Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

It took a day or two for it to really crystallize for me. But has there ever been a candidate who not just won Iowa but won it unexpectedly and fairly decisively and yet got so little positive bump, momentum, attention or even simple human empathy because of it? The rather strong, though unstated assumption from the commentariat seems to be: Yeah, you won Iowa. Great. Good luck ever winning anywhere else.

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Watching the last week of the presidential campaign, I'm struck by a wistful, 'What could have been?'

Granted, as I've argued elsewhere, I have serious doubts that Chris Christie's personality could ever really sell outside the New York tri-state area. We love it but it's an acquired taste. Like the Australians like that horrific Vegemite stuff. There's no accounting for taste. But setting that aside, what if he had not been effectively implicated in perhaps the most super-sized, clownish - if not the most serious - abuse of power in American history, i.e., BridgeGate. And no, if you're keeping score at home, being exonerated by an investigation conducted by your own lawyer does not count.

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I find myself somewhat ambivalent about this increasingly popular 'no-contact' townhall format. The Q&A is pretty substantive. And yet, I do think putting the candidates under pressure - head to head - can be revealing in a positive way. In any case, I thought both candidates did fairly well for themselves. There were no big surprises. I thought Sanders presentation was more coherent and, for lack of a better word, elegant.

But that is also in the nature of his message. No compromises, pushing not for half-measures and protecting what we have but articulating a broad vision of what America should be like. Clinton meanwhile was best as a fighter. I thought TPM Reader JB was right when he said that Sanders is in primary mode and Clinton is already off to the general.

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10:45 PM: Cooper had Clinton on the ropes there for a second about the speeches. She didn't have a terribly good answer but probably the only real answer. She recovered reasonably well. But that was an awkward moment.

10:48 PM: Very interesting answer on marijuana. Not because it's terribly aggressive for a Democrat but precisely because Clinton is so mainstream and she's essentially saying that pot should be legal - maybe not Colorado legal but easily available for people with medical needs. At this point, the Democrats are, to paraphrase the old phrase, objectively pro-pot legalization. As they should be, frankly.

10:02 PM: Clinton immediately touches on general election electability - keeping a Republican out of the White House.

10:05 PM: I've made my point on the electability issue. But this is one of the most interesting aspects of the race for me. There is a mountain of public opinion data showing how many more Democrats today identify as "liberal" than was the case a generation ago. And you see that play out in economics, on race, gender and LGBT issues. But the Clintons - both of them - came of age politically in a very different world. And it's fascinating to watch them try to get their political footing in this different world.

10:09 PM: I've watched each of these debates and quasi-debates and I've seen the stump speeches. But I don't feel like until tonight the basic division between the two candidates has been quite as clear-cut: Sanders 'revolution' and Clinton at a very basic level on defense, defending Democratic gains. 'Defense' can have a negative connotation. But the cost of a Republican president with what would in all likely be a united Republican Congress would be huge. There's a lot to defend and protect.

10:13 PM: This is fairly intense for a presidential debate.

10:15 PM: What struck me about that bracing, courageous question is that the man's question was not tightly focused - at least that's how I heard it - on the right to die. There are a whole host of end of life questions, to put it mildly. DNRs, hospice care, palliative care as opposed to 'heroic' care till the very end. But Clinton seemed to take it very much in that direction, in the most controversial, hot button direction. Nothing wrong with answering it that way. It just jumped out at me.

10:20 PM: Interesting answer on the Selective Service. I get what Clinton is saying and I get that she'd prefer to avoid saying she supports the idea of compulsory draft registration for women. But the logic does not seem that complicated to me. Equality is equality.

10:22 PM: "I've had a lot of practice." ... "They play to destroy."

10:26 PM: This is Clinton hitting her stride, the theme of fight, the theme of taking it to the Republicans. And that fits with the 'being on defense' that I mentioned above.

10:29 PM: This answer has come up a few times from Clinton. And I think she's basically right. But I don't think she's quite got the answer down: basically, that a lot of the 'trust' issue comes from being attacked by the right for 25 years. She needs to press this point but it's still a bit fuzzy. Not quite as convincing as I think the reality of the situation should make it.

10:33 PM: TPM Reader JB says this: "Clinton already running in the general, Bernie is not, and that makes it much harder for her to please the crowd and take bright line positions."

So a really good list of questions (almost shockingly thoughtful given the kind of nonsense that propels a presidential election). And I thought Sanders did very well. You can see that political fisticuffs is just not his thing. Unlike some politicians who almost veer from issues to attacks, Sanders has a hard time not veering from attacks to issues. It was pretty low key but there were some genuinely inspiring moments. The general election electability issue was only just touched on. And I think it was wise for him to largely ignore Secretary Clinton.

9:40 PM: Progressive wars.

9:41 PM: Whichever side of this you're on, it is hard to imagine that a GOP version of this no-contact townhall format would be 1/30th as articulate and substantive as what we're seeing tonight. I think most Republicans would have a hard time disagreeing with that.

9:44 PM: If you're interested, this is the piece I wrote about the out-of-control rise of overdose deaths in the country, which is driven mostly by the growth of abuse of prescription opiates and heroin.

9:47 PM: This is the real issue for Sanders. Personally, I think Sanders would be cut to pieces in a general election, for a number of reasons. Maybe I'm wrong. Who knows? How can he overcome the doubts of people who believe that?

9:12 PM: This isn't really a critique of single payer, as such. And over time, it should shake out. But here's a question I have, both about implementation and the politics of it. At the end of the day, you pay for your health insurance, even if your employer pays for it. Because it's carved out of money you otherwise would receive in direct compensation. But in practice, in the moment, it's not that clear cut. So if you have a relatively small tax increase and in exchange we have Medicare for All, the immediate savings are to your employer. Do we assume your employer will immediately push those savings to employees? I doubt it. Overtime, sure, some more elasticity in wages. But as a practical matter and in the moment, I think this is a complication to the argument.

9:20 PM: I will say Bernie Sanders has gotten maybe a 100 times better at this than he was only a few months ago.

9:21 PM: With the guy who asked about a class-based political and worldview I was thinking, what's with the ridiculously articulate questions?

9:24 PM: The injustice question, I mean, that won him a few votes.

9:29 PM: Akrit.

9:30 PM: Not a lot of excitement in that segment. But Sanders made the case for himself about as well as possible, I thought. There were a couple points where I sort of expected Cooper to press him a bit further, but didn't, especially on the religion question. I think Sanders is an agnostic or atheist. And he didn't precisely say otherwise. But he seemed to say that religion was actually an important part of his life and the way he sees the world. But then he sort of shifted to spirituality and a message about human solidarity. I sort of expected that Cooper was going to ask, "Do you believe in God?" Didn't.