Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

What To Look for With the Dems

Unlike the GOP side, which I examined here, there's much less to talk about on the Democratic side, largely because there are in practice only two candidates. Multi-candidate races, particularly unstable ones like the current GOP race, have many potential winners and many different ways for different candidates to win. So, as I noted earlier, Rubio can win with a strong 2nd or even 3rd place showing. None of this applies to Clinton v Sanders: The polls have been very close for a while. So there's no way to win but by winning. And only one of them can do that.

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What To Look For Tonight on the GOP Side

I want to look at both contests tonight in Iowa. Not predictions. I have no idea what will happen. But some things to look for.

First the Republicans.

I'll start with what I believe is a critical bedrock assumption. Democrats really, really want Marco Rubio's campaign to end in the rapid back-to-back of the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. This is not to say that I think Rubio is a strong candidate or that he would win the presidency. It is to say that I consider him a credible national candidate who could win. Each of the other candidates are in their own way weak national candidates or in some cases close to impossibilities against a national electorate. When Rubio says in debates, which he does again and again, that he's the Republican the Clinton camp doesn't want to face, he's right.

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The Wages of Derp are Derp. Lots of it.

One of the greatest failings in journalism is the way that ideas, theories, nonsensical paranoid fears get 'out there' and then talked about, critiqued and so forth and yet there's no point of stepping back where a considered, knowledgable, even common sense view would say that the entire concept is simply far-fetched, ridiculous or even impossible. There are two examples of that currently roiling the political terrain, albeit for very different reasons.

The first has to do with the purported looming indictment of Hillary Clinton. Over the weekend there was a stir because a New York Times reporter, Peter Baker, told CNN's Sunday morning show that Democrats are "quietly absolutely petrified" of a mid-summer indictment. This 'hot take' was immediately picked by Mike Allen's Politico Playbook. The stage was then set for yet another DC bubble derp freakout. Are Democrats "petrified"? I think that's an overstatement. But are some nervous? I have no doubt they are. But I know people are stocking up on ammo for when ISIS mounts an operation against their house. For most people fear is generated by press coverage, often ignorant or tendentious press coverage. And with the breathless coverage of developments that more or less obviously have no legal impact whatsoever, I don't doubt that many are nervous.

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The Cruz Weasel Magna Carta

I wanted to follow up on my debate take from last night. As I said, following the debate, the Trump festival and the video out of Oregon all together made it hard for me to follow as closely as I'd have liked or take it in as coherently as I'd wish. And it seems the initial reaction from commentators is that Cruz did worse than I suggested. My general sense is that it wasn't that Cruz got attacked or that the attacks on him did any particular damage. It was that the spotlight was inherently bad for him.

Here's what I mean.

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Making Sense of This Weird, Weird Night

As I noted earlier, the multiple events we were trying to cover tonight - especially what amounted to a Republican debate and a simultaneous counter-debate - prevented me from giving the kind of focus to the debate proper which I normally would. So my impressions will be more tentative than they normally are.

Let me start with the debate itself.

At the outset we had the round of questions and snarks about Donald Trump. And for the first half hour or more the debate had some of the feel of community access television. There was even some odd tone to the sound system, at least on my hearing. But mainly, I think it felt disjointed and a little odd because the major center of gravity in this battle, Donald Trump, wasn't there. You had canned, awkward jokes and a lot of off-balance tension. But the big takeaway for me was that after a half hour or so of that, they were done talking about him.

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