Election 2016

The Democratic Primary Debates are a Joke, but Hillary Clinton Should Still Be Worried

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credit: jurvetson / Chairs Hunter / CC BY

The Democratic National Committee announced today that it would host six officially sanctioned interview forums with Hillary Clinton. Several other Democratic politicians, likely including Sen. Bernie Sanders, will be allowed on stage, and at times will presumably be allowed to contribute to the discussion. These events will be referred to as "debates."

The series of debate-style events will allow the DNC to claim that the Democratic primary is actually competitive. "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 Debbie Wasserman Schultz as part of an announcement about the events. But it's hard to seriously describe the Democratic primary field as truly competitive. Barring a truly major mishap or scandal, Hillary Clinton is virtually certain to be the party's nominee. To the extent that the DNC's debates are supposed to inform the party's presidential candidate selection, they will be almost entirely for show. 

These psuedo-debates will, of course, give Hillary Clinton some exposure and serve as practice rounds, giving her a chance to sharpen her off-the-cuff speaking skills in advance of next year's presidential face-offs. And yet even with her virtual lock on the nomination, I think the debates do carry some risk for her.

Given that she is essentially a lock for the party's nomination, she has more to lose than anyone she'll share the stage with. She can minimize this risk by being extremely cautious and careful, of course, but that may not be exactly the image she wants to project.

This, however, is all fairly manageable. I do wonder, however, if there's a bigger risk—which is that the exposure will do her more harm than good. Clinton is an undeniably strong candidate in many ways, but she's quite a bit less strong now than she was a month ago, before she officially announced her candidacy. Her unfavorable rating has dropped by six points since March, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week, and the percentage of people who say she is "honest and straightforward" has dropped by 13 points.

The launch of Clinton's campaign, in other words, hasn't given her a boost. Instead, it has come with a drop in favorability, a decent proxy for support, and provided Republicans with an opportunity to step up attacks on Clinton's trustworthiness.

Tellingly, her campaign's strategy in the face of all this has been to stay quiet, and minimize her immediate exposure. As CNN reports, "She has intentionally downsized the early stage of her campaign, holding only a handful of appearances. The only stop on her public campaign schedule this week is in Nevada on Tuesday, leaving her Republican critics to fill the vacuum of silence."

What this suggests that Hillary Clinton's own campaign believes that her presidential ambitions are presently best served by avoiding heavy contact with the media and the public. Part of this is that she already has high name recognition and thus does not need to introduce herself to the public in the same way that a lesser known candidate would.

But part of it is that Hillary Clinton is better liked when she is seen as out of the political fray. Her poll numbers dropped as she entered the race this year, and, similarly, her appeal declined last year at the same time that she made headlines with the release of her book, Hard Choices, and the flurry of media appearances to promote it, which were widely understood as a testing ground for her eventual presidential campaign. The DNC's debates will put her back in the public eye, in an unequivocally politicized format. The risk, then, is that the debates will provide yet another opportunity for some in the public to discover that they like her less than they previously thought.

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  1. But part of it is that Hillary Clinton is better liked when she is seen as out of the political fray.

    You know who else should have stayed out of the Freys?

    1. HBO.

      HBO must be destroyed.

    2. Hitl… Hitler?

      1. Michelle Obama?

    3. Frey D. Cats?

    4. Robb Stark?

    5. Pie?

      No, wait, I might have that backwards.

    6. Metallica? But I really liked The Frayed Edge of Sanity

      1. Ends. Goddammit, The Frayed Ends of Sanity

        1. St,. Anger was the frayed end of Metallica.

    7. Howland Reed?

      1. I heard Howland Reed just died.

    8. Edmure Tully?

  2. Barring a truly major mishap or scandal

    So, aside from tautological definition (major scandal is one that knocks her out), what more can she do to be unelectable to the base? Praise Bastiat? Eat a dog on camera, raw and unskinned? Say “I hate you all and hope you all die right after voting for me?”

    1. Actually, some form of praise for markets and capitalism or a healthy dose of NOT soaking the rich are probably the only things she could do to piss of the devoted.

      1. Well, one thing she will never stop doing is soaking the rich. Its the entire business plan of La Cosa Clinton, after all, via their foundation.

    2. Say “I hate you all and hope you all die right after voting for me?”

      She’s telling them to support her as their champion against political corruption. She’s already telling them to their faces that she thinks they’re abject morons. And I’m not sure she’s wrong about that.

