Thursday, August 8, 2019

Hickenlooper Gets a Meme, But is it Goodbye? – KOA

John Hickenlooper speaks at first of two Democratic presidential
primary debates in Detroit, July 30, 2019 | Paul Sancya/AP
John Hickenlooper got one of the lines of the night in an animated exchange with Bernie Sanders when he said Sanders’s “Medicine for All” was radical and would “FedEx the election to Trump.” Sanders threw his arms up in frustration over the word “radical” and Hickenlooper mocked him in an arm wave that made social media. Hickenlooper was one of five moderate Democrats that took on the left’s frontrunners: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In a discussion with KOA’s April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz after the debate, I highlighted some comments on a debate full of controversy and possibly the last debate participation for several candidates.
  1. The debate highlighted the divide between the party’s left wing represented by Sanders and Warren (representing about 30% of the party) and a moderate wing that finally spoke up and had a message.
  2. Although, as usual, the frontrunners dominated the time. Five moderates, all struggling for a spot in the September debates, made their mark. Hickenlooper, with a meme, was joined by a little recognized John Delaney, new participant Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana Amy Klobuchar and Tim Ryan, all hunting for their breakout moment.
  3. The challengers to liberal orthodoxy had a number of good lines that will now be repeated as the debates extend to the fall.
    • Steve Bullock – Wish-list economics, here and now, not pie-in-the-sky
    • John Delaney – Democrats now have their own repeal and replace – your health care insurance will become illegal (no doubt Donald Trump will say “and making illegal immigrants legal).
    • Amy Klobuchar – It’s not winning the argument, but the election.
  4. The Sanders/Warren counter-strategy was well-thought-out because they have been dealing with the criticism for months, if not years.
    • Our opponents lack ambition and courage (Warren)
    • Why run if you don’t want to overturn the system (Warren)
    • Talking about what they won’t do, won’t fight for (Warren)
    • I win in the polls (Sanders)
    • We’re all extremist to Trump (Buttigieg)
    • None of the lines will stop the arguments, and the least persuasive, but most frequently used by the left is “stop using Republican talking points.” If the criticism is valid, fact based, who cares if it came from the RNC, DNC, ACLU or NAACP.
  5. Hickenlooper performed well, but his moment was crowded out by the two frontrunners – Sanders and Warren – getting most of the time and by four fellow “one” percenters fighting for their space.
Shortly before the debate, a group of leading Democratic senators were quoted as encouraging Hickenlooper to shift to the Colorado U.S. Senate race. It was both a prudent encouragement for their priority to win the senate, but also a realistic assessment of Hickenlooper’s very slim chance of getting into the first tier of candidates.

The next round of polls and fundraising will tell the story, but clearly Hickenlooper loves being on stage. His final line of the night was: “What a night, I love it.” It may be his final debate line period.

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