News from the Votemaster
• Republican Leadership Has No Idea How to Stop Trump in South Carolina
• South Carolina Has the Dirtiest Politics in the Country
• Hillary Clinton is Hoping Black Pastors Will Save Her
• Both Democrats Enlist Celebrities to Help Them
• Some Advice for Hillary Clinton
• Winning Delegates in Nevada Requires Understanding the Rules
• Democrats Testing General Election Theme
Last night marked the sixth Democratic candidates' debate, the second since it became a two-person race, and the first with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sitting in the winners' circle. Both candidates know that some big tests are coming down the pike, and this will be their last chance to talk to voters in this way until after Super Tuesday.
Hillary Clinton, for her part, continued to refine her approach to critiquing the Vermont Senator. Direct attacks are off-putting and risk alienating Sanders voters that she one day hopes to welcome into her tent. So, she's been taking a "this is a great idea, but it's not practical" approach. On Thursday, the new point of emphasis was in-depth specifics as to exactly why she feels that Sanders' ideas are not practical. For example, in a discussion of healthcare, Clinton said:
Last week in a CNN town hall, the Senator told a questioner that the questioner would spend about $500 in taxes to get about $5,000 in healthcare. Every progressive economist who has analyzed that says that the numbers don't add up, and that's a promise that cannot be kept, and it's really important now that we are getting into the rest of the country that both of us are held to account for explaining what we are proposing because, especially with healthcare, this is not about math. This is about people's lives, and we should level with the American people about what we can do to make sure they get quality affordable healthcare.
Clinton alluded to very specific numbers, people, and initiatives throughout the rest of the debate as well, during discussions of the economy, race relations, campaign finance, and foreign affairs. In all, she was very, very impressive.
Sanders, serving as the yin to Clinton's yang, rarely got specific, instead relying on broad assertions of his basic cure to all ills: wealth redistribution. That, for example, was his solution to racial oppression:
[W]hat we will do is say, instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, we are going to create millions of jobs for low-income kids so they're not hanging out on street corners. We're going to make sure that those kids stay in school or are able to get a college education.
Later in the debate, Clinton (gently) called Sanders out on this tendency to return every issue back to the same essential source, observing, "I am not a single-issue candidate, and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country."
The candidates' attempts to connect with black voters, who make up a large portion of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina and in several of the Super Tuesday states (more on this below), were the major story of the night. Sanders approach was and is to lament joblessness, incarceration rates, and police misconduct. Clinton, for her part, can sense that President Obama's endorsement is tantalizingly close, so her primary tactic was to hug him as close as is possible. When she was asked about the extent to which the President has improved race relations in America, she declared:
I think under President Obama we have seen a lot of advances, the Affordable Care Act has helped more African Americans than any other group to get insurance, to be taken care of, but we also know a lot more than we did. We have a lot more social media, we have everybody with a cellphone.
You may have known that Al Gore invented the Internet, but you probably didn't know that Obama invented Twitter.
Clinton's cozying up to the President (while also painting Sanders as something of an Obama adversary), also led to the snippiest moment of the night. The Secretary noted (in an observation that included a generous amount of spin) that:
I want to follow up on something having to do with leadership, because, you know, today Senator Sanders said that President Obama failed the presidential leadership test. And this is not the first time that he has criticized President Obama. In the past he has called him weak. He has called him a disappointment.
The Vermont Senator, clearly annoyed, quite correctly characterized this as a "low blow."
With that said, despite the occasional flare-ups, it was yet another very civilized debate. The candidates acknowledged their substantial agreement on many points, and both—but particularly Sanders—took time to express their high regard for the other. They also avoided throwing much mud across the aisle—other than a few potshots at Donald Trump, they made no mention of the GOP's candidates. Which means that Teddy Roosevelt, who made an appearance in the Democratic debate for the second straight time, got more attention than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeb Bush, or Gov. John Kasich (R-OH). In fact, the Republican who rated the most mentions overall was actually Henry Kissinger, who last served in public office 39 years ago.
The next debate is nearly a month away; March 6 in Flint, Mich. By then, over 1,000 delegates will have been awarded, as compared to the 68 that have been at stake thus far. So, whatever happens, it will be a whole new ball game when the candidates take the stage again. (Z)
New Hampshire was supposed to be where the establishment would coalesce on one challenger to Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. Instead, their strongest candidate, Marco Rubio, came in fifth and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) dropped out altogether. South Carolina doesn't look like it is going to be any more helpful. The state is packed with evangelicals, veterans, and military bases, and is friendly territory to both Trump and Cruz and very unfriendly to candidates like John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Rubio, so we are likely to exit South Carolina just as we entered it, but with less time left for anyone to take down Trump, except maybe Cruz, who is even less popular with the Republican pooh-bahs than Trump. Everyone knows all this, but unless two of the Bush/Kasich/Rubio trio drop out, no serious winnowing will come out of South Carolina. Indeed, Bush and Rubio are all-but-certain to hang on until their home state of Florida votes, and by then more than 60% of the delegates will have been awarded.