      1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s exactly right about that.

    3. No, Pan, that wouldn’t do it. You serve us all well by highlighting the fact that it wont be easy to beat her-a foolish idea that was tossed out from time to time prior to Obama’s reelection.

  3. Barring a truly major mishap or scandal, Hillary Clinton is virtually certain to be the party’s nominee.

    I think you meant “[b]arring a truly major mishap or scandal THAT THE MEDIA WILL APPROPRIATELY GO AFTER…”

    1. Even still, the media is going after the current crop to some extent. The NYT broke the UraniumOne thing. Now, that’s not merely scandalous, it’s fucking treasonous.

      The problem is that this country is so far down the derp train that the fucking people couldn’t give a shit.

    2. “I hate you all and hope you all die right after voting for me?” -Hillary

      “I steal money from old people and children.” -Jeb

      “Why, I believe I’ll vote for a third party candidate!”

      “Go ahead, throw your vote away!” -HJ in unison.

  4. But part of it is that Hillary Clinton is better liked when she is seen as out of the political fray out of sight and out of mind. Her poll numbers dropped as she entered the race this year, and, similarly, her appeal declined last year at the same time that she made headlines with the release of her book, Hard Choices, and the flurry of media appearances to promote it

    FTFY

    1. That’s the thing – when people remember she exists, they usually remember they don’t like her.

      2016 is going to be the Republicans’ race to lose.

      1. 2016 is going to be the Republicans’ race to lose.

        They are probably up to the challenge.

        1. They blew what should have been easiest layup of all time in 2012, after all.

          1. +1 Mitten

          2. I don’t think so. You overestimate Obama’s unpopularity. They have too little clout in the media. It may well take 4-8 years of Hillary before ennui sets for the Democrats and the GOP has its ‘comeback moment.’ But I think it’s still an uphill battle for them.

        2. Oh, most definitely.

      2. Stupid party

    2. i think what you are saying is, they like the concept of Hillary a lot more than they like the actual person. Its sort of like group sex, it sounds exciting but when it comes down to having sex around multiple other people most people find it rather distasteful and a bit embarrassing…….

      in other words the reality of Hillary is that she is a complete clusterfuck in person.

  5. The series of debate-style events will allow the DNC to claim that the Democratic primary is actually competitive.

    Welcome to Seattle. A place with a top-two primary system which effectively cut off all political diversity. Well, diversity limited to Maoists, Marxists, Leninists, Stalinists, Fabianists and Pol Potists.

    This of course forces the local rag-of-record to write headlines like this:

    Seattle mayoral debate reveals style differences

  6. Instead, it has come with a drop in favorability

    This is an interesting but tortured polling phrase we’ve been hearing about Hillary as of late.

    Hillary comes with high negatives!

    She also comes with equally high positives. All it means is that if you don’t like her, you really don’t like her. But it says nothing about whether she’ll win an election or beat whatever cardboard cutout the GOP is going to stand up.

    1. Her favorable/unfavorable is essentially tied right now, but the trend lines are ugly.

      http://elections.huffingtonpos…..ble-rating

      1. Interesting link. The real gem in here? Biden is looking better.

        http://elections.huffingtonpos…..ble-rating

        1. compared to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden’s cultured toe fungus looks better.

  7. Odds of the moderators bringing up the email scandals or Benghazi during the debates?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    1. They’ll stick to issues.

      1. what issues? the only issues that matter are complete losers for her.

        economy — she is a socialist who will continue Obama’s policies which are killing the working poor and middle class
        National Security—– complete and utter failure
        Immigration —- pro amnesty – which the vast majority of people oppose
        Energy —– she will kowtow to the greenies to get elected and oppose fracting, XL pipeline etc…
        National Debt —– she is a tax and spend socialist who will not do anything about the debt
        Criminal Justice reform—- do you really think that she wasn’t just co-opting a libertarian issue?
        Race relations — like a geriatric white woman is going make any difference.

        All the democrats can hope for is that the base holds together and realizes that with a republican in the white house some of the government checks might be a little lighter and that the yellow liberal media will continue to run interference like the do with all democratic candidates .

  8. Cankles vs the Burrito Bush – 2016!

    1. No. Warren wins the Dem nomination and Cruz or Paul win the GOP nomination causing the establishments of both parties to form a unity crap weasel Clinton Bush third party ticket.

