Monday, June 24, 2019

Democrat Debates Shaping Up as Epic Clown Show

It's not really a debate --- it's a far-left cattle-call.

At the Los Angeles Times, "The stakes are high as Democratic presidential hopefuls prepare to debate":

With so many candidates onstage, the Democratic presidential debates risk becoming a stilted, parallel-play affair, with candidates trying to squeeze scripted messages into tiny scraps of airtime.

But the prospects of an unruly political feeding frenzy, particularly on the second night of the two-day extravaganza, have soared as former Vice President Joe Biden has thrown chum in the water: His provocative comments about race will tempt candidates to abandon restraint and go on the attack.

The back-to-back debates on Wednesday and Thursday nights could be a pivot point in the Democrats’ primary campaign, which for months has seen candidates refraining from criticizing one another — or doing so only in veiled terms.

It will be a high-stakes test for the biggest primary campaign field ever, which includes three black candidates, one Latino, six women, two Asian Americans and an openly gay man.

The lineup includes Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual advisor and a congressman who meditates; the mayor of the nation’s largest city and the mayor of South Bend, Ind. The oldest candidate was born before Pearl Harbor; the youngest when Ronald Reagan was president.

Some are well-known figures; more are obscure and thirsty for national attention.

They will all come together for the first time in a scramble to make an impression, avoid gaffes, draw contrasts and send a message. All in seven minutes or less, the estimated amount of airtime each candidate will get in the two-hour sessions. The debates will be televised on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo starting at 6 p.m. PDT each night.

Only half the field will have a direct shot at Biden: With so many running for the nomination, the Democratic National Committee capped debate participants at 20 — three others didn’t meet the fundraising and polling criteria to make the stage — and split them between the two nights, with 10 for each session.

As the clear front-runner in early polls, Biden already had a target on his back. That bull’s-eye got bigger on Tuesday after he spoke nostalgically of his “civil” relationships with segregationists in the 1970s Senate and made a joke about not being called “boy” by one of them.

So far, Biden has pursued a strategy of trying to stay above the fray, looking past his primary rivals to focus on President Trump. The Thursday night debate, in which he’ll be at center stage, flanked by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, will test that approach.

Sanders, who is running second in many polls behind Biden but has appeared to lose some support in recent weeks, is preparing to draw a strong contrast between his democratic socialist vision and what he calls Biden’s “middle ground” approach on issues like healthcare and trade.

“Biden wants to skate on the suggestion that we are all shades of the same gray,” said Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager. “Bernie wants to make clear that you have fundamentally different choices to make between governing vision, philosophy and how we are going to shape the agenda. That choice has to be drawn out.”

Biden backers think blunt attacks on him will backfire.

“The front-runner position always puts you as a target,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.). “People don’t want the personal attacks. We’ve seen enough with our current president.”

When almost all the candidates appeared at South Carolina Democratic party events last weekend, none of them brought up the segregationists controversy.

Sanders has also been studying up on other rivals, where they stand on key issues like Medicare for all, and what they have said about him. He will be sharing a stage with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, for example, who has criticized Sanders’ brand of democratic socialism...