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Trump Dominates In Democratic Debate

Trump Dominates In Democratic Debate

By Monday, 21 December 2015 08:20 AM Current | Bio | Archive

There’s no escaping Trump, even at the Democratic debate, where candidate Martin O'Malley labeled him as a fascist and Hillary Clinton charged he is "becoming ISIS' best recruiter."

With Trump dominating Sunday talk shows as he fired back at Clinton, there was mounting press speculation that the Trump-bashing by all three Democratic presidential hopefuls was a tactic designed to rally more Republican support for the most controversial of their candidates.

The Clinton-Sanders "computer caper," as Des Moines Register political reporter Kathie Obradovich characterized it, also emerged as an issue in the debate. "Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders quickly tried to stifle talk of the controversy over the Sanders' campaign's breach of confidential voter data belonging to the Clinton campaign," Obradovich told me, "Sanders' quick apology and Clinton's immediate acceptance looked statesmanlike. But it is also very much in both campaigns' interests to move on and persuade voters there's nothing to see here.

"While Clinton could benefit to the extent the Sanders campaign looks untrustworthy, the computer caper only serves to remind people of the ongoing investigation into her private email server."

Obradovich also pointed out that the topic worked to the disadvantage of dark horse candidate O’Malley. As she put it, "Gov. O'Malley tried to gain the upper hand but failed when he accused his two rivals of 'bickering' when they clearly had done nothing of the sort."

Historian David Pietrusza, author of the much-acclaimed book "1932" on the presidential election that year, agreed.

"Following the Sanders-Clinton data breech exchange," he told me, "O'Malley stole Chris Christie's patented act of decrying 'political exchanges' that 'no one cares about.' He came across as simply overwrought and phony. His interruptions were not appreciated. Neither was his graceless 'generational perspectives' crack.

"If his poll numbers remain in low single digits, the Democratic National Committee should restrict the stage to Sanders and Clinton. It probably won't though. For despite O'Malley's occasional jabs at Clinton, it serves her to avoid a direct one-on-one confrontation with the more personable Sanders."

Pietrusza also noted the increased emphasis on national security issues among Democrats. On the stage at St. Anselm's, he said, "there was real excitement and a great deal of significant debate transpired regarding the dangers of regime change and the future of the Assad regime [in Syria]. That Bernie Sanders would ally with Russia in combating ISIS was indeed news. [Moderator] Martha Raddatz's grilling of Hillary Clinton on Libyan regime change was tough and persistent, and Clinton responded in less than stellar fashion.

"But while ABC's moderators performed quite well concerning the topics under discussion, any number of issues were simply ignored: how to balance the budget, how to grow jobs, Benghazi, or the Clinton servers and Clinton Foundation controversies. Nor do I recall hearing the phrase 'Islamic terrorism' used even now."

"It was a much feistier and livelier debate than the previous ones," according to Franklin and Marshall professor G. Terry Madonna, who is considered the premier pollster in Pennsylvania, "Questions for the most part were very substantive. Their responses played to the Democratic base. Each of the candidates pretty much did themselves well with their supporters. With few exceptions, you would not know that Obama is president. Most Democrats have chosen a candidate, so it's hard to see a game change or shift in many Democratic voters. Perhaps a bit in New Hampshire."

Almost to a person, the independent observers who spoke to me following the debate agreed that it changed little and, in Pietrusza's words, "the more things change, the more things stay the same, and there was a lot of 'same' in Saturday night's Democratic debate."

But that may be understating the long-term legacy of the debate. As the Register's Obradovich put it, "This debate didn’t reset the race for the Democrats, but it did give some new ammunition to Republicans. If voters begin to wonder whether keeping confidential data secure is a problem for Democrats in general, it will raise doubts that Democrats can keep the country safe." 

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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There’s no escaping Trump, even at the Democratic debate.
Democrats, OMalley, Des Moines, Register
Monday, 21 December 2015 08:20 AM
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