      Clinton Bush 2016, because it had to happen sooner or later.

      1. May as well be since Jeb and Hillary are conspiring to get Jeb nominated. Hillary gets the Whitehouse and Jeb gets pockets full of Clinton Foundation cash. WIN/WIN. And the public drools and eats their daily gruel.

        1. There has to be some reason Jeb is running. I suppose it is possible if not likely he is so delusional he thinks he can win. It is also possible he realizes he can’t and is being paid off to be a loser.

          1. He doesn’t think he can win. He thinks he can win the nomination and get Hillary elected. The Burrito Bush is a statist through and through. Listen to what he says, he doesn’t even try to hide it.

            1. He is much worse than his brother or his father. JEB is by far the worst Bush yet.

              1. It’s been downhill ever since the burning.

        2. Please, sir. A little more.

  9. Barring a truly major mishap or scandal

    So if having her own email server and destroying the harddrives before anyone could see them and taking bribes from foreign nations while secretary of state is not a “major scandal”, exactly what is? Does Suderman really not consider that a major scandal?

    1. Fake scandals, all of them. I mean, wouldn’t you take donations from mean ol countries if you knew it would save the children? And would you want to carry 2 cell phones because you have 2 different email addresses? Because apparently Hillary, the media, and most Americans have no fucking idea that you can have multiple email accounts on the same fucking phone, even if those accounts are on different servers. Most of the American public are fucking retarded, literally fucking retarded, beyond all redemption. No matter what you tell them, they’ll believe it. We are totally fucked at this level of retard.

      1. We really are. It is not about politics. Even if you liked her politics, how can you say any of that is okay? We have hit a point where even if you wanted to vote Democrat you couldn’t because electing a Democratic President means having a President who is totally above any accountability. As long as the media and the other Democrats are willing to support the President, there is no way to hold them accountable no matter how bad their behavior.

        Hillary did this before she was President. If she gets elected despite of this, imagine how bad she will be once she is President.

        1. She’ll be some order of magnitude worse than Obama. Whether she’ll actually get away with it for 8 years is debatable. Not being the first black president, she may not survive it.

          1. I thought Obama being black was the reason. And at first it was. But I think th Democrats and the media have gotten much worse in the last few years. She would survive it. There is no standard of behavior for Democratic politicians anymore, other than don’t fuck with a more powerful Democrat the way Menendez did with Obama over Iran.

          2. She will get away with it because she has a vagina.

            1. Allegedly.

              1. I bet Hillary has a bigger dick than Obama.

                1. I don’t know, brah. He is half black.

      2. No matter what you tell them, they’ll believe it.

        Really?

        -Minimum wage destroys jobs.
        -Tax cuts leave money to people who own it, not cost government.
        -Government is not necessary for provision of education.
        -There is no 30% wage gap between men and women.

        Think Hilary voters can be made to believe any of that? It’s not retardation, it’s willfully ignoring the truth when it conflicts with your political beliefs.

      3. On the other hand, if she crosses Obama (Jarrett) in the next year and a half, there will be a very successful RICO investigation of Hillary and Bill.

      4. I carry two cell phones. A good boy phone and a naughty boy phone.

    2. Oh come on, you are a faithful McArdle reader, John. You know that’s not a real scandal. From her article on Clinton’s Cash

      Now instead of a mini-scandal over some badly phrased e-mails that would have blown over in a few days, the Clintons have a lingering issue of unknown scale. But that’s not the main problem for the campaign. The most serious concern at the moment is whether there are any other trails of breadcrumbs, and where they might lead.

      See, they just hurt themselves, so isn’t it time to let bygones be bygones?

      1. And people wonder why I loath that woman so much.

        1. You won’t if Warren runs. Megan destroyed her years ago and I would love to see her do it again.

          1. Hah, great minds.

        2. She writes some good stuff sometimes. Her takedown of Lizzie Warren’s academic career from a few years ago was a delightful read.

          1. That makes sense. She is more than anything an insufferable elitest. And Warren committed the crime of going to Rutgers. The fact that Warren is an idiot and a fraud can in McArdle’s mind be excused. But attending Rutgers? Some things just go too far.

            1. McArdle basically fisked Warrens big claim to fame at the time, her paper on how medical bills were causing bankruptcy. McArdle went through the paper and essentially proved that it was all complete and total bullshit based on misappropriated statistics.

