Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and 5 myths about the Democratic debate
It is always dangerous to predict what will transpire in politics, let alone a political debate. But here goes! Here are five possible misconceptions about tonight's Democratic debate.
1. It will be dull and boring. Donald Trump was quoted in typical modest, understated fashion that "I think people are going to turn it on for a couple of minutes and then fall asleep" because, of course, he won't be in it. Not really.
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This is the first debate, the first chance to see the insurgent candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, go head-to-head with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But it is also a critical time for the other candidates – former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee – and they will want to break through. Just because it won't be a food fight like the Republicans doesn't mean there won't be issue differences and heated back and forth on differing approaches to solving America's problems.
2. It will be a two-person matchup with Hillary and Bernie. There is a big difference between having 10 candidates on the stage and a kiddies' table as the Republicans had, and just five candidates as is the case with the Democrats. There will be more time for all five and more incentive for the other three to jump in and join the fray. Both Webb and O'Malley are articulate, aggressive and opinionated candidates – not shrinking wallflowers. No question that the Hillary and Bernie exchanges will dominate the news and get the most attention but the others will be a factor as well.
3. The candidates will shy away from being policy wonks. A lot of pre- debate punditry has suggested there will be few statistics, a minimal amount of drilling down into issues, more falling back to general platitudes. Not likely with this crew – you will see a much more sophisticated and civil discussion of the problems facing the country than you did in the Republican debate. These candidates want to prove their ideas are the best, that they will be effective and that they can actually govern.
4. There will be little difference between the style of the Republican and Democratic debates – Hard to imagine. You won't see anywhere near the number of cheap shots, personal attacks or outrageous statements that came out of the Republican debates. You also won't see the level of ignorance on the substance of issues you saw with the Republicans – especially on foreign policy. The fireworks may be less entertaining, but really folks, this is about who will be president of the United States. Bottom line: The Democrats will come off as more ready and able to actually provide the leadership necessary to govern the country.
5. This debate won't change minds. Don't be so sure of that. My guess is that there may be opportunity for the three struggling candidates to gain a bit yet the real change may come with the perception of Hillary Clinton. She has a lot to gain from a strong performance, which most believe she will deliver. This will not be all about emails – it will be about what voters really care about, their lives, their hopes, their futures. Who is really speaking to them in a direct, compassionate and clear way? Who transcends the noise and the rhetoric with concrete plans and ideas that they can relate to and embrace? This is Hillary Clinton's opening and she is damn good at it. My guess is you will see that tonight.