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Assault on America, Day 168: Americans brace for the 2020 Democrat debates. Will they matter?

Democrat Primary Debates
You’d never garner it from the media’s seemingly non-stop coverage of the 2020 Democrat presidential primary race thus far, but the contest really hasn’t even started yet.

That’ll change next week when 20 -- that’s right, 20 -- glory-seeking liberal candidates will participate in nationally televised debates for the first time this cycle. The lucky pols who meet the Democrats’ not-that-difficult-to-satisfy criteria (based on factors including poll numbers, fundraising, etc.) will appear ten at a time on consecutive nights, all to be quizzed by a crack team of NBC/MSNBC liberal media honks who will do their darndest to extract every outrageous promise and anti-Trump dig from the gaggle of socialists, dreamers and utopians.

Like horses awaiting the starting gate bell, each Democrat is chomping at the proverbial bit to leap at their couple minutes of fame. It’ll be nearly impossible for any one person to stand out in such a format, but they’ll all give it their best to go deeper than surface impressions. And a good many of them will be introducing themselves to a national audience as well. Face it, more than half of these pols aren’t exactly household names.

Understandably, few prognosticators have been so bold as to suggest an ultimate winner, though Roger L. Simon did so last week at PJ Media. Simon wrote, “I was among the first to publicly predict a Trump victory, but so what? I was taking a flyer then and am now. But so is everybody else. So here goes.

“But before I start, you will note I channeled Tom Wolfe by calling this the ‘Bonfire of the Mediocrities’ because I don't think you could possibly find twenty-four duller individuals in a phone book (to channel William F. Buckley) than those running for the Democratic nomination. It's stunning, actually, and a sad commentary all by itself about our politics. Where are the Bobby Kennedys of yesteryear? I'd even take Hubert Humphrey, I'm so desperate. The best and the brightest? This is more like the worst and the dimmest — and I'm not just talking about Bill de Blasio and Eric Swalwell.

“Further, there may be ‘nothing new under the sun,’ but I have yet to hear a single idea with even an iota of originality from any of those ‘mediocrity-crats.’ Everything is recycled as if copied from the back pages of a Sears catalog circa 1932 — copied being the operative word.”

Simon shocked everyone by picking Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren as the Democrat most likely to emerge from the scrum to accept her party’s nomination next year. In his piece Simon noted how Warren’s established her place among a handful of fellow Democrats who consistently register in current polls as well as the fact she’s a hard campaigner who doesn’t sound obtuse (when compared to the competition, it says a lot).

Simon’s point is well-taken and chances are Warren will do better than most Republicans give her credit for. Conservatives see a woman clinging to every wacked-out socialist notion the party champions and also claims, based on a family legend, that she’s of Native American (even though a DNA test revealed her to be full of… well, you know) ancestry. It could also be said Liz occupies parts of a couple all-important demographic “lanes,” something of vital magnitude to Democrat voters.

But where Warren falls hopelessly short is the electability lane. Semi-sane Democrats (if there are any left) still feel the sting of Hillary Clinton’s loss to President Donald Trump three years ago and they’re not about to take another flyer on a 70-ish woman (Liz turns 70 in a few-days, on 6/22) with a screechy voice, piercing owl-like glare and the inner warmth of an icicle in an arctic winter. That flavor combination made voters upchuck the last time and Warren isn’t exactly the kindly old granny-type who presents a welcoming aura and the prospect of a plate full of oven fresh cookies.

Democrat voters aren’t so superficial to choose a standard-bearer based solely on personality alone -- though it appears that way considering they went for two forty-somethings with feather-light resumes in Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Contrast those two-term presidents with the unsuccessful Democrats of recent times -- “Crooked” Hillary, undertaker-like John Kerry and the hostile and wooden Al Gore. Will the party faithful really look at “Pocahontas” as a winner?

Whomever Democrats choose next year it’ll be someone with a likeable personality, a demonstrated record of mindless devotion to big government anti-liberty causes and most importantly, is nationally viable. Thus far only Joe Biden seems to possess all three traits, which explains why his polling lead has held despite numerous damaging news reports of late (climate change plagiarism and flip-flop on the Hyde report being the most noteworthy).

2016 runner-up Bernie Sanders is the Democrat with the most solid foundation, however, his backers feeling jilted by the party establishment four years ago. Sanders has the tightest grip on the party kook-fringe base and isn’t likely to relinquish his rabid devotees without first seeing who gets the nomination. If it’s Biden, be prepared for a repeat of the intra-party turmoil from 2016. Bernie will try to tamp down the tempest, but the young socialist revolutionaries will never accept another establishment-backed dealmaker like Uncle Joe no matter how many lies/promises the delegate champion makes to assure them he’s a radical, just like them.

In next week’s debates, look for each of the leading candidates to play it safe -- except to get in a few jabs at Biden for not being liberal enough. The unknowns will probably come out swinging, figuring they’ll need to say or do something that’ll draw enough media blather to keep them viable through the summer. If the 2016 GOP field was an indicator, only one candidate made a discernible leap in the polls from the bottom tier through debate exposure -- Carly Fiorina.

At first glance Democrats don’t offer a Fiorina-type candidate, someone who possesses the right combination of outsider credibility paired with enough attractive personal attributes to get the pundit class raving about them. Fiorina stood out from the crowd in several ways -- who could possibly accomplish the same thing among the Democrats?

Exacerbating the Democrats unknowns’ challenge will be the forum moderators’ lack of familiarity with them. Such wasn’t the case with non-politician Donald Trump at the first Republican primary debate in August, 2015 -- everybody knew him. Fox personality (at that time) Megyn Kelly thought she was clever by directing the first question to the New Yorker concerning his history with women. It was a cheap shot Trump batted right back at her, establishing from the get-go how he was a different kind of candidate who told it like it is.

What about today’s Democrats? What will the TV talking heads ask of (Hawaii Rep.) Tulsi Gabbard or (former Colorado Gov.) John Hickenlooper, for example? At least half of the candidates aren’t recognizable on sight -- so will they all wear big name tags? Will they hold up charts with large letters detailing resume accomplishments? On a stage with ten candidates there simply isn’t time to one, introduce themselves and two, substantively answer questions (while separating from the big names).

And it’s not like the media moderators are respected news folks either. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow will be one of them. Can the public trust her to be impartial? Does it matter? Philip Klein wrote at The Washington Examiner, “Maddow will be one of the moderators along with Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, and José Diaz-Balart. The critique of having Maddow moderate is the assumption that an ideologically liberal moderator will ask softball questions of the Democratic candidates. But that need not be the case.

“I have long been a believer that ideological media figures immersed in the issues of concern to their audiences can help raise issues that would not occur to other reporters. This is especially important during a primary, when the purpose of the debate is to draw candidates out on their differences and help a party's voters determine who should be their nominee.

“A debate partially moderated by, say, Mark Levin, would involve more pointed and specific questions on immigration and border security that addresses the concerns of talk radio listeners then, say, Lester Holt.”

Klein is correct. Democrat candidates should face direct questioning from partisans who will choose among them to lead the party. So should Republicans. Every campaign cycle conservatives complain, with good reason, that the GOP establishment permits biased liberal media figures to pose topics rather than leaving the task to dedicated conservatives who seek to impartially expose the differences between the candidates (such as Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham).

Democrats would also benefit from a thorough grilling by conservative media stars…good luck getting them to agree to it.

Party primary debates can make a big difference in every campaign cycle, but only if the candidates are already well known or find a unique way to present themselves. Issues always take a backseat at such “beauty contest” media sideshows. Will next week’s Democrat forums prove any different?

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