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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Respond to GOP’s Fearfest Debate

Whatever else can be said about the Republicans Las Vegas fearfest, it certainly failed to present a convincing meme that they are the party best-prepared to keep us ‘safe and secure.’
Some Democratic responses to last night’s GOP’s debate in Las Vegas:
Alex Seitz-Wald notes at MSNBC.com: “The pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record, which coordinates directly with the official Clinton campaign, pointed out one flaw with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to work closer with King Hussein of Jordan – the king has been dead for 16 years.”
As for Sanders and O’Malley, Seitz-Wald adds:

After taking heat all month for resisting talking about ISIS, Sanders sought to flip the tables on the GOP. “Like the first [debate], not one word about income inequality, climate change, or racial justice,” Sanders tweeted. His campaign also criticized Republicans for talking about sending more American soldiers into combat, while failing to discuss how to better help veterans who return with PTSD or traumatic brain injury.
Long-shot candidate Martin O’Malley’s campaign stayed mostly quiet during the debate. “Not one Republican presidential candidate on stage showed the thoughtfulness and leadership we need. Instead, we saw a cattle call of fear mongers more eager to stir up uncertainty than serve responsibly as Commander in Chief,” he said in a statement after the debate.

Democrats can actually use one of Bush’s zingers targeting Trump. As NYT columnist Frank Bruni described it, “…Bush more than anyone in any of these debates effectively called Trump out for his galling recklessness…’He’s a chaos candidate,’ Bush said when asked to elaborate on a tweet in which he’d called Trump “unhinged.” ‘And he’ll be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.'”
To give them a little credit for consistency, you could see the message discipline in that all of the candidates performed a ritual-bashing of the Obama Administration, alleging without any specifics, that it has somehow failed to keep us “safe.” Every candidate did this, in addition to attacking each other.
Part of their problem was that Rand Paul kept reminding them that Republicans got the U.S. into the mideast mess in the first place. Many of the GOP wannabes still have an interventionist proclivity for “regime change,” which, not so incidentally for the party that purports to be the champion of fiscal rectitude, is very expensive.
But potentially the most important thing that happened last night for Democratic strategy came after the debate. In their New York Times article on the debate, Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healey report that Trump was “unambiguous” about an independent candidacy in his post-debate CNN interview: “Yes, I’m a Republican, and I’m going to be a Republican,” he said. “I’m not going to be doing a third-party.”
No one is going to bet much on Trump keeping his word. But Dems should prepare for the possibility that he may endorse the Republican nominee after all.
The GOP’s winner-take-all primary season hits high gear in March. Trump’s teflon is already wearing thin, but he keeps reviving in polls. A Clnton-Trump match may not happen, and a Clnton vs. a united Republican Party election just might happen. In any case, Dems should focus on creating the best possible GOTV operation, and not worry too much about which Republican will be the front-man.

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