Sin City’s got everything grandma and grandpa could want for amusement: Slots, buffets, Wayne Newton, and a podium with their name on it at the first Democratic presidential debate, live on CNN at 8:30 ET. Martin O’Malley, easily the youngest of the five Democrats set to participate, is almost the same age as Chris Christie and Rand Paul and is at least eight years older than Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Bobby Jindal. Hillary is older than the entire GOP field save for Trump — and she’s younger than Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb, both of whom will be onstage tonight. She’s several years younger than Joe Biden too, a factoid worth noting just in case he shocks America by showing up. In fact, the average age of Sanders, Clinton, and Biden — the only three Democrats with a chance of winning a single state next year — is a breezy 71. Ronald Reagan, the oldest president in U.S. history at the time of his first inauguration, wasn’t quite 70 when he was sworn in. If you want to see in vivid detail just how fresh and new the Party of Youth and Diversity looks these days, tune in and watch these five albino dinosaurs swinging their tails at each other for two hours to decide who’s the real socialist and who’s just a pretender.
I thought Biden might jump in the race yesterday, just to let the detonation from his announcement resound for a day before everyone turned their attention to tonight’s debate. Why pass up an opportunity to reach millions of TV viewers on CNN by waiting until afterward to declare your candidacy, right? Now that I think about it further, though, I can see the strategy in hanging back. Tonight’s debate is going to be a pile-on of the frontrunner on everything from her server scandal to her absurd pandering flip-flop on TPP to her johnny-come-lately support for gay marriage to her foreign-policy record as Obama’s right-hand woman. (Except for Benghazi, I mean. Only wingnuts care about that.) Why would Biden want to get in the middle of that? Better to let Sanders et al. spend an evening dumping on her, further weakening her in the polls, and then announce yourself as the party’s white knight. I’ll bet we get a decision from Biden no later than Friday of this week, and maybe before then if Hillary really craps the bed tonight.
Incidentally, it’s now unanimous: Literally everyone thinks she’s a bad candidate.
“It sounds crazy, but I think she simply wasn’t equipped to deal with all this [e-mail scandal],” says one longtime ally who has been in regular contact with Clinton. “She’s never been a great candidate, OK? She needed time and campaigns don’t give you time. … She was blindsided, and I think only now, after all this crap, is she finally in the right headspace.”
Nearly every one of 50 advisers, donors, Democratic operatives and friends we interviewed for this story thought Clinton was a mediocre candidate who would make a good president, if given the chance. They painted a portrait of a politician who talked about learning from past mistakes while methodically repeating them—a far cry from the formidable shatterer of glass ceilings who had put such a scare into Obama late in the 2008 primaries.
“Mediocre” is charitable way to describe someone whose big problem with the last six months of Servergate is, allegedly, that her team hasn’t “gotten its act together” on how to respond to it. The dilemma for her tonight is whether to go hard after Grandpa Bernie and risk irritating his left-wing admirers or to go easy on him and risk having him win over undecideds with his performance. Her donors are worried about how she’ll play it, because that’s what you do with, ahem, “mediocre” candidates. You worry about them, especially on debate night. Right, Jeb Bush fans?
At this point you’re wondering why you should waste two hours watching a family-room argument at a left-leaning retirement home. Let me provide you with that reason.
At the request of many, and even though I expect it to be a very boring two hours, I will be covering the Democrat Debate live on twitter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
Something entertaining will come of all this, deliberately or not.
While you wait, here’s a new pro-Joe ad from the “Draft Biden” PAC that’s apparently been airing repeatedly on CNN today. Presumably word would have gotten back to them if he’d already made up his mind by now not to run; the fact that they’re paying to put this on TV suggests, at a minimum, that he’s still thinking about it. Tonight’s moderator, by the way, is Anderson Cooper, a former member of the Clinton Global Initiative. The last GOP debate on CNN was moderated by down-the-middle reporter Jake Tapper. How come Jake was good enough for the Republicans but not for the Dems?