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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

October 14: Debating Democrats Didn’t Take Media Bait for “Disarray”

Amidst all the inevitable talk about who “won” and “lost” in last night’s first Democratic presidential debate, it should not be forgotten that the cause of Democratic unity had a pretty good evening despite some serious media provocation to support the ever-ready “Democrats in Disarray” meme. I wrote about this today at TPMCafe:

When the first Democratic presidential debate got underway last night, you got the immediate impression that the CNN organizers were determined to dash the expectation that it would be a less fractious event than the network’s Republican debate last month. Moderator Anderson Cooper, normally the most irenic of talking heads, got in touch with his inner Jake Tapper and began barking harsh criticisms at the candidates. But with few exceptions during the long contest, the five donkeys on the stage did not rise to the bait, and as a result the event often turned into Democrats versus CNN.
That was made most obvious by the signature moment of the debate: Bernie Sanders shouting at Cooper that the American people are “tired of hearing about [HRC’s] damn emails.” As a stand-in for the media hounds insisting on maximum coverage of the damn emails, Cooper gamely tried to press the issue, to no avail.
For their own part, the candidates did not go after each other much at all (HRC challenging Sanders’ gun record was an exception, as was Chafee calling HRC unqualified by her poor judgment on Iraq–his campaign’s one attention-grabbing talking point)….
[T]here just wasn’t the sense of a party in crisis that Republicans have projected again and again in the two debates, the two “undercard” events, and many exchanges on the campaign trail. Virtually no GOP presidential candidates have a kind word to say about their party’s leadership in Washington. Even challenged directly to distinguish themselves from Barack Obama, the five candidates were careful not to criticize him. In the Republican field, one candidate has called another a “egomaniacal madman”; another routinely calls several of his rivals “losers”; and the candidate most beloved of party elites is disliked by a majority of rank-and-file voters. There’s nothing like that on the Democratic side at present.

We’ll see how long it lasts, but without question, Democrats are for the most part minding their manners, and remembering the big picture.

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