdr22@clintonemail.com), and those emails were stored on a private server.

As we have written before, the State Department and the Clinton campaign have cited a National Archives and Records Administration rule issued in 2009 that said federal agencies that allow the use of personal emails must preserve them “in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” So personal emails were allowed.

But federal rules also required Clinton to preserve her work emails “at the end of the Secretary’s tenure or sooner if necessary.” She did not turn over copies of her emails to the State Department until Dec. 5, 2014 — nearly two years after she left office on Feb. 1, 2013.

Also, whether the State Department allowed it or not, Clinton’s decision “to conduct all e-mail correspondence through a private e-mail network, using a non-.gov address, is inconsistent with long-established policies and practices under the Federal Records Act and NARA regulations governing all federal agencies,” according to congressional testimony of Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives, who is now a lawyer at Drinker Biddle.

Sanders’ biggest error was to present statistics for underemployment when making statements about unemployment, and got the ranking of the United States in income inequality wrong.

Sanders did provide an unexpected lifeline to Clinton when the email scandal came up, objecting to discussing this instead of the issues. It makes sense that he would not want to include this in his campaign, especially at a Democratic debate in front of partisan Democrats invited by the DNC. Besides, if Sanders had his way, he would talk about nothing other than income inequality and related economic matters throughout the debate, and the campaign. It is also unnecessary for Sanders to discuss this when there are still around thirty-six FOIA suits in progress along with the Justice Department investigation. If this was a debate in the general election, the Republicans could have raised a lot of valid points against Clinton, and this time would not have had to make things up as with Benghazi. As The Washington Post noted, the email scandal is not a problem which is going away. Sanders can sit back and let it all play out.

While both Clinton and Sanders could claim victories in this debate, the night did not go as well for the other candidates. I thought Martin O’Malley often did a fine job, including setting Clinton straight on economic policy at one point, but so far there are no signs he is receiving credit for this.  He has shown he could make a fine cabinet member, but it is hard to see him becoming a viable candidate for the nomination this year.

I give Lincoln Chafee credit for taking on Clinton over both her support for the Iraq war and over ethics. While he has no chance at becoming president, probably not now or ever, I do hope he remains around in politics, and perhaps in the next administration, to provide a conscience. Unfortunately he will be most remembered for being unprepared for his first vote as a Senator. Jim Webb blew any chance of using this debate to improve his campaign, and probably will only be remembered for having said he killed somebody.

Donald Trump also tried to get in on the action by live-blogging the debate, but he seemed totally over his head when issues came up. Once again, the Democrats showed they were far superior to the Republican candidates.

 

New Clue That Biden Might Run–And That DNC Is Keeping Lessig Out

Biden Run CNN

Ryan Lizza wrote that A New Clue Suggests Biden May Run:

Joe Biden has taken another step toward entering the Presidential race.

Representatives of the Vice-President held a meeting this week with Democratic National Committee staffers. They briefed Biden’s aides on arcane but crucial rules that the Vice-President would need to understand if he decides to run, according to a D.N.C. official.

It was the most significant sign the source had seen to indicate Biden’s intentions. “I think it means he’s running,” the source said.

The D.N.C. has held similar meetings for representatives from the five declared Democratic candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee. The D.N.C. offered the meeting to Biden earlier this year, and the party committee was scheduled to brief his aides back in June, but that meeting was cancelled.

I’m not so sure that this is “the most significant sign” to indicate that Biden is thinking of running. Is this really more significant than meetings with fund raisers or looking into starting the framework of a campaign? Biden is hardly new to politics, and I also wonder whether this is isn’t actually information which his staffers hadn’t already researched. Maybe this is a more significant signs than all the other signs that he is strongly considering running, or maybe it is one more example of how Biden is doing research to prepare for a decision as to whether to run.

What I find interesting here is the list. Notice one name is missing. Maybe it was an oversight by the writer, but this suggests that Lawrence Lessig was left out. That would be consistent with Lessig’s complaints that the DNC is trying to keep pollsters from including him, which would result in excluding him from the debates.

***

In related news, I recently posted a copy of the ad prepared by the Draft Biden group with plans to purchase spots for it nationally. The ad makes an emotional appeal, using Biden’s family. Biden has requested that the ad not be used:

“The vice president appreciates that they are trying to help,” the person close to the vice president said. “But he has seen the ad and thinks the ad treads on sacred ground and hopes they don’t run it.”

The vice president’s office declined to comment.

In a statement, the super PAC said it would “honor his wishes” and pull the ad.

