Tuesday, May 05, 2015

You want debates? We'll have debates

By Richard Barry

Ooh, frosty.

The Democratic National Committee announced on Tuesday that there will be six officially-sanctioned debates as part of the party's presidential nomination process. It's not many, but considering how thin the field is and that the outcome is hardly in doubt, it will do. 
"We’ve always believed that we would have a competitive primary process, and that debates would be an important part of that process,” said DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Our debate schedule will not only give Democratic voters multiple opportunities to size up the candidates for the nomination side-by-side, but will give all Americans a chance to see a unified Democratic vision of economic opportunity and progress – no matter whom our nominee may be.”

In addition to Mrs. Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders is in and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb,  former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley are thinking about it.

Six debates should be enough for the Democratic Party to show that there is to be no coronation, but not so many to cause real damage to the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Chris Cillizza is exactly right when he notes that "Clinton and her team want to make sure you and everyone else knows that she is not taking this nomination for granted," even if she has every right to.

What better way to show that she is willing to fight for the every vote than to stand on a debate stage six times with the other candidates? That leveling process is a net good thing for Clinton in a way it wouldn't be for virtually any other candidate. While this would be seen as "punching down" for most well-known candidates, Clinton badly needs to avoid the appearance of a coronation, and a bunch of debates is a very good way to do that.

Then there is the fact that Clintonworld would like some positive media coverage during the primary and some credit for winning it.

Clinton is, if the 2008 campaign is any evidence, a skilled and poised debater who will likely perform well in the six showdowns to come. Her debate performances will then provide a storyline that isn't about her e-mail server, the Clinton Foundation or how much she or her husband were paid to give speeches. Clinton and her top aides abhor process stories, but a series of pieces about her ability and agility on the debate stage would be the sort of process-y story they would welcome with open arms.

Cillizza adds something I said a few weeks ago, which is that Clinton may be an experienced politician but she's likely rusty as hell and "needs practice before the three highly watched and highly meaningful general election debates against the GOP nominee."

It's all good, Clinton lovers. Relax. You should be happy with this, especially if you recall that Clinton and Obama met more than two dozen times in 2008.

And if you're planning your date book into 2016, take note that there will be debates in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. And by then it should be over. 

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  • I hate to constantly be quoting Jonathan Bernstein around here, but he's an insightful guy. He keeps hammering away on the fact that there is no coronation. It is just that Clinton is winning. I think I'm pretty typical of the left wing of the party. I will almost certainly vote for Sanders in the primary. But I have no problem with Clinton. And the more she campaigns, the more I like her.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 10:20 PM  

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