Tag Archives: O’Malley

Who Won The Democratic Debate of 17 January 2016?

I have studiously avoided picking a Democratic candidate to support. I will not have to decide until Super Tuesday, when Minnesotans caucus to support one or another candidate. I like Hillary Clinton for a number of reasons, including the simple fact that she has considerable experience in the Executive branch, and is a person who can get things done. If I got to pick the president (skipping the election process entirely), I’d probably pick Sanders because I’m all in on the revolution in American policy. Both candidates are actually in close agreement on most of the key issues. Neither came to the game with a strong climate change policy, and that is a strong negative for both of them, but they have gotten on board at least rhetorically. Not good enough, but the best we have. Both are against involving the US in a Middle Eastern quagmire. Both seem to be in favor of election reform, but Bernie is right that he’s the one acting like it already happened while Clinton is not. Yet, we can’t hold that against Hillary any more than we held it against President Obama when he won two elections. The electability argument may have favored Clinton at one point during the current primary race, but that same argument has been effectively made against her, and Sanders’ electability quotient seems to be rising.

Regardless, I strongly oppose the internecine arguing and sniping among supporters of both candidates. I sense that much of the really nasty anti-Clinton/Sanders yammering comes from people who are fairly new to the process and have yet to be disappointed by the outcome of such efforts that tend to harm one’s own chances of being represented in the White House.

Notice how much sniping there was during the debate among the actual candidates. Some, but not much. Also, they pointed out agreements on a number of occasions. All three candidates (and no, I’ve not forgotten O’Malley) made strong points against the Republicans, especially Donald Trump, but there were not enough such jabs.

[Note: Some of the sniping in brought to you by your friendly opposition party. See this.]

Still, I hope that both Clinton and Sanders supporters take a page out of the play books of their own candidates and cut back on the damaging attacks. One of those two candidates is going to get the Democratic nomination, and regardless of which one goes against the Republican, it is essential that individual wins. Supporters of the candidate that looses have to put their big kid pants on, suck it up, and get into the fight full steam ahead to assure that this happens.

I think of it as a recreational boxing match between marines in combat. Have a fair fight, try to win, but after the fight is over, the guy you knocked out is going to have to be in a condition to save your life later. If you kill your opponent, you’ve killed an important ally. This is why I think the most severe intra-party attacks are probably by noobs and youngies. They’ve not seen the loser of a primary jump into the general election context and help their former opponent win. That does, in fact, happen. Notice that Bill Clinton helped Barack Obama win, and Hillary Clinton served in the top cabinet post in President Obama’s administration.

OK, so that’s what I needed to get off my chest. Now, who won the debate?

I scored the candidates using a very subjective informal system during the entire debate. My scoring was based not on how much I personally agreed or disagreed with the candidate’s position. Again, the candidates are actually very close on most positions anyway. Rather, I scored the candidates on how they presented their case. Even there, I did not score on how much their approach resonated with my thinking, but with how I felt their rhetorical approach met the needs of a candidate talking to the American people.

I was looking at the candidates debating like a campaign advisor might look at their candidate, to refine the rhetorical and tactical approach.

Let me give you an example. I took points off Sanders’ discussion of “Medicare for All” in which he said that the middle class would have to pay taxes to get that benefit. He made the point that the overall output of the average middle class family would go down because the increase in taxes would be less than the current cost of expensive medical insurance, mainly by cutting out the insurance companies. I agree with that, but he lost points because he needed to put it another way. Overtly and even proudly claiming a tax increase, no matter how sensible, is not a good campaign strategy. He loses points not for being honest, but for having a policy that guarantees that enough voters can be turned against him on that one issue to throw a close election.

This is not unimportant. There are better ways he could have made the same case. After all, Medicare is not paid for with income tax. Future expanded Medicare does not need to be either. Indeed, as a policy, sinking health care cost into general income tax is a bad idea, possibly, because of Congress. Congress is constitutionally empowered to do whatever they want with that money. A strong Republican Congress during a serious budget crisis could eliminate universal health care way too easily under those conditions. So, he lost a couple of points for not referring to a modest payroll contribution to replace overinflated premiums.

I did the scoring on my facebook page, here. Feel free to jump in and complain!