Republicans In Political Chaos, Clinton “Covering Up Some Shaddy Shit”, And Sanders’ Unconventional Debate Preparation

McCarthy Drop Out

Both political parties are facing a fight against the party establishment in their presidential campaigns, with the Republican battle extending to Congress. Unfortunately the insurgents on the Republican side are the extremists who, while right in finding fault in the establishment, seek to paralyze the political system rather than improve it. Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race for Speaker, and at this point it is difficult to predict how the Republicans will get out of this mess. It is even possible that Boehner will be around a lot longer than he intended.

It is likley that anybody in the Republican leadership would fail to receive enough Tea Party support to become Speaker, but McCarthy sure did not do himself any favors with his comment on the Benghazi hearings in late September. His statement will probably be quoted quite frequently by Hillary Clinton, who has a strong case in criticizing that witch hunt.

Unfortunately for Clinton, she is also guilty herself of quite a bit of unethical and foolish behavior, along with violation of multiple government regulations. There is another quote mentioned in The Hill which Clinton will hope does not get repeated very often (emphasis mine):

Perhaps Clinton has learned the value of distraction from Donald Trump; fresh off her comedy skit on “Saturday Night Live” she mailed copies of her book “Hard Choices” to the entire GOP presidential field with a cheeky note about them starting a book club together. She also spoofed McCarthy’s blunder in an online video and her surrogates continue to rage about it on Twitter.

But a Senate investigation has now revealed a second company that backed up Clinton’s emails, and it has turned over its data to the FBI investigation into whether she mishandled classified information. Documents also show the first company is now concerned it may have deleted emails following the initial request the State Department made for her work records. One employee of Platte River Networks, which turned the server over to the FBI in August, wrote to another of concern that “this whole thing is really covering up some shaddy [sic] shit,” according to documents.

Next week’s debate has the potential to further shake up the Democratic race. The trend so far has been that the more people see of Bernie Sanders, the more they like him, and the opposite for Hillary Clinton. Politico reports on Sanders’ unorthodox debate preparation:

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 Vermont 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.

He won’t attack Clinton personally but will instead identify where their positions differ — on foreign policy, for example — and try to leave an impression with viewers of the substantive differences between the party’s two front-runners.

“You’re looking at a candidate who has run in many, many elections who has never run a negative political ad in my life — and hopes never to have to run one. You’re looking at a candidate who does not go about attacking personally, I just don’t do that,” Sanders said Wednesday.

He’s working to be prepared to stand his ground if Clinton — or O’Malley — comes after him. His team contends, though, that those defenses won’t come through as pre-written one-liners.

“The one thing Bernie’s not going to do is be a politician that delivers canned soundbites. That would be a disaster,” said Tad Devine, the campaign’s chief strategist, who met with Sanders and campaign manager Jeff Weaver last week to kick off the debate planning. “And one of the reasons to not do formal debate prep sessions is it gets rehearsed.”

This is quite a contrast from how Joe Biden has decided that, even should he announce that he is running, he does not plan to participate in the debate because of not having time to prepare his “canned soundbites.”

Unlike Clinton, Sanders has been saying the same things throughout his career, and perhaps this has served as sufficient debate preparation. I just hope that he is not making a mistake. I think back to occasions such as Obama’s first debate in 2008 where I suspect he felt over-confident as he knew the material, which is not the same as being prepared for a televised debate. Plus sound bites cannot be ignored, as these are what appear in subsequent newscasts where impressions of the debate by the public are often different from those who watch the entire debate. Regardless of how Sanders prepares, what I hope does come out of the debate is how he has been right, and Clinton wrong, on so many of the key issues over the past decades.

Sanders Gets First Congressional Endorsement And Continues To Show He Makes A Strong General Election Candidate

Sanders Endorsement

When Hillary Clinton was thought to be the inevitable Democratic nominee, she received a tremendous number of endorsements from office holders. Bernie Sanders is receiving his first endorsement from a member of Congress, Raul Grijalva of Arizona.

As an outsider, Sanders is not expected to match Clinton in terms of insider endorsements, and this year his outsider status is one of the reasons for his popularity.

While I would not expect Democratic insiders to suddenly embrace Sanders, more might reconsider supporting Clinton as polls continue to come in showing that she does not do as well as Sanders in attracting independents and voters in the swing states. The most recent example I have discussed was a poll from Iowa and New Hampshire with head to head comparisons to Republican candidates.

