Dem Notes

  • Most observers—and more than a few participants—would likely agree that the Democratic presidential “debates” have been a grandstanding mess so far. Entirely too many candidates, most of them long shots looking for their center-stage, viral moment. Part of the problem is the criteria to determine who makes the cut. The bar for the first two rounds–65,000 donors OR hit 1 percent in three polls–was practically subterranean. The ante will be upped for the September gatherings in Houston. Candidates will need 130,000 donors AND at least 2 percent in four polls. That’s still too low a bar if you really want “debates”—and not high-stakes reality TV.
  • “Burn rate.” We’re hearing that insider term more often now, because it applies to candidates’ credibility and staying power. It means how much a campaign has spent relative to its fund-raising. It’s an issue for anyone not named Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders and Warren.
  • “Some of you candidates need to focus on Trump. Some of you others need to go home and run for the Senate!”—That was Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, speaking for a lot of us.
  • No, we’re nowhere near “post-racial” America, and political campaigns still racially strategize away. Here’s some interesting context, thanks to Steve Phillips, the founder of Democracy in Color. In every presidential election for the last 50 years, a majority of white voters have voted against the Democrat, and the overwhelming majority of people of color have sided with the party’s nominee.
  • “People are gonna think that I’m trolling but compared to what else is up on this stage, I think Marianne Williamson is actually winning this thing.” That was the debate take of Donald Trump Jr. Have to wonder what he would have said had he been trolling.   
  • “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”—Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
  • Chris Mathews, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” was roundly criticized for how he conducted a post-debate, drive-by interview with Elizabeth Warren. He talked over her and was called out for a sexist approach. I would disagree. That wasn’t Mathews being sexist in his off-putting interview with Warren. That was Mathews being Mathews—obnoxious in how he handles too many interviews.
  • “We are more worried about winning an argument than winning an election.”—Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
  • “This isn’t about just speaking to the obvious, that our president is a racist, it has to be about how are you connected to the struggle of our communities.”—Sen. Cory Booker.
  • “Yada yada” candidacy: How, well, ironic that Marianne Williamson, the self-promoting, self-help guru, is the one proposing racial reparations of $500 billion.  
  • “He’s never been good at synthesizing his thoughts into 30-second or 60-second answers. He was just as awkward in ’88.” That was the perspective of Ed Rendell, Former DNC chairman and former governor of Pennsylvania, on Joe Biden’s “debate” showings.
  • However this candidate-winnowing process shakes out, a line that will resonate–in the 2020 election or across presidential-campaign history–is Joe Biden’s “My time is up” in the first debate. And it won’t be remembered for Biden’s sole adherence to time-limit protocol.
  • “We ran on ‘yes we can,’ and you’re not going to win on ‘no you can’t.’” That was David Axelrod, the key strategist behind Barack Obama’s political ascent to the presidency, referencing those candidates who have been critical of certain Obama Administration policies.

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