Saturday, October 17, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 42

How can I be expected to think about politics when the Playoffs are going on?

That was my experience on Tuesday evening, when I was not really too focused on the first Democrat debate on CNN. I did some some portions and based on the analysis afterwards, it was one of the strongest nights of Hillary Clinton's campaign. That is not to say that much of what she said or how she said it, would not render her very vulnerable along those lines, if she were to advance to the general election, as many expect, but it was pretty much a mismatch on stage.

Clinton did not commit any "gaffes" and certainly proved capable of being relentlessly on message and having her talking points down. She is a disciplined, if not inspiring communicator, and was largely able to skate by questions related to her email scandal, as well as changing positions she had previously seemed to hold on the TPP trade agreement, the Keystone Pipeline, and others. When asked how she would be different from a third term of Barack Obama, she pointed out that she was a woman. When asked which enemy in career she had been proudest to acquire, she said the Republicans. She is not exactly running to bring the country together.

There were other candidates on stage, but Martin O'Malley seemed to fade into the background, Jim Webb was cranky, and at least on some issues, sounded a bit more like a Republican, and Lincoln Chafee's performance has been described as befuddled and embarrassing. Clearly, Chafee is out of his depth as a Presidential candidate, as many said he was as both a Senator and a Governor, and the wait for him to leave the race is on.

Next to Clinton, Bernie Sanders received the most time to talk. To those who like revolutionary socialism, they probably liked what they heard. To many others, even some Democrats, who might have been getting their first prolonged exposure to Sanders, his views and demeanor might have been a bit shocking. He had the moment of the evening though,when he told Hillary Clinton that he was tired of "hearing about your damn emails" and that the media should lay off it. Secretary Clinton was of course delighted for that moment. Very interesting. Still though, she managed to get to Sanders left on guns, a position that might help her in the party, and at least slightly to his right on the concept of capitalism. Nonetheless, all of these candidates, especially Clinton took very liberal positions and advocated much in the way of big government. Clearly, the "Third Way" of the Bill Clinton '90s are over, and people on the left were generally happy with the debate as a whole.

With Clinton reassuring many jittery Democrats about her chops as a Presidential candidate, it might make it harder for Vice President Joe Biden to find a rationale for entering the race. Many expected him to quickly announce he now not run, but lo and behold, continued media reports over the past few days say he is leaning towards getting in. Time will tell on the ongoing Biden Watch, but Clinton's polling numbers should improve, at least in the short term. She will also get much attention in the week ahead when she testifies before the House Benghazi Committee. It is clear she will paint any effort by them in making her answer tough questions to be partisan motivated.

To state the obvious, Clinton had a decent week in the prism of a nomination campaign, but if she is in a more stolid general election debate, against a single opponent, who is not deliberately going easy on her, and without a cheering section in the audience after each statement, her record and her position on issues may be a tougher sell to persuadable voters.

The next GOP debate will take part during the World Series, which might affect some people's desire or ability to watch. Negotiations seemed to be underway this past week though with the RNC and the CNBC television network to cut back the time of the debate to two hours. Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the two candidates atop the polls, seemed to demand that as a condition for their participation. Both men continue to say controversial things on the trail and in interviews, but their supporters, for now, seem not to care. Carson is taking the time to talk about gun control in the context of the Holocaust in Europe and is actually going to be technically leaving the campaign trail to go on a book tour. Trump, in an interview, seemed to blame former President George W. Bush for the 9/11 terrorist attacks during his Presidency. That brought about a sharp rebuke from Jeb Bush, Dubya's brother.

Otherwise, the news coverage of the GOP candidates involved the fundraising totals. Some did very well, such as Carson and Ted Cruz, while many others back  in the pack did not raise much. Marco Rubio's haul was not overly impressive, but many feel that Sheldon Adelson might soon be putting in some big bucks on the Senator's behalf. Jeb Bush still raised more money than almost anybody else in the field, but his pace has slowed since he first became a candidate and the media, as well as supporters of other candidates, continue to try to write the campaign obituary for Bush, who has yet to see significant improvement in his poll numbers. Of course, the Right to Rise SuperPac, supporting Jeb Bush is where the real money is for his efforts, and it will not be until winter before Jeb Bush might break through, if he manages to at all.


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