By Doug Porter
The consensus view as expressed in the mainstream media I read this morning was Hillary Clinton as “winner” of the October 13th Democratic Presidential debate, hosted by CNN. Not so fast… There’s more to this story…
Polling, social media, and focus groups told a different story, hailing the performance of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. We’ll take a look at some of the commentary on the events of the evening. I’m happy to report the debate was informative and not boring at all.
The contrast with earlier Republican contests was the most obvious takeaway. The Democratic candidates stuck to issues, passing up opportunities to create personal controversies. The wonkiness of the proceedings made the GOP’s debates look like episodes of the Jerry Springer show.
After months of hammering away at Republican-generated story lines implying scandal, it seemed to me like much of the mass media reporting was filled with a sense of amazement at Hillary Clinton’s performance.
Here’s a snip from the Washington Post:
Front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton dominated the debate stage Tuesday night.
Her experience and self-assurance in a setting where she has found herself dozens of times put her in command as she and her four lesser-known rivals for the Democratic nomination stood side by side for the first time.
In several exchanges, she managed to put her leading challenger, the combative Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in an unaccustomed position — on defense.
At the same time, Clinton and Sanders offered their party a choice. She presented herself as realist who would work from within to improve the political system; he, as an unapologetic insurgent who would smash the old order.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Clinton played a front-runner’s game, talking about the issues she liked and avoiding those that could cause her trouble. When asked whether she would support legalization of marijuana, for example, she declined to take a stand, saying only that she wanted to see what happens in Colorado and Washington, where recreational use is already legal, before making a decision.
While Clinton steered clear of all but the mildest attacks on Sanders, she regularly turned questions toward the Republicans. In one of her feistiest moments of the evening, she slammed Republicans for what she said is “their constant references to ‘big government this’ and ‘big government that.’ I’m tired of it.”
Those same concerns, though, can disappear, she said, depending on the issue.
Republicans “don’t mind having big government interfere with a woman’s right to choice” or when it comes to attacking Planned Parenthood, she said to loud cheers.
The Los Angeles Times also applauded Clinton’s performance:
In news conferences and interviews, she has often displayed a clenched jaw. In the debate, she was all smiles. With nods to time spent in the White House Situation Room and crisp answers about five-point plans, she exuded a sense of command that her rivals onstage often seemed to lack. And in sharp contrast with her reticence on the subject during the 2008 campaign, she repeatedly reminded viewers that with her, they could make history: After the U.S. elected its first black president, it now had a chance to elect its first woman.
For Sanders, by contrast, the debate probably reinforced an image as a political figure who is not afraid to take positions that lie outside the perceived mainstream. For many viewers, Tuesday night was probably their first sustained exposure to the independent Vermont senator. While his repeated calls for political “revolution” and suggestions that the U.S. should look to Denmark for answers to social policy problems may have thrilled his followers on the party’s left, they seemed unlikely to expand his support beyond the college-educated white liberals who have flocked to his rallies.
Anderson Cooper #FeelstheBern
The closest thing to drama during the evening came as CNN’s Anderson Cooper tried to coax the candidates to weigh in on the “email scandal.” Following Hillary Clinton’s response about the Congressional inquiries in progress…
…I’ll answer their questions. But tonight, I want to talk not about my e-mails, but about what the American people want from the next president of the United States.
…Cooper tried to get Bernie Sanders to comment. I don’t think this was the answer the CNN moderator was hoping for:
SANDERS: Let me say this.
Let me say — let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.
CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too. Me, too.
SANDERS: You know? The middle class — Anderson, and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens United. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.
CLINTON: Thank you, Bernie. Thank you.
The coverage in Politico acknowledged the significance of this moment:
It wasn’t just Clinton and the crowd that was celebrating. Behind the scenes, her team was too. “Bernie Sanders just did for Hillary what her own staff could not,” one source close to the Clinton campaign said in an email.