The outcome of the scoring was that Clinton and Sanders got almost the same score, not different enough to matter. O’Malley got a lower score simply because he talked less, and I did not adjust for that (though I recorded the data in a way that would allow that adjustment).

Meanwhile, what did people think? The only real indicator of the outcome of this debate will be the official scientifically conducted polls that happen over the next few days. I’ve not seen any such polls yet. It takes a few days to do a poll, so a poll dated January 18th or 19th will not necessarily reflect the debate’s influence. I’ve argued in the past that online polls are actually useful, contrary to popular presumption, because of the way things work these days on the Internet. Online polls have tracked very closely with scientifically conducted polls for the Republicans. This may be true as well with the Democrats. Hard to say.

Online polls show a HUGE surge for Bernie Sanders with this debate, with Sanders garnering results in the 80% range in many polls. This is not a small thing. This may be in part because Sanders supporters are crazy poll clickers and will go out of their way to create a buzz (there is material evidence for this). But Clinton supporters should also be clickity clicking, so this effect can account for only a portion of that difference between the candidates.

It may well turn out that this debate is part of the transition I documented and described here, which is parallel to a transition that happened in the Clinton-Obama race.

If Sanders did in fact win this debate by such a large margin, then this will have to be reflected in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Sanders will have to win the Iowa Caucus by a decisive amount (close to 10 points?) and he will have to win New Hampshire by a landslide (he is effective “favorite son” there), in order for us to say that he won this debate at the level indicated by online polls.

Then, we are faced with the rest of the primary process. The electability issue will not go away for Sanders unless he beats or matches Clinton in the South, or at least, does fairly well. If Clinton creams Sanders in South Carolina, that is bad news for Sanders. Some Sanders supporters have indicated that Sanders won’t win the South anyway, and that may be true, but if he totally loses every southern state including Florida and Texas in the General, than we may end up President Trump-Cruz, and you can kiss the Supreme Court and doing anything about climate change good buy for many decades.

The fact that Sanders seemed to do well in this particular debate, held by the Congressional Black Caucus, might be important here. Clinton has the advantage with “minority” voters, for her family-related policy, her long term links to relevant issues, and the fact that she was married to the first Black president. Sanders is an old white Jewish guy from an all white state. African American vs. Jewish American relations are cold, on average. But Sanders kicked a lot of that to the curb with his social justice stands during this debate, and in general during his campaign. African Americans traditionally have had important friends in New England liberals, and in Jewish American intellectuals and their famous “New York Ideals” (sensu Cruz). The recent move to disassociate traditional allies by #BlackLivesMatters activists may or may not permeate to southern Democratic Party voters.

Personally, I wish Minnesota was not voting on Super Tuesday along with Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia. I’d rather have a bit more time with the Fish Finder before I have to cut bait, if you get my drift.

Who Won The First Democratic Party Primary Debate?

Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb faced off in the Facebook-CNN sponsored debate. Who won?

The individual who “won” is the individual whose poll numbers went up the most, and we don’t know that yet. But there are other ways to win, and other ways to talk about winning.


Barack Obama I am pleased to note that the candidates running for the Democratic nomination were not running away from the President. That proved to be a bad strategy for House and Senate Democrats during the last election, and we are not seeing it today. One of the questions asked during the debate was, “How would your presidency not be a third Obama term?” The ideal answer might have been, “Oh, it will be a third Obama term in many ways,” or even “My first term will be a second version of Obama’s second term.” No one said that, but some implied it, and it was clear that no candidate was trying to distance themselves from Obama. Within Democratic party politics, that is meaningful, and it was an endorsement of President Obama.

The Democratic Party I believe that there are people out there who were either Republicans or who were Independents who watched the GOP debates and then watched the Democratic debate and became Democrats. If you need to know why, you didn’t watch the debates.

Climate Change I am also please to note that climate change was a key issue in the debate, even if CNN did not try very hard to make it so. Many of the candidates mentioned climate change without prompting, and when climate change was brought up it was addressed. Most of the candidates had the “right” answer — that climate change is real, and important.

Martin O’Malley O’Malley is a climate hawk, and also, has a strong position on gun regulation. But, he is relatively unkown. Most democrats and progressives seemed to think he did well in the debate and he made a good impression. He is not likely to move out of the single digit zone, but he has become a factor. Many commenters are suggesting that he advanced into the possible VP slot because of this debate.