The Bush camp has been circulating a memo that goes to the heart of what the establishment fears. It details exactly how Bush plans to go after Kasich and Rubio, saying they are unprepared for a national campaign. Bush is also planning to go after Trump. From the point of view of the establishment, tens of millions of dollars aimed at destroying Republicans, is the last thing it needs, but is what it is about to get. (V)
South Carolina has a well-deserved reputation for a place where politics is all about mean, below-the-belt fights. Lee Atwater, who was born there, turned dirty tricks into an art form. His masterpiece was the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988. Dukakis supported Massachusetts' program of giving weekend furloughs to criminals to help them be rehabilitated. While out on furlough, Horton raped a woman. Atwater's ad made it look like Horton was Dukakis' running mate.
In another famous incident, in 2000, phone calls were made—note the use of passive voice here since no one took credit for them—against John McCain in the form of a push poll. Thousands of South Carolina voters were called and asked if the fact that John McCain had a black child made them more likely or less likely to vote for him. Technically, nothing is wrong with the question but the insinuation was that McCain had had an affair with a black woman, both of which are deadly in South Carolina Republican primaries. In reality, McCain and his wife had generously adopted a black child while visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh.
Another feature of South Carolina politics is the whisper campaign. False rumors are spread around the state about a candidate, often involving sexual misconduct of one kind or another. Since the Republican primary there is on Feb. 20, the rumor mills will have to gear up fast to get production up to industrial scale in only a week. Donald Trump's marriages and bankruptcies might be soft targets. Time will tell; certainly no one else will. (V)
As the voting moves South, black voters become increasingly important—no, make that crucial—to Hillary Clinton's chances. Knowing how important black churches are in the South, she has lined up at least 28 prominent black preachers to help her. Some of them, like Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., are seen as giants in the black community. Among other things, Moss marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Another key supporter is Dr. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King's spiritual home. If the pastors can turn out their flocks for Clinton, it could make a big difference since 55% of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina is black.
Also of importance for Clinton with black voters is that yesterday the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed her. During the endorsement, black lawmakers said that Sanders does not have a record supporting activism for minorities that could rival Clinton's. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a giant in the Civil Rights Movement (and the only living member of the "Big Six"), said that when he was involved in sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and other protests in the 1960s, he never met Sanders but he did meet Clinton. While Sanders has some endorsements from influential black leaders, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Clinton has vastly more and is counting on them heavily to help her in South Carolina. Most polls show her 30-40 points ahead of Sanders in the Palmetto State, but she is taking no chances. (V)
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have lined up many celebrities to pitch them to their respective audiences. Here is a sample of who's on which side, with the target audience listed after the slash below.
|Clinton supporters||Sanders Supporters|
|Demi Lovato (singer) / young women||Killer Mike (rapper) / young blacks|
|Tony Goldwyn (actor) / older women||Sarah Silverman (comedian) / young people|
|Jamie Lee Curtis (actress) / older women||Cornel West (civil rights activist) / blacks|
|Billie Jean King (tennis legend) / LGBT voters||Bill McKibben (environmentalist) / climate voters|
|Katy Perry (pop singer) / young people||Danny DeVito (actor) / artists & musicians|
Clearly each side has its own focus here so far, but no doubt many more celebs will be trotted out as time goes on. (V)
To read the news, you would think Hillary Clinton is in full meltdown mode after losing New Hampshire. She shouldn't be. Froma Harrop has some good advice for her. Roughly summarized it is as follows:
- New Hampshire has been good to you in the past, but you had to re-earn its love in 2016 and you didn't.
- Women don't owe you anything. Get Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright to shut up.
- Bill's presidency was great, but many of today's voters were toddlers then and don't care about it.
- Many people were hurt badly during the Great Recession. You need to address their concerns directly.
- You are the candidate, not "The Clintons." If you think dynasties are in, give Jeb a call.
Most of these points look fairly obvious, but Clinton hasn't absorbed them. (V)
One of the main reasons Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama in 2008 is that her pollster and strategy guru, Mark Penn, didn't actually understand the arcane rules for delegate selection. The arcane rules are still with us, and will be on display next in Nevada. In 2016, the Nevada Democratic Party has decided that precincts in counties with under 400 Democrats will get one delegate per precinct for every five registered Democrats. In contrast, the largest counties, with 4,000 or more registered Democrats, get one delegate per precinct for every 50 registered Democrats. The consequence of this rule is that it matters a lot where your support comes from. A vote in Las Vegas is not the same as a vote in Pahrump (just as in presidential elections, a vote in Wyoming means more than a vote in California).