Overall, I thought CNN’s Anderson Cooper did an okay job, but he apparently couldn’t resist the urge to red-bait Sanders:
In his follow-up question to Bernie Sanders Tuesday night after the candidate had explained what he views as democratic socialism, CNN’s Anderson Cooper returned to the matter of electability and noted, “You honeymooned in the Soviet Union.“
This particular canard has been a staple on the Kill-a-Commie-for-Christ circuit, with everybody from Breitbart to George Will re-telling the story as if it was proof of the Democratic Socialist’s affinity for Stalin, gulags and the Red Army invading.
The reality–that Sanders is a tightwad Vermonter who, as Mayor of Burlington in 1988, took his new wife on an official sister-city visit– is never mentioned in all these accounts. And never mind that, by 1988, the Soviet Union was on the verge of falling apart.
Sanders Supporters Claim Supremacy
You have to wonder what the audiences watching the debate saw that much of the media seemed to miss.
In focus groups–even the one sponsored by Fox News--Bernie Sanders was dubbed the clear victor at the end of the night.
From TeleSur, via Daily Kos:
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders won the Democratic Party debate Tuesday, while Hillary Clinton followed in second place, according to various major U.S. news outlets
A poll carried out by Fox News shows that 77.29 percent of the people that responded to the survey felt that the independent senator from Vermont won the debate, while only 15.9 percent voted in favor of Clinton.
A poll by Slate showed similar results. Sanders topped their survey with 75 percent of the respondents’ votes, while Clinton garnered only 18 percent.
The Washington Post also concluded that Sanders won the debate. They based their appraisal on the online response.
The Union-Tribune’s online poll had Sanders with 40% and Clinton with 39%.
Although I doubt CNN will get the kind ratings that The Donald’s bluster brought to previous debates, CNN’s online audience for the Democratic debate was slightly larger.
The Sanders campaign says it raised $1.3 million in small donations during the debate broadcast.
The Rest of the Pack
Former Virginia Senator Virginia’s Jim Webb spent too much time whining about how much face-time he was getting in the debate. He will, however, be remembered for his response to the evening’s final question from Anderson Cooper asking each candidate to reveal which enemy they were most proud of having made.
I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to…
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley saved his best for the closing statement, drawing a contrast between the GOP and Democratic debates:
“On this stage you didn’t hear anyone denigrate women, you didn’t hear anyone make racist comments about new immigrants, you didn’t hear anyone speak ill of anyone because of their religious belief,” O’Malley said. “What you heard was an honest debate of what will move us forward, to lead to a clean electric grid by 2050, and employ more of our people, rebuild our cities and towns, educate our children at higher and better levels, and include more people in the economic and social life in our country.”
Former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, “looked like a newt,” according to one young voter from Santa Fe I spoke with, and did little to distinguish himself.
From Politico’s California Playbook:
We watched with a young crowd in Oakland, and the one consensus of the night: “I don’t think a Lincoln Chafee rally could fill up a Honda Fit.”
Line of the Night
Colin McEnroe at Salon called the night for Sanders:(emphasis added)
When Sanders, who had the best night Tuesday night in Las Vegas, called for a political revolution, he wasn’t talking to the other candidates onstage or, for that matter, moderator Anderson Cooper, who bought a 10,000 square-foot, 18-bedroom home here in Connecticut last year. Revolution seemed mildly risible to everybody else onstage, in which case they’ve badly misread the level of discontent in this country.
He was talking to the rest of us. When you decide you’re less interested in winning and more interested in saying what you believe, all kinds of possibilities open up. It’s tough to know how well Sanders’s call for a carbon tax and for a Scandinavian-style welfare state will play with a general electorate, but, damn, it was refreshing to hear somebody tell the unfettered truth about climate change, income inequality and the “billionaire class that has so much power” over our political system.
“Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates Congress,” was the line of the night. Boldly announcing, as Sanders did, that the voters are “sick and tired of hearing about” Hillary Clinton’s “damn emails” was a smooth move that helped Sanders more than it helped Clinton.
And the Winner is…
My take is that the real winner of the debate was the Democratic Party. Acting like adults, bringing up issues (like climate change) even when the moderators didn’t, and telling less* lies makes this a no-brainer. (*Obviously somethings won’t make it through a fact check. It is politics, after all.)
