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.

 

Heading Into Debates, Sanders Taking On The DNC & Hillary Clinton

CNN Democratic Debate

The decision of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to limit Democratic debates to give an advantage to Hillary Clinton continues to create controversy:

Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said she was disinvited from the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Nevada after she appeared on television and called for more face-offs.

Ms. Gabbard confirmed on Sunday that her chief of staff received a message last Tuesday from the chief of staff to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the national committee, about her attendance at the debate. A day earlier, Ms. Gabbard had appeared on MSNBC and said there should be an increase beyond the current six sanctioned debates.

The Sanders campaign responded by offering to have Gabbard come to the debates as their guest:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the Democratic National Committee vice chair who said she was disinvited to the first Democratic debate, might wind up attending the Tuesday night event as a guest of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said Monday on CNN’s “New Day” that Gabbard could use a ticket from the Vermont senator’s campaign…

“If she needs a ticket, have her give me a call,” Weaver said, adding, “I think we have a couple; we can give her one.”

Weaver’s comments came after Gabbard said she was disinvited to the debate  in Las Vegas after calling for more Democratic debates.

“It’s very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them,” Gabbard told The New York Times

Sanders’s campaign has joined calls for more opportunities to debate, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has accused party officials of limiting the schedule to help front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“We would love to have debates: The more debates, the better,” Weaver said Monday on CNN. “It’s healthy for the Democratic Party to have more debates.”

I’ve previously noted how Bernie Sanders is preparing for the debates in an unconventional manner. The Guardian predicts how Sanders will challenge Clinton in the debates:

Although they have decided against the kind of formal dress rehearsals favoured by Clinton and other presidential debate participants, Sanders aides have been working hard on how to counter Clinton’s recent shift to the left on a number of issues that would once have been easy targets.

The most dramatic of these came less than a week before the debate, when Clinton announced an about-turn on free trade and adopted much of the same opposition to Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) deal that has made Sanders popular among progressive Democrats and trade unions.

But aides insist he will not “impugn terrible motives” for such changes, preferring to welcome a convert and merely point out that the policy reversal would have been more useful while Congress was still voting on authorising the trade negotiations.

“Bernie is not going to become a hitman,” said Devine, who helped run the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry and has been leading the Sanders debate prep alongside campaign manager Jeff Weaver.

“He is not going to go out there and start attacking. It’s against everything he believes in and stands for when it comes to campaign politics,” added Devine.

“Having said that, he will point out the differences, whether it’s past policies like the decision to invade Iraq or present differences, like their plans for college [fees].”

Sanders rehearsed a similar argument about Clinton’s late opposition to the Keystone oil pipeline extension during his latest television interviews on Sunday.

“From day one, I opposed the Keystone pipeline because I believe that if you’re serious about climate change, you don’t encourage the excavation and transportation of very dirty oil,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

“People will have to contrast my consistency and my willingness to stand up to Wall Street and corporations, big corporations, with the secretary,” he said.

But advisers said such unwillingness to play hardball does not mean the Vermont senator will not defend himself if he is attacked for being too extreme or leftwing, as has happened in his previous election campaigns.

Bill Curry, a  former White House counselor to President Bill Clinton, looked ahead to the debate, including Sanders’ strengths and Clinton’s weaknesses:

As Trump points out, debates are free advertising. Democrats could use some. The contrast with the Republicans might have helped. Trump’s made them so rabid Democrats could have scored points just by being polite. Debates could have helped Clinton by reminding voters there’s more to her than the email scandal. And they’d have gotten her outdoors. If she had her druthers, she’d never leave her comfort zone. It’s one reason Bernie Sanders could cut her lead from 60 to 16 points. By limiting debate Schultz is enabling Clinton, not helping her.

All of which raises the stakes Tuesday night. What Bernie Sanders has done is all the more remarkable for his having done it without benefit of a primetime debate and despite a virtual media blackout imposed by a know-it-all press. In 2008 Obama drew crowds half the size Sanders pulls and got written up like the Beatles at Shea Stadium. The press believes only in polls and money. In September 2007 Clinton led the young, charismatic Obama by 14 points after debating him every other week for six months. She still led by 8 in national polls the night he ran her over in Iowa. On the eve of their first debate she leads Sanders, a disheveled, 74-year-old socialist from Vermont, by 16 points. Last week Sanders’ finance report showed over a million small donors, better than Obama’s record 2008 pace. More impressive to the press, he pulled even with Hillary in total money raised. This week it began giving him some of the coverage he deserved all along.