          2. I know, she’s quite a good writer, and excellent entry to libertarian-ish thought. But consistency is not always her great point, especially now that she’s at Bloomberg.
            Two years ago:

            HHS. The IRS. Benghazi. Spying on reporters. Scandals abound, which just might be good for the administration in the long run.

            I mean, sure, none of it rises to the level of Watergate. But while the gravity may pale in comparison, the volume is breathtaking. So breathtaking that it’s tempting to think that the administration is doing this deliberately.

            McArdle two days ago:

            I suspect that one reason the Obama administration has been relatively free of scandals is that its officials get the Internet. Really get it, down in their bones.

            1. And I’ll also add that her comment section is excellent, with regulars routinely dealing with lefty troll invasion with wit, charm and facts. One of only two news/opionion/politics places I read comments and consider the articles just the starting point for real discussion.

  10. What this suggests that Hillary Clinton’s own campaign believes that her presidential ambitions are presently best served by avoiding heavy contact with the media and the public.

    The campaign isn’t about mobilizing voters, it’s about eliciting donations. If she’s not getting money by getting out there, you can only guess how and from whom she’s getting it.

  11. Hillary’s Q-score correlates to how much she talks without a script; ten minutes off-the-cuff with no handlers, and the number drops by a couple points – at least until the next cycle.

    When she (it?) sticks to boilerplate, her numbers stay about the same (nobody pays attention).

    Hillary’s numbers go up when a Republican tool like Cruz opens his mouth, and by doing so tosses a talking-point Hillary’s way – but on her own Hillary can’t budge her numbers up no matter what she say or who she panders to.

    So I’d guess the Donkey ‘debates’ will be a gradient of script and actual responses. Hillary’s success there will be predicated on how ‘nice’ the props are, or if they force her off-script.

    1. Well, why does it matter? She’s 49 points ahead of all Republicans in the polls!

      /Shreektard The Cankle Licker and his trusty sidekick, Tonytard.

  12. Show us your TITS!

    -cuz what other reason do we have, to vote for you?

    1. do you really want to see Hillary’s tits?!!

      Yuck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Hillary Clinton is better liked when unseen. And unheard.

    1. You have to pretend that the vagina in a pantsuit is good. If you look at it, that spoils the fantasy.

      1. nothing in a pantsuit looks good

        its as bad as Obama in granny jeans

  14. Say “I hate you all and hope you all die right after voting for me?”

    .
    “What are the mugs going to do, vote Republican? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Is this thing still on?”

    1. If she’d only wear a monocle while she cackled that phrase!

  15. So basically the more people see, hear, and know about her the less they like her? Huh, I never would have guessed that a shrill unethical sociopathic harpie would turn people off like that.

  16. The series of debate-style events will allow the DNC to claim that the Democratic primary is actually competitive.

    Just like the Moscow Trials showed the world that the Soviet Union’s legal system was actually fair.

  17. That opening paragraph had so much snark on it I had to wash after reading it.

  18. I hope the DNC lets Bernie do his thing — it will make Hillary very uncomfortable. He clearly does not care, has nothing to lose, and brings something to the table she does not: integrity. He may be a crazy socialist, but he’s pretty much for real (compared to most politicians).

    It would be fun to see a commercial with just these few tidbits put together: Hillary expressing her desire to have one private email account for convenience, then a shot of her using both a cell phone and a Blackberry device, then her talking about being broke when she and Bill moved out of the White House, then a shot of their very nice home, followed by her shrill “at this point what difference does it make?”. Just play that over and over. It will work.

    1. Agreed.

    2. I don’t like Bernie, and I really don’t like his sociopolitical point of view but, at least the man is honest and I hope he honestly rips Hillary and Bill for being the power-hungry money-grubbing whores that they both are. Only a socialist can get through to all of the little socialist morons who will not listen to anyone that is even center-left.

  19. I don’t know why more of you aren’t concerned by the fact that Hillary Clinton, known triangulator and holder of vague, centrist positions that have helped further her career, is now speaking like Elizabeth Warren. Does that not signal to you that the country’s political center is now farther leftward than it has been in decades? Despite the alleged disaster of Obama?

    1. Does that not signal to you that the country’s political center is now farther leftward than it has been in decades?

      Do you not know how primary campaigning works? You’re trying to get the party’s base. So sure, the Democrats are further left than they used to be. That’s been an unchanging story my whole life.

      Despite the alleged disaster of Obama?

      Allegedly?