If there’s a winner, that means there’s a loser, and the Republicans were clearly living up to that premise as they trolled the debates on social media.
The biggest loser award of the evening goes to Mike Huckabee for being both racist and forgetting about the little legal problem his son had concerning a dead dog.
@GovMikeHuckabee @BernieSanders As opposed to, say, your son Dave with a labrador.
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) October 14, 2015
UFCW’s WalMart Workers Ad a Debate Hit
The United Foodservice and Commercial Worker’s TV spots during the debate calling out WalMart’s employment practices got a lot of notice.
The first phase of the #OurWalmartVoices ad campaign will feature two 30-second commercials. The first, called “Replaceable,” will highlight the experiences of hard-working retail workers at Walmart. The second, called “Real Change,” specifically calls on the Democratic presidential candidates, as well as the Republican candidates, to stand with them, their families, and workers who are just like them in their effort to change retailers like Walmart for the better.
The ad campaign will first air nationally during the CNN debate and then continue a national run the following two days on CNN. Online, the ad will appear on Facebook and Twitter. In total, the ad will be seen more than 34 million times.
On This Day: 1912 – Theodore Roosevelt was shot while campaigning in Milwaukee, WI. Roosevelt’s wound in the chest was not serious and he continued with his planned speech. William Schrenk was captured at the scene of the shooting. 1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis began. It was on this day that U.S. intelligence personnel analyzing data discovered Soviet medium-range missile sites in Cuba. On October 22 President John F. Kennedy announced that he had ordered the naval “quarantine” of Cuba. 1964 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent resistance to racial prejudice in America.
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John Lawrence says
Bernie Sanders is indeed my hero. Notice how the biggest hit of the night was the completely unscripted support for Hillary Clinton (“I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”) It’s refreshing to hear supposed “rivals” actually showing compassion for one of their supposed “competitors.” Something new in politics and American life. And Bernie has not been afraid to tell it like it is over and over. It may be sinking in to the American people finally.
It was Hillary and Bernie night. God bless them. May they roll on over the Republicans who are just a pack of attack dogs who would never say a kind or supportive word about any of their “rivals.”
Frank Gormlie says
Doug? Weren’t you supposed to be at a meeting? Nice job of a wrap-up.
Doug Porter says
Listen geezer. I realize that you’re one of those people who thinks Livestreaming is some sort of fishing contest… I dragged my weary ass out of bed at 3:30am to watch because twitter had already told me it was worth it.
Frank Gormlie says
Now, that’s dedication. I thought Bernie had been a member of the SWP but it was actually the youth wing of the SP. Oh darn, I was gonna give him caca about the divisive role the SWP played during the anti-Vietnam war movement now that Sanders has single-handedly made “socialist” a household word, as in, “gee daddy and mommy, what does ‘socialist’ mean?”
nancy witt says
I didn’t get to hear the debate, so my first choice to see the summary was Doug’s, and I thank him for doing such a great job esp. when he got up so early to do it. He’s a pro.
John Lawrence says
I DVRed it at 6 PM off of CNN. My DVD bumped it in favor of other programs to be recorded at that time. So I watched it again at 10 PM when they reran it. Actually I fell asleep before the end but I did successfully record that one so I’ll go back to see the final segment.
bob dorn says
I just took a media pill and can’t stop saying, “But he can’t win.” What can I do?
Vox Populi says
I strongly support Senator Sanders but will settle for Hillary if it comes to it. What I suggest for the Republicans is sponsor a reality show titled: America’s Next President Got Talent. And just hope that the winning contestant can string more than 5 words together without insulting someone…
Dana Levy says
Last night I was again reassured that there is actually a REAL Democratic party out there. Proud of all 5 people and they said everything like I do every day. Hopefully we can win next year and carry on the great starting job Obama has done. The Reps are in trouble and that is fine with me. Stuffed shirts, the lot of them, and all the laughter and jokes are well earned.