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Hillary, Bernie and the Boys: Four Things To Watch For At The Democratic Debate

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/10/2015 Richard Brodsky

It's all about Hillary. With due respect to a talented and attractive field, it remains hers to win or lose. That's not to say it's a sure thing. Hillary has been oddly off-kilter, passive and muted. She's been unable to create a personal connection with folks almost all of whom would like to like her. The sand-blasting she's been getting from the Republicans has hurt, as well. And she's weighted down by the same history that buoys her up; She's been around forever and everyone everywhere wants something new. It's what we call an "Oy Vey" syndrome and she needs to battle out of it.
So, watch out for
I. Can Hillary Laugh, Sing and Schmooze Just A Little?
She's smart. We know. She's tough. We know. She's the first woman favored to win. We know. She needs reach out, to connect with people and remind them of what has made her politically appealing. Jokes, tears, loudness, finger-poking, table-pounding, empathy. These things matter to voters, this ain't a civil service test or the SATs.
II. Any Crazy People Up There?
With a Republican field that contains a full measure of the bizarre and nutty, the Dems are five people with ideas and personalities that fall within the spectrum of normal. Let's hope the temptation to join the rush to the wild side can be avoided. Not easy in a race where only two of the five have registered with the electorate. O'Malley, Webb and Chafee are interesting candidates who deserve to be heard. They will be getting advice to wave their arms in the air and shout. Not likely to be effective and even hurtful when the Dems are trying to draw a contrast with the Republican chaos.
III. Electable?
Hillary's ultimate strength when primary voters are actually holding their ballots is a deep-seated belief that any Dem is better than any Rep and we ought to pick our best chance to win. This has not been a traditional argument for Dems, who regularly pick chancy candidates (Clinton, Obama, Carter) and win (they lose with the favorites Mondale, Gore). If Trump, Carson and the Freedom Caucus have done anything, it's lower the Dem appetite for risk. Sanders especially needs to explain an electoral strategy that wins. Remember, the swing vote is probably less than ten per cent of the nation and the nominee will have to have a pathway to those voters especially.
IV. Good Ideas?
There is remarkable intellectual conformity among Republicans. They are all hard right differing on political and tactical matters only. Dems would do well to focus on ideas and their policy differences. It will allow the minor candidates to stand out and it will strengthen the eventual nominee. This is a perfect place to unveil something new and interesting, if there is such a thing.
Democrats are positioned to win in 2016. For all the attacks from Republicans and gloom-and-doom of the pundits Hillary seems to have survived a bad summer fairly well. Sanders is genuine and decent, a feel-good call to our New Deal roots. O'Malley is a generational change, modern and quick. Chafee is an oddball uncle with brains and a coalition message. Webb is a tough, national security punch in the nose. Keep it clean, no hitting below the belt and come out punching.

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