In a primary, packed stadiums and an army of volunteers and small-dollar donors mean more than polls and Super PACs. Some say Sanders has hit his ceiling but he hasn’t even had a chance to reach his audience. Tuesday will be the first long look many centrist Democrats have had at him and the first time anyone has examined him side by side with Clinton. If he picks up as many points for his performance as Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio did for theirs, it will be an earthquake…

He went on to discuss Clinton’s need to be more honest and transparent, among other problems:

This is her problem; misunderstanding many of the issues she studies so hard. She can’t speak with conviction of the evils of globalization, she spent years cheering it on and doesn’t really get what’s wrong with it. She can’t get too worked up about pay to play politics; she perfected it and still deems it the best way to win elections. After four years as Secretary of State she still doesn’t see the folly of exporting democracy by force of arms, or that our safety lies in the rule of law.

Clinton has reversed herself on two huge issues: the Keystone pipeline and the Trans Pacific Partnership. She’ll get less credit than she’d like and fume about how hard it is to satisfy liberals. But in making each switch she looked and sounded as if she were moving pawns on a chess board. She announced the Keystone decision in a blog that provided almost no rationale; the line the “SNL” writers gave her was stronger than anything she said about it in real life. Her TPP interview makes clear her commitment there is provisional. (She hasn’t seen the text) She speaks of jobs and currency but not a word on the issue many progressives find most galling, the ceding to corporate interests of the prerogatives of democracy. Nothing she’s ever said in public suggests she’s given that much thought…

Hillary’s recent epiphanies attest to just how much Sanders has moved the debate. If the TPP dies he more than anyone will deserve the credit. Trump has shown that a rich celebrity can succeed in politics without buying very many TV ads. Bernie’s proving that anyone can. In 2008 Obama built the biggest grass movement in the history of politics, but once he won he took it private. Bernie’s movement is built for his supporters and built to last.

Bernie’s miles ahead of Hillary on the issues that count the most but there are two things he still needs to do. The first is to speak more to the problem of public corruption and inefficiency. On most issues most voters are Democrats, yet Republicans run two of the three branches of the federal government and stand a very good chance of perfecting their monopoly in 2016. Voters want to know that the party of government is ready to fix the government.

Looking briefly at the other candidates, if Martin O’Malley is to have any hope of being taken seriously as a candidate, he will need a huge from the debates. The Washington Post gives an example of how poorly his campaign is doing:

Martin O’Malley, who is hoping to jumpstart his presidential campaign with a strong debate performance here Tuesday, continues to get little love from his home state of Maryland.

The former governor is backed by just 4 percent of voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents in a potential presidential primary matchup in the state, a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.

The Washington Post  sees Jim Webb as a possible wild card.

Lawrence Lessig, who was blocked from being in the debates by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has threated to run as a third party candidate due to the unfair treatment:

“Trump said he would stay in the party, and refuse to run as an independent, as long as the Republicans treated him fairly,” said Lessig. “I’m beginning to have a sense of what he was talking about. If the party won’t allow me to run as a Democrat, that creates a lot of pressure to think about a different way of running that would allow me to make this case to the American people. I’ve received as lot of advice and suggestions from people as to how to spread this message. When I first got into this, I frankly didn’t expect that this would be an issue, but it’s something I increasingly have to think about.”

Lessig had previously ruled out a third party run, prior to the DNC’s actions to keep him out of the debates.

An updated version has been posted at The Moderate Voice

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.

Lawrence Lessig Protests Acts By DNC To Keep Him Out Of Democratic Debate

Lawrence Lessig

As I noted earlier in the week, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee have all met the criteria to make the Democratic debate (an average of 1% in three polls, recognized by CNN, released between Aug. 1 and Oct. 10). Joe Biden will be allowed into the debate if he declares his candidacy by the day of the debate–but he reportedly is now putting off his decision even longer.  Lawrence Lessig so far has not qualified, primarily because of not being included in most polls. Lessig has explained how Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee are keeping him out of the debates:

I’m running for President. Or trying. After raising $1 million in less than 30 days, I entered the primary on September 9 as the Democrat’s only non-politician. My platform is simple: end the corrupting influence of money in Washington, so we might finally have, as Buddy Roemer would put it, a Congress free to lead.

