What We Learned
Trump-Biden Iowa faceoff is the media template – until and unless another Democrat can change the dynamic.
Politically, Biden needs to keep up the attacks on Trump. They reinforce the polls suggesting he would trounce the incumbent in a general election matchup. (Here’s Tuesday’s Quinnipiac poll showing Biden beating Trump badly nationally.). They rally Democrats to his side. They help him avoid engaging with his party rivals. They allow him to hone and brandish his general election message. And they keep him foursquare in the news, while the other Democrats struggle to get major coverage.
Politically, Trump needs to keep up the attacks on Biden. They make him feel good, since he has a primal need to go after whatever he perceives as the biggest threat to him at any given time (and media coverage and polls suggest that Biden is now the one). They rally Republicans to his side. They allow him to hone and brandish his general election message. And, if his jibes work (as they have against most rivals in the past), they increase the chances that he can decrease the chances of Biden winning the nomination.
The press wants Trump and Biden to continue to attack each other. For most of the media, the formula is simple. Covering two dozen Democrats is difficult and expensive; covering a one-on-one fight that includes two nationally known political brands engaging in stinging name-calling sound bites is simple TV and lead writing. The media will stay slavishly devoted to having its coverage be driven by Trump-Biden until another Democrat can force herself or himself onto the stage and into the plot.
The challenge for Biden’s Democratic rivals: what is required to change the storyline?
The most obvious answer is to rise in the national or key state polls, but that takes a lot of hard work on the ground, and with so many candidates in the race, the math is difficult. It will be hard to break through in the debates. Finding a critique of Trump that is more eye-catching or dramatic than those already on offer is probably impossible.
The best bet: organize, organize, organize in Iowa.
Again, Biden wants to fight Trump. Trump wants to fight Biden. The press wants to cover the fight. That’s a formidable Iron Triangle to bust up.
Best news of the day for Biden: He got the exact coverage he wanted, with a well-written and well-delivered critique of the incumbent’s economic record and moral fitness. He didn’t look sleepy, sick, or particularly old. Nice shirt, too.
Worst news of the day for Biden: Per the Wall Street Journal, “Antiabortion activists heckled Mr. Biden at all of his Iowa events Tuesday after he reversed his position last week to now oppose a ban on the use of federal funds for most abortions. One protester repeatedly trailed him at the events, yelling, ‘What about the babies, Joe?’”
Anyone who has seen anti-abortion activists target a presidential candidate in Iowa know just how much of a challenge that can be for a campaign.
Per the Quad City Times: “Mid-speech, as Biden was discussing the deadly Charlottesville protests involving white supremacists in 2017, one man rose and yelled at the former vice president over his recent change of stance on the Hyde Amendment. Other anti-abortion protesters were later ushered out of the room.”
Sanders Goes Back to Basics
In a bid to elevate his visibility, speak his heart, and ward off Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders will make the case for socialism in Wednesday speech.
My take: While Republicans want to paint whomever the Democrats nominate as so left they’ve left America, Sanders’ hope for taking the nomination is based on owning the socialist lane, which requires keeping Warren from winning over his supporters. Most of the media still underestimates the support socialism has within the Democratic Party, but Sanders has a big challenge to convince the nominating electorate to choose him as their messenger. The more Sanders talks about socialism, the more establishment figures, including donors, will come off the sidelines to support Biden as the best bet (right now) to stop both the Vermont Senator and Trump.
In other news:
Pelosi anti-impeachment stance still firm, based in part on whip count of House Democrats.
Top sports story: Both managers get tossed in the Red Sox 9-5 loss to the Rangers
Top business story: Kudlow says the U.S. will maintain 3% growth with or without a China trade deal
Top entertainment story: Showing Disney’s power, Hulu and FX partner to purchase rights to Lionsgate films
Des Moines Register
“’I’m not answering rope-line questions, because I don’t hear them, and they get me in trouble,’ he told a reporter in Ottumwa.”