2016 Democrats, Debates, New Hampshire, State of the Race, Uncategorized

Debate Prep: Here They Go Again

February 4, 2016

After months of concerns Democratic voters weren’t going to hear enough from their candidates prior to voting, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders return to the stage tonight for Part 2 of their New Hampshire chat, this time on MSNBC at 9pm Eastern.

Unlike last night’s CNN Town Hall, this is an actual debate.  It’s the first of the season with two candidates, the way debates were done until the past several primary cycles initiated the political version of a rugby scrum.  Perhaps they’ll even give the candidates more than 60-90 seconds to answer.

I’m not sure what is left to litigate this week.  They each answered a full hour of questions yesterday.  Late Monday night, each gave a victory speech.  In between, both appeared on a number of cable news shows.  They went back and forth about whether Hillary is or isn’t a progressive.

We know Bernie supporters think Hillary is a liar.  We know Hillary supporters think Bernie can’t deliver on anything.  What’s worth thinking about tonight?

What does the visual look like?

The previous debates featured Hillary in the middle with Bernie on one side and Martin the Now Departed on the other.  It made her look like a presumptive candidate with two upstart challengers.  Now there are just two.

Do they look like plausible equals, or was the gap more due to Hillary’s presence than the stage arrangement.  Even if you think she often sounds like a broken garbage disposal, Hillary knows how to carry herself.  Bernie slouches.

The rumpled uncle/grandpa thing is working with young voters, but impedes him with undecideds.  This is one of those things you can guess at but only know when you see it.

Does Chuck Todd ask Hillary (or Bernie) about the emails?

This did not come up on CNN.  I’m assuming (perhaps unfairly) Rachel Maddow, co-moderator, won’t go there.  Will her partner?  There is no way Megyn Kelly wouldn’t have mentioned a similar issue if it applied to a GOP candidate last week.

Not sure how you can ask questions about electability and not go here, but it happened in the last 24 hours.

Can Bernie offer more detail about his plans to defeat ISIS?

By far the biggest advantage for Hillary is foreign policy/handling terrorism.  Republicans may bash her time as Secretary of State, but among Democrats it’s a big edge.  Everyone knows Bernie would prefer to discuss taxing the billionaires.

His normal answer is to say he’ll build a coalition to defeat ISIS.  Yesterday, he went into slightly more detail and mentioned several coalition partners and Jordanian King Abdullah, a favorite of both parties as a debate shout out.

It’s still a bit thin.  He’s quick to mention Hillary’s Iraq War vote, which is an important point of distinction.  While participating in Wednesday’s contest of progressivism, Bernie’s team tweeted a long list of non-progressive foreign policy/defense issues Hillary had taken.

Will he recite a decent list of them?

Do they continue to run against Trump, or does someone mention Rubio or Cruz?

Last night, Hillary repeatedly mentioned the Republicans, without singling an individual candidate out.  Bernie focused on Trump and said he would relish the opportunity to duel with The Donald.  While he still has a chance of winning, he’s far from a sure thing.

I don’t think anyone has mentioned either of the two other top tier contenders by name yet.  Will they?  It’s a totally different race depending on who the opponent is.

Does Hillary bring her A game?

She was off a bit yesterday.  Debates are her preferred format.  Each time she’s faced concerns, Clinton has rallied in the next debate.  Will she look like a winner again?

Will Bernie voluntarily make the most of his Civil Rights Movement experience?

He never brings this up without prompting.  Yesterday, he got partway there, but needed Anderson Cooper to lead him.  I know he hates to pander, but he struggles most with older voters and African-Americans.  So the voter combination who would actually most remember the events he participated in doesn’t get to hear him talk about them.

That same group is currently most likely to support Hillary.  Bernie is very disciplined and always on message, so this avoidance isn’t by accident.  Don’t know if he’s waiting, doesn’t want to spend time looking backward, thinks it would sound like a transparent ploy, or what.

Does Bernie have enough surrogate backup?

Hillary has a larger crew of communications staffers set up to make themselves available for media.  Many Democratic pundits have a history of working for one or both Clintons.  Many voters don’t make it all the way through a debate, let alone the pre and post-game coverage.

But those who are most likely to show up at a primary or caucus are more likely to consume more content.  So far, he’s under-represented.  This is part of the drawback of being an insurgent and having your opponent monopolize endorsements.  When she’s one of the three most famous Democrats in the country, all the more so.

He’s not controlling the narrative all that well yet.  It’s one of the important ways he trails the 2008 Obama team.  Having a squad of spokespeople, official or otherwise is part of projecting a presidential presence.  It also gives voters confidence he can handle the GOP in the fall.

On to the show.


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