But that message is being stifled with the tacit approval of the Democratic Party leadership, who are deploying the oldest method available for marginalizing campaigns they don’t like: keeping me out of the Democratic presidential debates.

Here’s how you make the debates: After one declares, a candidate is formally welcomed into the race by the Democratic National Committee. Polling firms, taking a cue from the DNC, include that candidate on their questionnaires. Candidates that poll at 1 percent nationally in at least three separate polls earn an invitation. Simple enough.

That’s how the process typically works for other candidacies—but not for mine. The DNC still has not formally welcomed me into the race—despite my raising money at a faster pace than more than half the pack, and being in the race nearly a full month. Polls, in turn, have taken the hint, only including me sporadically on questionnaires: of the last 10 major polls, only three mentioned my candidacy. One poll recently put me at 1 percent (for comparison, candidates O’Malley, Webb and Chafee, who will each get a podium at the debates, are all currently polling at 0.7 percent or less, according to Real Clear Politcs). Were I actually included on every poll, I would easily make the debates.

The Democratic Party could fix this by welcoming me into the race. Yet when I tried to talk about this with the chair of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she scheduled a call, but then cancelled it. So far she hasn’t had the time to schedule another. I’ve had similar experiences at the state level, where the same game is played: The chair of the New Hampshire Democrats invited me to speak at their convention. I was given 5 minutes. Hillary Clinton took an hour.

These signals from the party affect the media, too. While news shows have been busy limning the depths of Donald Trump’s brain, there hasn’t been time to consider a Democratic candidate saying something that no other Democrat is saying—especially if the party itself doesn’t consider the candidate a real candidate. And while the Atlantic listed me as a candidate on their website from day one, it took some lobbying to get the New York Times to do the same. Neither fish nor fowl, and not insanely rich, no one quite knows where to place a candidate like me…

Sanders and O’Malley have been protesting the plans for only four debates, while Clinton only wanted four. Most of the announced dates for the debates are on weekends when there are expected to be fewer viewers.

Sanders & O’Malley Object To Democratic Debate Schedule But Clinton Reportedly Only Wanted Four Debates

Democrats Demand More Debates

The scheduling of the Democratic debates has become one of the biggest issues of this primary season in light of the exclusivity clause which prevents candidates from appearing in the DNC sanctioned debates if they appear in any other debates. Both Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have criticized the DNC over the new debate rules. New Hampshire Democrats criticized Debbie Wasserman Schultz over the weekend.

Greg Sargent has summarized information on the debate controversy. One interesting fact presented is that Hillary Clinton only wanted four debates:

Last spring, when negotiations between the DNC and the Dem campaigns over the debate schedule got underway in earnest, the Clinton camp’s preference was to have only four debates, one in each of the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, according to a senior Democrat with knowledge of those conversations.

Asked to comment on this version of events, DNC spokesperson Holly Schulman didn’t immediately dispute it, but declined comment. A Clinton spokesperson didn’t immediately return an email. (This version comports with Politico’s reporting that the Clinton camp prefers to keep the number of debates low.)

As I previously noted, the problem with the debates is not only the limited number allowed, but the dates they are scheduled:

The dates of the debates were announced in August. It was at that point that outrage really began to build, because the dates themselves created a situation that began to be seen as problematic. (Those dates are October 13, November 14th, December 19th, January 17th, and two in February or March that are not nailed down yet.)

The problem is that of the four debates that are actually scheduled, three come on weekends (as opposed to during weeknight prime time), one of them on the weekend between the end of Hanukkah and Christmas. The two remaining (as yet unscheduled) debates are in February or March, one on Univision and the other on PBS. Between those two and the one in January, there will be only three Dem debates in 2016, during the period in which Democrats will be voting in dozens of contests — from the early contests through the big state primaries in early and mid March, a period that could very well settle the outcome. By contrast, Republicans have six debates scheduled throughout that period, many on major networks.