Bernie Sanders and Millions of Americans Sanders articulated his central position and did not falter or screw up in any way. Sanders supporters are able to say he won hands down, Sanders opponents can not say he did poorly. But something else happened here. Sanders made a point to a national audience that he has been making all along, which is very important. Like many idealist candidates before him, he has positions that can’t turn into reality because of strong opposition by the Republicans and because of Citizens United. Sanders’ answer to that is to agree, these positions will go nowhere. Unless… Unless millions of people show up outside the windows of the elected officials in Washington to scream at them. He’s right. Having that sociopolitical tactic acknowledged and part of his campaign would make Sanders the best candidate and an effective president if a) he wins and b) the millions of people actually show up. That prospect is now on the table.

Hillary Clinton Many commenters have noted that Hillary Clinton won the debate because she was the best debater. An example of her skill came when her ability to make good decisions was questioned vis-a-vis her vote on Iraq. Her answer was, essentially, that President Obama trusted her with the Secretary of State job, so what the heck? That and several other comebacks served her well. Clinton is a traditional fire and brimstone Democrat. Given a podium for ten minutes she can capture the crowd and bring everyone to a teary-eyed state of Progressive Frenzy with great skill. In the debating context, this is hard to do because the train just starts to leave the station when you get cut off. But on those few occasions when Clinton had the time, she got the train out of the station. Did you notice that? (In contrast, Sanders is a chunker. He has these great, fiery, hard as brick chunks of rhetoric he can slam into any conversation in less than 19 seconds. He showed that ability many times last night.)


International trade deals Sanders made the point that there have been no good international trade deals. Clinton, who was in on the early negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership threw the TPP under the bus. No one came to the rescue of international trade deals. It will be interesting to see if the Gops make this a point in the election. Their knee-jerk reaction will be to do so, but it will hurt them because nobody likes sending jobs and money overseas, and Romney has inoculated the voting populous in this area already.

Lincoln Chaffee Chaffee just did not come off well. Also, he was the only candidate repeatedly questioning everyone else’s ethics with the passive aggressive comment that HE was the one with ethics. Then he fell into the tiger trap by admitting that his 1999 Senate vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which he now sees as having been a bad vote, was made because he had no idea what he was voting for and had some personal problems and stuff. In all fairness, that was a conference vote, which is routinely near 100% even if more were opposed to the original bill, and he never had a chance to debate or vote against the bill earlier on. This is the Senator Problem, where the rules of the Senate are such that most experienced Senators can be singled out as having voted against something they are for, or for something they are against, unfairly. So, it may be unfair to write off Chaffee because of that one gaff. But it was more than just a gaff. It was more like digging a tiger pit for the other candidates then flinging oneself into the hole.

Guns Not every candidate was saying the same things about guns, but here’s the thing. The biggest differences between candidates were exposed in the light of very few issues, and gun regulation was one of those issues. But, it seems that at least within the context of the Democratic Party, the candidates are being judged on how anti-gun they are. Guns lose.

Benghazi and Email Scandals Benghazi was already hanging from the end of a taut rope, but still got beat up during the debate, along with Sanders’ remark that the Republicans need to take Hillary Clinton’s emails and shove them where the sun don’t shine. OK, he didn’t say that exactly, but that is what he, and everyone else, was thinking.

Wall Street Obviously.

So, who really won the debate?

Sanders or Clinton won the debate. The commenters I’ve read seem about evenly divided between the two candidates. However, on line polls are wildly supportive of Sanders over Clinton. Perhaps this means we have to say Sanders won the debate. I personally felt better about both of them after the debate, but it is hard to say if I felt more better about one or another.

Regarding the online polls, I’ve placed a bunch of screen grabs HERE so you can see how that looks. And, this brings up another interesting point.

Notice that I’ve avoided mentioning Jim web in the winners vs. losers sections. Personally, I thought he came off as a whinging wonk, not a potential president. Also, he’s wrong on several issues. Most commenters seem to feel the same. But if you look at those on line polls, oddly, Webb has surprisingly high marks in some of them. Overall, if we look only at the on line polls, Webb came in a solid third, even though most commenters are writing him off. Why?