Last night was the first debate of the Democratic presidential pri- mary, so it was inevitable that all of the talk in the political world for the rest of the week was going to be about who won, who lost and who just did not matter.
Media folks seem to believe that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both improved their standings, while the trio of irrel- evants did nothing (they would be has-beens, except that Lin- coln Chafee, Jim Webb and Mar- tin O’Malley really have never been anything in regards to national politics).
That leaves the question of who was the loser. In this humble col- umnist’s view, it was a man who not only was not at the debate but was not even mentioned once during the two-hour talk-a-thon: Vice President Joseph Biden.
Ever since August—when he personally leaked to the New York Times that his late son Beau’s dying wish was that he run for president—the Veep has been playing a game of “will he or won’t he run?” Unfortunately for Delaware’s favorite son, that game was probably shut down for good by former Secretary of State Clinton on Tuesday night.
Biden’s best shot of enter- ing the race while also avoiding this first debate was for Clinton to somehow screw up Tuesday night—reinforcing donor and par- ty establishment fears that have been building throughout the summer that she may not be as invincible a candidate as had pre- viously been thought, what with the botched logo rollout, the email scandal, the Benghazi investiga- tion and continued issues on the stump—and allow an opening for a candidate who was still clearly a member of the party establish- ment but also liberal enough to satisfy a party base that is in- creasingly moving leftward.
Hillary, however, did not screw up.
In fact, she did more than well enough to assuage donors’ wor- ries, and her performance al- most certainly helps her as she continues to solidify her hold on the front runner title. Unless something goes monumentally wrong for Clinton in the next couple of months, this debate should end any shot for a Biden candidacy, and certainly for a successful one.
A couple of other points about the debate Tuesday night include: -Whoever advised Bernie Sanders to not prepare for this debate should probably be re- assigned to the unemployment line. The senator from Vermont came off as unprepared and a little stilted and unsure of himself at times, especially when ques- tioned regarding his stance on the Second Amendment.
-Also about Sanders: his line to Hillary, “that the American peo- ple are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails…enough of the e-mails, let’s talk about the real issues facing America,” (quickly sending #DamnEmails trending on twitter) was perhaps the highlight of the debate. It was also a pretty strange thing to say for someone who has cast them- selves as an advocate for gov- ernmental transparency in the past. Regardless of his political alignment, Sanders should care about Clinton’s “damn emails.” If the secretary of state (tradition- ally the most important cabinet position) is trying to work around federal privacy laws while con- ducting government policy, that is clearly something that Americans should want to know about, and even more so if that former secre- tary is running for president. The emails are a criminal and security issue, not a political one (regard- less of what certain clueless indi- viduals from California might say while chewing on their foot).
-Speaking of Clinton, this is tricky ground for her. She has continued to move leftward more and more to satisfy the Demo- cratic base. That is a dangerous move, because instead of leading her party, she appears to be led by it. The Clintons have worked to build a brand over the decades as being pragmatic and only slightly left-of-center. Responding to the recent popularity of the Elizabeth Warrens and Bernie Sanders of the world with a dramatic leftward shift not only imperils that brand but also reinforces primary and general election voters’ fears that Clinton is disingenuous at best and lacking in moral convictions at worst.
-Finally, last and certainly least: Webb, O’Malley and Chafee should fold up the chairs and go home. They are polling at round- ing errors, completely anony- mous to voters and politicos alike and are simply wasting their time as well as the Democratic Party’s by continuing their campaigns. It was a not-so-great run, gents, but it’s over now (and was over when it started).