Once the official DNC debates are either completed, or near completed, it also makes it easier for candidates to agree to appear in debates sponsored by other groups as the DNC’s sanctions will not be as meaningful,  but it remains questionable if Hillary Clinton would agree to participate in further debates.

This schedule does result in increased coverage for the Republicans over the Democrats:

As it is, the GOP debates are drawing very big audiences. It’s true that this is due to the Trump carnival — making this in some ways a negative for the GOP. But the positive side for the GOP is that enormous numbers of voters are seeing the other GOP candidates in strong moments, which is good both for GOP organizing in the primaries and for giving them and their ideas exposure beyond the GOP primary audience. Add to this the imbalance in the number of debates in this 2016 window, when voters are seriously tuning in, and Dems risk ceding the airwaves and squandering a chance to build excitement and engage more voters, some party officials have argued.

“Left unchecked, the superior RNC schedule could easily reach 50 to 100 million more eyeballs than the current Democratic schedule — meaning tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars of lost opportunities to persuade, engage and excite the audiences all Democrats will need to win in 2016,” argues Dem strategist Simon Rosenberg.

Democrats are risking a serious problem with turnout if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination in a year when the outsiders are creating all the excitement. This problem could be further exacerbated should she be the nominee by this limited debate schedule. Clinton’s fear of facing her Democratic challengers could seriously hurt her should she be the candidate in the general election.

Why Liberals Should Support Bernie Sanders And Not Hillary Clinton

Sanders Clinton

Conor Friedersdorf is a little late with this article at The Atlantic in calling for more Democratic candidates to enter the race, but his arguments against nominating Clinton are solid:

Most Democrats regard the Iraq War as a historic disaster. Clinton voted for that conflict. That hawkishness wasn’t a fluke. She pushed for U.S. intervention in Libya without Congressional approval and without anticipating all that has gone wrong in that country. She favored U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war as well. Why haven’t Democrats concluded that she has dangerously bad judgment on foreign policy? She certainly hasn’t done anything to distinguish herself in that realm.

Along with the Iraq War, Democrats disdained George W. Bush for the Patriot Act, his expansive views on executive power, and his awful record on transparency. Clinton voted for the Patriot Act. She shows every sign of embracing a similarly expansive view of executive power. And she took extraordinary steps to shield her emails from federal public-records and freedom of information laws.

Then there are her financial backers.

Many Democrats are sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street and to the notion that wealthy special interests on Wall Street are rigging the system by buying off politicians. Who is more bought off than Clinton? It isn’t just her campaign coffers and her family’s foundation that benefit from Wall Street money. Her family’s private accounts are flush with funds from big banks, including at least one that benefitted from her tenure at State and paid her husband seven figures for a speaking gig. It is naive to think that she won’t look out for the interests of Big Finance in Washington.

And on social issues like gay marriage and police misconduct her approach has been to lag public opinion rather than to lead it toward an embrace of progressive reforms.

These are significant flaws.

Nothing costs more in blood and treasure than dubious wars of choice. In an era of terrorism, it is more important than ever to elevate reliable guardians of civil liberties. Wall Street malfeasance contributed to a painful financial crisis in recent memory…

Bernie Sanders has exposed Clinton’s electoral weakness. Her response to the email scandal has reminded voters how willing she is to dissemble. At the very least, Clinton’s weaknesses suggest that a coronation would be a folly––and one without any apparent upside.

Friedersdorf’s argument elsewhere in the article for more Democrats to challenge Clinton would have made sense months ago, when most Democrats were afraid to enter the race because of the fallacious belief that Clinton’s victory was inevitable. At this point it would be very hard for other candidates to launch a campaign unless they have considerable name recognition and connections, such as Joe Biden or Al Gore. Gore’s name comes up occasionally, but there is no sign he has any real interest, and Biden has not yet decided. Democrats who were afraid of the challenge of taking on Clinton six months ago when they thought her victory was inevitable are unlikely to take up the challenge of entering the nomination battle at this late date.

While this might change if Biden gets in the race or O’Malley’s campaign should come back from the dead, at this time Sanders is the only viable alternative to Clinton. Friedersdorf arguments against Clinton are the reasons why liberals should vote for Bernie Sanders.