Clinton, now aware of this situation, built up a large volunteer organization in Nevada long before Sanders did. She hopes to profit from having a stong ground game in rural areas whereas Sanders is typically strongest in cities. Due to the peculiarities of the delegate selection rules, this could help her in getting actual delegates. (V)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the likely Democratic leader in the Senate starting in 2017, and currently chief spokesman for the party, is trying out a new message that could dominate the general election if it plays well. The message is that Republicans talk a lot about national crises, but when push comes to shove aren't willing to spend money to solve them. He talked about the water crisis in Flint, MI, and other cities, the opioid epidemic, and the Zika virus, all of which are scary and expensive to deal with. He said the Republicans love to talk about crises but when the time for action comes, they don't want to spend money dealing with them. A case in point is a White House request for $1.8 billion in emergency spending to combat the Ziki virus. Democrats support the bill whereas Republicans say the situation needs more study. The Republican response has been to attack Schumer for politicizing a national crisis.
If this trial balloon does well, in the Fall the Democrats could be saying they think the federal government should spend money to solve national problems and the Republicans could then attack them as the tax-and-spend party. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
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Feb11 Trump Had Broad and Deep Support in New Hampshire
Feb11 The Democrats' Moaning is Maybe a Tad Premature
Feb11 Sanders a Good Thing for Hillary?
Feb11 Obama Will Probably Endorse Clinton Sooner Rather than Later
Feb11 Sanders Raises $6 Million Since the New Hampshire Primary
Feb11 Fiorina, Paul, and Christie Are Out
Feb11 Sanders Is the First Jewish Candidate Ever To Win a Presidential Primary
Feb10 New Hampshire Voters Poke Establishment in the Eye
Feb10 IRS Deems Karl Rove's Attack Group a Social Welfare Organization
Feb10 Clinton Praised Goldman Sachs in Her Speeches
Feb10 Sanders Supports Big Defense Spending If It Is in Vermont
Feb10 Government Wants to Give Politicians $300 Million but None Want It
Feb10 Carson Violates the Protocol, Says He Would Be Trump's Veep
Feb09 New Hampshire's Turn at the Plate
Feb09 New New Hampshire Voter ID Law Goes Into Effect Today
Feb09 Does Bush Still Have a Shot at the Nomination?
Feb09 How to Really Make America Great Again
Feb09 Does the Republican Establishment Actually Want to Win?
Feb08 Republican Debate Postmortem
Feb08 In New Hampshire, It's Trump, Then a Four-way Tie for Second
Feb08 Myths about the New Hampshire Primary
Feb08 Sanders Outspending Clinton 3-to-1 in New Hampshire
Feb08 Trump's Draft Deferments Could Be an Issue in South Carolina
Feb08 Clinton Still Ahead in Iowa
Feb07 A Bad Night for GOP Frontrunners in New Hampshire
Feb07 Another National Poll Says Clinton and Sanders Are Tied
Feb07 Kasich Says He Would Be a Terrible Vice President
Feb07 Is There A Special Place in Hell for Women Who Don't Help Each Other?
Feb07 Gloria Steinem: Young Women Support Sanders to Meet Boys
Feb07 Get-Out-The-Vote Operations Have Become More Sophisticated
Feb06 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Feb06 GOP Candidates Take Their Turn in New Hampshire
Feb06 New Poll of New Hampshire Puts Rubio Second
Feb06 Sanders Catches Clinton in New National Poll
Feb06 Why Do Millennials Love Sanders?
Feb06 Trump Will Appear at March 3 Debate Moderated by Megyn Kelly
Feb05 Democrats Duel in Durham
Feb05 Trump Barely Ahead in New National Poll
Feb05 Rubio in Second Place in New Hampshire
Feb05 Powell and Rice also Used Personal Email Accounts for Classified Data
Feb05 Barbara Bush To Campaign for Jeb in New Hampshire
Feb05 Cruz Raised $3 Million Since Iowa Caucuses
Feb04 February Lineup for the Republican Nomination
Feb04 Could the Republicans Be Down to Three Serious Candidates Already?
Feb04 Santorum and Paul Call It Quits
Feb04 Rubio is Gaining Momentum, Though at What Cost?
Feb04 Trump Says He Will Sue Over the Iowa Caucus Results
Feb04 Ted Cruz Has Another Misunderstanding
Feb04 In New Hampshire, Sanders Leads Clinton by 33 Points