    2. It signals to me that the democratic base is further left than it has been in decades, and that she doesn’t want to get beat from the left like she did in 2008.

      1. I don’t believe she “got beat from the left”–hell, even Obama didn’t consider gay marriage to be authentic until 2013. She got beat because for Dem voters, Black Man trumped White Woman on the Progressive token pole at the time.

        Now that they’ve ticked off that mark on their bucket list, they’re moving on to electing a White Woman because there isn’t anyone representing another particular Grievance Class this time around. If someone like Jared Polis, a gay man, decided to run instead, he’d give Hillary a serious run and would have an outside chance of winning the nomination just because of his sexuality.

        1. How lovely that you refer to everyone who’s not white and male as a member of a “grievance class.” Because God knows you and your ilk never ever complain about anything.

          1. Said the white male who pretends to be the spokesman of the Grievance Class

          2. How lovely that you refer to everyone who’s not white and male as a member of a “grievance class.”

            I’m Hispanic. Fuck your whitesplaining, gringo.

          3. What’s truly pathetic is that you don’t even bother to deny the argument and engage in tu quoque arguments for the second time in this thread. Nothing warms the soul like your catty shitlibbery.

            1. What argument? That minorities both do and should have a tougher time proving their worth, because their mere status as a minority makes their success suspect? All the white presidents were judged on their merits, never on their skin color. Why is it OK to do it with Obama? Because he’s the only one with black skin? What kind of logic is that?

              And the point is nobody whines as much as you people, so you talking about grievance classes is fucking hilarious.

              1. All the white presidents were judged on their merits, never on their skin color. Why is it OK to do it with Obama? Because he’s the only one with black skin? What kind of logic is that?

                This limpout is fucking hilarious because you damn well know that Obama would never have been on the radar in the first place if he had been a white man named Barry Orson. He could have said all the exact same things and no one would have given a shit, especially not in 2008 with Hillary running.

                Like I said, nothing warms the soul like your catty shitlibbery.

      2. People forget that she was more left than Obama in that campaign, if incrementally. If you think it’s just a radicalization of the Democratic base, I invite you to look at some recent general population polling on the issues.

    3. tony – you must be a hard line communist to think that Hillary is a centrist. Se only plays that way during elections to try to peel off some of the dumb ass “moderates” who can’t find their ass with both hands when it comes to politics.

    4. It is Hillary signalling to Warren that Hillary is prepared to back fill the left side of the party with Warrenesque populist rhetoric should Warren be thinking about entering the race. Hillary is signalling that that ground now has a Hillary flag sitting atop it. If and when Hillary can be confident that Warren will not rise up against her Hillary will temper her rhetoric.

      It is hope inducing to think that a politcian’s apparent change in rhetoric signals a shift in public sentiment, as it some times does. Obama’s 120 degree turn on the gay is just such an example. But Obama wasn’t running for office.

      On the other hand, politicians running for office will do or say anything for the purpose of one thing, getting elected. One aspect to getting elected is to claim as much of the ideological ground for yourself as possible. It’s a matter of crowding out the competition. Hillary doesn’t give two fucks about toppling the top 1%, but if slinging shit about CEO’s is enough to warn Warren off any idea of entering the race, if signalling that Hillary is prepared to claim that dirt in a fight, then speaking like Elizabeth Warren is what Hillary willl do.

      It’s political maneuvering, not the result of an epiphany that the body of the Democratic party has suddenly shifted to the far left under Hillary’s very feet.

    5. “Do you not know how primary campaigning works?”
      This guy probably doesn’t know how his own dick works, so my guess is no.

  20. Dead thread-fucking again, Tonester?

  21. “But part of it is that Hillary Clinton is better liked when she is seen as out of the political fray”

    That’s because people like the idea of Hillary more than they like Hillary.

  22. Hillary’s strategy boils down to freezing out any Democratic challengers by telling donors, advisors and endorsers that any support given to any other candidate means never having “access” when Hillary wins, and then counting on the GOP to make themselves toxic enough to a large enough portion of the electorate to allow her to coast to victory. None of this requires her to be likable, competent or even a passable campaigner, which is good for her because she is none of those things. Sadly, this strategy has an excellent chance of working.

    If some Democrat with talent showed the gumption to run hard against this, or if the GOP nominated a talented politician who could hold the base while winning over moderates, this could smash Hillary’s strategy easily. But what’s the likelihood of either of those things happening?

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