This article also reminded me of another article I’d recommend at TruthoutFive Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton. The article summarizes Clinton’s conservative record on Foreign Policy, the Economy, the Environment, Civil Liberties, and Culture War issues. I would add a sixth–government transparency and ethics, but note that this was written in February, before the email and Foundation scandals.

Clinton Loses One Third Of Her Support In Iowa In Latest Des Moines Register Poll

Des Moines Register Poll August

Bernie Sanders has pulled within seven points of Hillary Clinton in the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll with Clinton falling below fifty percent for the first time, reminiscent of her fall in 2008:

She’s the first choice of 37 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers; he’s the pick for 30 percent, according to a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll.

But Clinton has lost a third of her supporters since May, a trajectory that if sustained puts her at risk of losing again in Iowa, the initial crucible in the presidential nominating contest.

This is the first time Clinton, the former secretary of state and longtime presumptive front-runner, has dropped below the 50 percent mark in four polls conducted by the Register and Bloomberg Politics this year.

Poll results include Vice President Joe Biden as a choice, although he has not yet decided whether to join the race. Biden captures 14 percent, five months from the first-in-the-nation vote Feb. 1. Even without Biden in the mix, Clinton falls below a majority, at 43 percent.

“This feels like 2008 all over again,” said J. Ann Selzer, pollster for the Iowa Poll.

In that race, Clinton led John Edwards by 6 percentage points and Barack Obama by 7 points in an early October Iowa Poll. But Obama, buoyed by younger voters and first-time caucusgoers, surged ahead by late November.

Clinton has already fallen behind Sanders in recent polls in New Hampshire and is seeing a decline in her support nationally. Should Sanders pull off victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, it is likely that polls in subsequent states will be affected by these results. Both Sanders and Martin O’Malley were critical of the decision of the Democratic National Committee to allow only six debates this election at the recent meeting of the DNC. Sanders warned against politics as usual and that, “Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout.”

Sanders and O’Malley Attack Democratic Leadership For System Rigged To Help Clinton

Bernie Sanders DNC Screen Grab

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both criticized the Democratic National Committee for rules which show favoritism towards Hillary Clinton, with Sanders pointing out that this is the type of policy which has led to past loses by the Democratic Party.

“I do,” Sanders reportedly responded when asked Friday whether he agrees with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s assertion that the debate system is “rigged.”

The two Democratic presidential candidates were speaking at the summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in Minneapolis on Friday.

“This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before,” O’Malley said in his speech earlier Friday.

The DNC has drawn criticism for scheduling only four debates before the early-primary states cast their votes, and six total throughout the election cycle.

Sanders also warned that this attitude could lead to a repeat of Democratic loses in 2014:

“The Democrats lost that election because voter turnout was abysmally low, and millions of working people, people of color and young people gave up on ‘politics as usual’ and stayed home,” he declared.

Speaking in the heart of the Democratic establishment, Sanders called for a movement taking on the economic and political establishment, “not one of which is part of it.”

“With all due respect, and I do not mean to insult anyone here, that turnout, that enthusiasm will not happen with politics as usual,” Sanders said, punctuated by supporters’ chants of “Ber-nie! Ber-nie!”

In fact, Sanders said, the party is in for a repeat unless it changes its ways.

“Let me be very clear. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout,” the senator said.

This sort of politics as usual runs the risk of both of failing to motivate voters to turn out if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, and risks causing many on the left to refuse to vote for Clinton if the nominating process is seen as unfair. Clinton’s campaign, showing they have not learned anything from the poorly run campaign of eight years ago, exacerbated the situation with a statement that they have already secured one-fifth of the delegates needed to win before a single vote was cast in primaries or caucus states. This launched protests on social media, and a wide variety of petitions from Sanders supporters concerned that Sanders could be denied the nomination even if he wins a majority of elected delegates. After Clinton lost the nomination in 2008 some of her supporters formed the PUMA (Piss On Party Unity) movement, backing John McCain over Barack Obama.

