Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hall of Fame Recap

So what did we see tonight?

The short answer is we - 1,321 paying customers and an extensive press row - saw the first multi-candidate "cattle call" event (is that only an Iowa term or is it nationwide?) with all five Democratic presidential candidates in the 2016 cycle, at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner.

We also saw a who's who of Iowa Democrats (skewing toward the East Of 35 folks), catching up with each other, and gearing up for future campaigns.

But c'mon. What you're really wanting is a review of the presidential candidate speeches.

Not to bury the lede here, but to put one of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders first would imply I thought one did "better." So I'm going chronological...

...with some reluctance. Because the candidate who clearly offered the weakest presentation was Lincoln Chafee. (The speaking order was alpha.) It felt a little off even before he spoke, as he was the only one without a visibility table in the hall.

I had anticipated that CHafee, with nothing to lose, would be the one to come out swing against frontrunner Clinton. In the past, he has said Clinton's Iraq War vote "disqualifies" her from the presidency. And after a low key delivery of a laundry list of issues where he took progressive stands (despite his former Republican affiliation). he pivoted to foreign policy.
But despite references to "quagmires overseas," Chafee never pulled the trigger. And he ended his speech abruptly, taking only about half of his allocated 15 minutes. Applause was mild, with the biggest cheers for his support of the Iran deal.
Hillary Clinton seemed to have the support of about 2/3 of the room, and for the most part gave a condensed version of the stump speech. But she always seems to adapt and is well briefed on the lay of the land in Iowa. as she offered a timely rebuttal to recent statehouse events.
The Democratic rivals were not named - and, in return, Clinton was not named by her rivals. But there were jabs at Republicans in general and by name. In a good line that's new since I saw Clinton last week, she said of Donald Trump: "Finally. A candidate whose hair gets more attention than mine." And referencing Jeb Bush's call for people to work longer hours, she said "Americans don't need lectures, they need raises."

The mere mention of Scott Walker drew boos for the state of Wisconsin, which I protested in press row.

But not every Clinton line was new.

And as she's been doing, Clinton embraced the glass ceiling breaking factor. "There she goes again with the women's issues," she said of herself. "Well, I'm not going to stop so get ready," she added to loud cheers with a noticeably female pitch. The woman president reference closed the speech.

Martin O'Malley drew the next slot. In a lesson learned, Hillary's supporters stuck around for the other speakers. At multi-candidate events in 2007, Team Hillary often left en masse as soon as their candidate was done speaking. Was not seen as Iowa Nice.

Tangent: One of my least favorite aspects of any cattle call event is Sign War, the effort to out-yell and out-visibility your rivals. Only Clinton and O'Malley seemed to be playing. Team Hillary seemed bigger (Sign Warriors are mostly staffers anyway) but Team Martin get points for a chant which began: "Gimme an O! O! Gimme an apostrophe! APOSTROPHE!"

Inside the hall, O'Malley proved himself a serious guy, which we all knew, and started mellow but built in intensity. I've seem him make the same case in mellow back yards and crowded bars and big halls now: "I am the only candidate for president with 15 years of executive experience," and listing the progressive bona fides of his years ad Maryland governor.
O'Malley had a surprisingly large share of the crowd, maybe 15% - supporters very clearly sat in like-minded groups.His speech built in intensity.
And O'Malleys references to student debt got table stomping approval from the Sanders Corner.

Ah, the Sanders corner.

Sanders supporters are interesting. Hillary Clinton has committed, intense supporters, sure. But Sanders supporters are more... demonstrative, on their feet for every applause line, and interjecting shouts of approval like a revival meeting. They have more VOLUME per supporter than anyone else.

Anytime I tweet anything remotely pro-Bernie or even ABOUT Bernie, I pick up a bunch of Bernie themed followers and retweets. Two hours after the speech, it's still happening. Sanders supporter Nick Johnson noted the same to me: a picture of him riding a bike in a parade with a Sanders shirt picked up over 100 retweets.

Maybe it's because I'm on Reddit, but I see SO many parallels between Ron Paul 2011 and Bernie Sanders 2015.

So Sanders Corner - maybe 25% of the room - was chanting BER-NIE! BER-NIE! BER-NIE!almost before O'Malley got off stage.

I've seen The Bernie Sanders Speech before. But it was a;ways in a Bernie Sanders Room, not in a room that was about 2/3 a Hillary Room. So I was really curious about the reaction.

And it was relatively positive; polite to enthusiastic applause on most issues, because there's a lot to agree with. Other candidates offer lists of issues. Sanders has just one meta-issue:
Even the Hillary folks stood for Sanders call to repeal Citizens United. It's now a Democratic base issue.But free college tuition got just polite applause from Hillaryland - maybe they think it's too big a reach.
Webb acknowledged his poor alphabetical speaking draw and thanked Sanders for firing up the crowd - the only direct reference by one candidate to another all night. Webb then asked the veterans to stand for applause, a safe but popular move.

Webb also proved himself a serious person, and played his union cards well. But he stumbled a little coming out against the Iran deal, getting only tepid applause.

A few crowd members trickled out before Webb, but at least 80% of the crowd was still on hand.

"We need a president who can articulate Democratic values while at the same time working across party lines," said Webb, and I tried to picture a universe where a President Bernie Sanders had to deal with a Republican House and Senate. I could not picture that universe because I could not picture Sanders winning without that revolution he keeps discussing.

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