Of two dozen Democratic insiders with whom I spoke this week, including several DNC vice chairs, not one defended Wasserman Schultz’s treatment of Gabbard. Most called it ridiculous, outrageous, or worse. Many argued, further, that the debate plan enacted by the chairwoman is badly flawed—an assessment shared by many party activists, left-bent supporters of Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, and those candidates themselves, all of whom see it as a naked effort to aid and comfort Hillary Clinton. And they maintained that the plan was a clear reflection of Wasserman Schultz’s management style, which many of them see as endangering Democratic prospects in 2016 and beyond.
One top Democrat who feels precisely this way is DNC vice chair R.T. Rybak, a former mayor of Minneapolis who along with Gabbard has publicly called for more debates. But Rybak’s indictment of Wasserman Schultz is more sweeping—and pointed—than that. “In the days before and after the debate I kept my mouth shut,” Rybak told me by phone on Thursday. “But I’ve begun to deeply question whether she has the leadership skills to get us through the election. This is not just about how many debates we have. This is one of a series of long-running events in which the chair has not shown the political judgment that is needed.”
I asked Rybak if he was calling for Wasserman Schultz to resign.