In trying to predict how Sanders supporters will vote, they cannot be lumped together in a single category. Sanders supporters include former Obama supporters who oppose Clinton for the same reasons as in 2008, independents, and people on the left who would not normally vote for a Democratic candidate. Clinton has little chance of picking up the votes of some of these voters who do not normally vote Democratic should she win the nomination, and seeing a rigged system under the leadership of a long-time Clinton supporter will further harm chances for party unity in the general election should she be the nominee. Democratic chances are further hampered if the system is rigged to nominate a candidate who is popular among the type of partisan Democrats who vote in primaries but would be a weaker general election candidate.

Update: Sanders pulls within seven points of Clinton in Iowa per Des Moines Register poll

Update II: Sanders on CNN’s State of the Union

“I think that that is dead wrong, and I have let the leadership of the Democrats know that.  Again, I think this country benefits – all people benefits – democracy benefits when we have debates.  And I want to see more of them.”

Clinton Support Eroding As Sanders And O’Malley Fight Back

OMalley Sanders Clinton

The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Donald Trump dominating the Republicans and Clinton’s support eroding among Democrats. Clinton still has the lead, but it is down from 55 percent on June 30 to 45 percent at present. More disturbing for Democrats, this poll shows what other polls have shown–Americans know better than to trust Hillary Clinton. Mediaite summarized:

“What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?” Quinnipiac asked. All three of the most popular answers were along the same lines: “liar,” “dishonest,” and “untrustworthy.” After those responses, Clinton nets a few positive responses, such as “experience” and “strong.” But then the negative qualifiers begin again, with responses like “crook,” “untruthful,” “criminal,” and “deceitful.”

The same question was asked of Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. The top three responses for Trump were “arrogant,” “blowhard,” and “idiot,” while the top responses for Bush were “Bush,” “family,” and “honest.”

The same poll found Clinton with low favorables. A majority of voters, 51%, say that they have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton while only 39% says they have a favorable opinion.

Like other recent polls, this poll also shows Joe Biden doing better against Republicans than Clinton does.

It is no wonder that we are seeing headlines such as Hillary Clinton’s Handling of Email Issue Frustrates Democratic Leaders at The New York Times and Inside Democratic Party, growing concerns about Clinton  from McClatchy. While Clinton does well among Democratic voters, she does poorly nationally with independents and those in battle ground states.

While Clinton does hold a strong (but diminishing ) lead in the Democratic race, Sanders is posing a serious threat. Recent polls show him leading in New Hampshire. He is even within four points of Clinton in West Virginia, where she leads 36 percent to 32 percent. Apparently without the race issue, Clinton is not able to win there as easily as eight years ago.

After amazing most observers with how much support he is generating among Democrats, Sanders is preparing for phase 2 of his campaign.

Sanders huddled with advisers at his home here Wednesday to chart what he describes as the second phase of a campaign that has exceeded all expectations but still lacks the infrastructure and support from the party elites that could help him compete with Clinton on a national level.

He said he will issue a slew of detailed policy proposals, including for a tax system under which corporations and the wealthy would pay significantly more for initiatives that would benefit the poor and middle class, and will pour resources into voter outreach in early nominating states.

The senator also will appear with other White House hopefuls this week at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee and will urge party leaders to embrace him as a candidate who can attract new voters and energy, just as President Obama did eight years ago.

“Smart members of the establishment will perceive where the excitement is, where the energy is, where the enthusiasm is, where the potential voter turnout is,” Sanders said in an interview…

Roughly one-fifth of the delegates who will pick the nominee at the Democratic convention are superdelegates — elected officials and other party leaders who are not bound by voting in their states. So far, those superdelegates have sided overwhelmingly with Clinton.

Longtime Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who was among the participants in Wednesday’s meeting here, said Sanders has the potential to assemble “not necessarily the same coalition, but the same kind of coalition” as Obama did in 2008. Sanders’s huge campaign rallies have been heavily attended by younger voters, and during his long political career in Vermont, he has demonstrated an appeal to lower-income voters from both parties…

Campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the senator will continue to hold rallies but “phase two will be a more focused effort to reach out to undecided voters” in early nominating states. The campaign is spending heavily in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — all of which have contests in February — and starting to evaluate strategies for a dozen states that have primaries or caucuses on March 1.

To date, Sanders has deployed 41 staffers to Iowa, 23 to New Hampshire and nine to South Carolina, aides said.