New Quinnipiac University polls from Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania show that front runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continue to have difficulties in these swing states. Both have high unfavorability rating and Clinton continues to poll poorly against some of the Republican candidates. This and other polls show Sanders typically doing as well as Clinton or better in the battle ground states despite being far less well known. Both Biden and Sanders have been on upward trajectory while Clinton’s support has been declining. While Clinton might continue to have enough support among hard core Democratic voters to win the nomination, her limited support among others makes her a very risky general election candidate for Democrats.

Clinton’s overall support is likely to continue to drop as the scandals surrounding her progress. Today a second IT firm which had performed cloud backups of Clinton’s email has agreed to provide data to the the FBI. Even without the scandals, Clinton is a poor candidate. The trend has been clear that those who see more of Bernie Sanders tend to support him, while Clinton’s support declines as she campaigns.

It is still not known if Joe Biden will enter the race, and if he does enter whether this will result in an increase in support or if he will be seen less sympathetically when a political candidate. The Draft Joe Biden group is releasing this ad nationally, urging Biden to run:

 

How Negative Will Clinton Go Against Sanders and Biden?

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Considering how dirty her 2008 campaign was against Obama, there has been speculation as to how negative Hillary Clinton will get against Bernie Sanders, and against Joe Biden if he decides to run. The New York Times notes that Clinton must be cautious in debating Sanders:

Over the next week, Mrs. Clinton and her aides will look for the best way to explain to viewers why she is a better choice than her nearest rival without sounding condescending to Mr. Sanders, or dismissive of his views, so she does not risk alienating his growing army of supporters.

“I’ve seen every attack people have thrown at him, and none of them have worked,” cautioned Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who supports Mrs. Clinton.

Not all of them have been exactly subtle. In 2004, the Republican challenging him for his House seat sought to deride him as a political oddball. “Crazy Bernie,” an advertisement called him, “a holdover from the Woodstock days of reefer and flowers.” But Vermont voters did not seem to mind…

For Mrs. Clinton, debating Mr. Sanders poses a challenge reminiscent of the more troublesome one she faced in 2008, when Senator Barack Obama’s criticisms of her were widely characterized as fair, but Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to counter them and defend herself often were not.

Already, a “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton showed the risks that can come if an unsuccessful attack on Mr. Sanders blows back. As The Huffington Post reported, the super PAC, Correct the Record, in a document that was intended to be off the record, drew a connection between Mr. Sanders and Hugo Chávez, the socialist president of Venezuela who died in 2013, because Mr. Sanders supported a deal to bring low-cost Venezuelan oil to New England. Mr. Sanders, calling it “the same-old, same-old negative politics,” seized on the report and raised more than $1 million in two days.

More on how Sanders set fund raising records in response to this attack here. Clinton’s dirty campaign in 2008 led many Democrats, such as Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy  to ultimately endorse Obama instead of her, and any dirty tricks from Clinton this campaign might have the same effect.

Clinton might try to attack Sanders’ views but this will be difficult because of how often he has been right on the issues and Clinton has been wrong. Clinton has often avoided discussing the issues in this campaign, and she did not do a good job on education. Alternet reports Hillary Clinton Delivers a Lame Attack on Bernie Sanders’ Free College Tuition Plan. Just wait until they talk about Iraq during the upcoming debate.

Clinton’s attacks on Sanders have generally come through surrogates. Politico reports on how Morning Joe is responding to the use of surrogates:

There’s a mandate on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: No candidate surrogates or spokespeople can appear on the show until the candidate agrees to be interviewed. And it all started with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“The rule was put in place for Hillary’s campaign because while just about every other candidate came on, the Clinton team kept trying to put out surrogates and staffers,” host Joe Scarborough told POLITICO. “We finally said ‘not until the candidate comes on herself.’ And then some suggested we have Jeb [Bush’s] people on a month or so ago, but we held to the same policy.”

Bush himself went on the show last week, meaning his surrogates and spokespeople can now appear as well. But Clinton, Ben Carson, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, none of whom has appeared on the show since they announced their campaigns, will have to wait.

“It applies to everybody. It just started with Hillary because her people were aggressive with getting pollsters and spokespeople on, but it applies to everyone,” Scarborough said. “That’s the fairest way to do it.”

While I often disagree with Joe Scarborough, this policy does sound like a good idea.