Another focus of “phase two,” according to Sanders and his aides, will be a series of detailed position papers and policy speeches that go well beyond his hour-long stump speech.

Sanders said he plans a major address on Wall Street reforms and to add more specifics to many of his ideas, including revamping the tax system. He has pledged to reverse the growing income inequality in the country and has laid out a set of costly priorities — including free tuition at public colleges and universities, a massive infrastructure program and a large youth jobs program — much of which would be paid for by taxing businesses and the wealthy.

“It’s easy to say we’re going to make the corporations and wealthy pay their fair share,” Sanders said. “What does that mean, exactly?”

He plans, too, to speak out more about foreign policy, a subject that gets relatively little attention in his stump speech.

Aides acknowledge that Sanders could open himself up to criticism by detailing plans that are considered outside the political mainstream. But the candidate said he owes it to voters to lay out what he would do as president: “These are terribly serious times, and the American people deserve to be treated as intelligent people.”

As I have said before, Sanders is the future of the Democratic Party.

Martin O’Malley is also going on the offensive, criticizing the DNC for its preferential treatment of Hillary Clinton, despite her scandals, and limiting the campaign to only six debates:

Martin O’Malley took one of the hardest swings of any Democrat yet at Hillary Clinton on Thursday, saying the party shouldn’t be “circling the wagons” around the former secretary of state and questioning her viability against Republicans.

The former Maryland governor — struggling to climb out of low single digits in national Democratic primary polls — said Clinton will continue to be dogged by her use of a personal email address on a private server during her tenure as America’s top diplomat.

“Until we start having debates, our party’s going to be defined and branded by questions like: What did Secretary Clinton know, when did she know it, and when will the FBI conclude its investigation?” O’Malley told reporters in New Hampshire. “That’s not a formula for success in the fall.”

O’Malley went further than other Democratic presidential candidates have. Clinton’s top-polling challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has avoided direct intra-party attacks and instead trained his fire on Wall Street and Republicans.

He also criticized the Democratic National Committee for scheduling only six debates, saying those nationally-televised events are opportunities for the party to focus on big ideas, rather than Clinton’s email drama.

“I think it’s a big mistake for us as a party to circle the wagons around the inevitable frontrunner,” O’Malley said Thursday…

O’Malley had also criticized Clinton in an interview with the New Hampshire radio station WGIR earlier Thursday.

He called the email probe “very serious” and said that there are “legitimate questions” about whether she handled classified material on a non-government server.

“These are serious and legitimate questions and Hillary Clinton and her lawyers will have to answer them,” he said.

Donald Trump Calls Martin O’Malley A Weak Pathetic Baby

The campaign is not going the way Martin O’Malley must have hoped. Bernie Sanders emerged as the major opponent to Hillary Clinton. Making matters worse, when people fearing the collapse of Clinton’s campaign due to scandals and desiring a more mainstream candidate the talk centers on Joe Biden entering the race.

Maybe the debates will help get O’Malley’s campaign on track, but he will have to wait until October for that opportunity thanks to the Democratic National Committe’s decision to protect Hillary Clinton. OMalley  did receive some unexpected attention–an attack from Donald Trump for apologizing after offending black lives matters activists. Politco reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley apologized “like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby” for his remark that “all lives matter,” Donald Trump said in an excerpt of a new interview aired Friday on Fox News.

In an interview with Jeanine Pirro for her program “Justice” set to air Saturday night, Trump said that the former Maryland governor did not need to say he was sorry.

“And then he apologized like a little baby, like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby. And that’s the problem with our country,” Trump said, according to a clip aired on “Fox and Friends.”

Being attacked by Donald Trump is hardly a negative sign, and it is providing some attention for O’Malley, who took advantage of the opportunity to respond:

“Governor O’Malley stands with those who have the guts to stand up to Donald Trump’s hate speech,” O’Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement provided to POLITICO that included a link to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow praising the governor for meeting with employees of Trump’s Las Vegas hotel seeking to form a union earlier this week.

“It speaks volumes about the Republican Party today that this is their front-runner. Unlike the rest of the Republican field, we’re not interested in engaging in a race to the bottom with Mr. Trump,” Smith said.