New York Magazine reports that Clinton’s usual hit-man, former Republican hit-man David Brock, will be leading the attacks on Joe Biden:

If Joe Biden jumps into the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton will be ready to go on the offensive. According to a source close to the Clinton campaign, a team of opposition researchers working on behalf of Clinton is currently digging through Biden’s long record in office to develop attack lines in case the vice-president runs. The research effort started about a month ago and is being conducted by operatives at Correct the Record, the pro-Hillary superpac founded by David Brock, which is coordinating with the Clinton campaign. According to the source, the research has turned up material on Biden’s ties to Wall Street; his reluctance to support the raid that killed Osma bin Laden; and his role in the Anita Hill saga as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The oppo-research project reveals how seriously Clintonworld is taking the prospect of a Biden candidacy. So far, Clinton hasn’t taken any direct shots at Biden herself. But behind the scenes, her loyalists are making moves to blunt Biden’s campaign should he run. “Even implicitly his campaign’s argument would be ‘I have integrity and you don’t,'” a Clinton ally said. “If that’s the message, this could be messier than Obama-Clinton ’08. At least Obama had the Iraq War vote and could make a case about generational change. This guy” — Biden — “is older than she is and just as conventional.”

A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign declined to comment.

Joe Biden might respond that while they voted the same on the initial Iraq vote, their views otherwise were quite different. Biden spent the next several months looking for alternatives to war while Clinton was one of the strongest advocates of going to war, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s more hawkish views as Secretary of State. Biden was pushing for Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage while Clinton was still opposed to it. Biden did not join up with the religious right while in the Senate as Clinton did. Biden didn’t spend his time in the Senate proposing to make flag burning a felony, or waging a war against video games as Clinton did. While Biden is not my first choice, he is certainly not as conservative as Clinton on social issues and foreign policy. Both Clinton and Biden have problems with regards to their ties to Wall Street and their hard line views on the drug war.

Sanders Joins Obama In Opposing Clinton’s Hawkish Views On Syria

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While economics have so far dominated the campaign, I feel that the number one reason to nominate Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton is to prevent a return to the foreign policy of George Bush and get us involved in further foolish military intervention. Clinton has a long history of irrational hawkishness. This includes pushing for the Iraq war with false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, along with advocating increased military intervention as Secretary of State. Fortunately the Obama White House frequently opposed advice from Clinton, often with Joe Biden leading the opposition to her proposals. When the Obama administration did listen to her on intervention in Libya, it turned into a disaster.

Clinton has disagreed with Obama on Syria, favoring increased military intervention. She has attacked Obama on Syria saying, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle. ” It sound like a good principle to me, sort of the political equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath, and an idea Clinton should consider. Instead Clinton is proposing more “stupid stuff” in proposing that the United States impose a no-fly zone in Syria. Enforcement of this would not only increase the risk of us getting entangled in the conflict between the Syrian government and ISIS, but also risk direct military confrontation with Russia.

Bernie Sanders has joined Obama in opposing Clinton’s desire for this increase in military intervention. The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday that he opposes a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria, offering a less hawkish stance on the war-torn region than Hillary Rodham Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, and a position more in line with President Obama.

“We must be very careful about not making a complex and dangerous situation in Syria even worse,” Sanders said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I support President Obama’s efforts to combat ISIS in Syria while at the same time supporting those in that country trying to remove the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad.”

But, Sanders added: “I oppose, at this point, a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria, which could get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending U.S. entanglement in that region.”

In a television interview broadcast Thursday, Clinton advocated additional air power to protect civilians in the multi-front war, in which Syrian rebels and international advocates have said that air patrols in Syria’s north could give civilians a refuge from Assad’s bombing raids…

Clinton’s position puts her in the same camp as some Republican contenders for the presidential nomination, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich…

Sanders, who has a pair of rallies planned in Massachusetts on Saturday, has been speaking out in his recent campaign appearances about “the cost of war,” accusing Republicans of being too eager to insert the U.S. military into conflicts that will result in casualties and a range of other problems for returning U.S. soldiers.

Saturday’s events, planned in Springfield and Boston, come amid a fresh burst of momentum for Sanders, whose campaign announced this week that it had raised $26 million in the last fundraising quarter, nearly as much as Clinton. Recent polls from New Hampshire have showed Sanders leading Clinton, and polls from Iowa have showed a close contest.

I don’t know how much of his economic agenda Bernie Sanders could pass when the Republicans can block legislation with forty Senators. The big difference between a Sanders presidency and a Clinton presidency will probably seen in the areas where the president has more direct power. If Sanders is president we are far less likely to wind up in more unnecessary wars, and far less likely to see a continuation of infringements on civil liberties with activities such as the NSA surveillance of American citizens.

Update: Sanders reportedly had more record crowds out to see him in Boston. The Boston Globe reports it was “the largest rally for a presidential primary candidate in recent Massachusetts history, topping 10,000 people drawn to Boston Common eight years ago by Barack Obama.”