MEMO: Dem Debate: On The Ropes, Clinton Must Deliver Strong Performance

Sean Spicer - October 13, 2015

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Sean Spicer, RNC Communications Director & Chief Strategist
RE: Dem Debate: On The Ropes, Clinton Has No Choice But To Deliver A Strong Performance
DATE: October 13, 2015

Heading into the first Democrat debate, Hillary Clinton is on the ropes. Down double digits to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire and hanging on by a thread in Iowa, Clinton needs to turn in a strong performance to calm Democrat jitters and send a message to Vice President Biden, who looks increasingly likely to jump into the race. Tonight, anything shy of a homerun performance is unacceptable. 
Clinton and her campaign know the stakes. In methodical fashion, she has taken a sharp leftward turn on a slew of issues – from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to Keystone to Wall Street to immigration – bringing her rhetoric and proposals more in line with far-left Democrat primary voters.
In addition to the level of shamelessness only she can bring, Hillary Clinton is an experienced debater who is at her best when her back is against the wall. Bloomberg’s John Heileman, then writing for New York Magazine, noted in 2012 that during the 2008 Democrat primary Barack Obama “lost almost every debate that he debated with Hillary Clinton.” For all of these reasons, signs point to someone who should be the hands down winner. Then again, there is her untested competition to consider, none of whom has ever stood in the spotlight of a presidential debate stage. In contrast, Hillary Clinton debated 26 times during the 2008 nominating contest and clamored for even more.

The Democrats joining Clinton on the debate stage will reinforce why their party hasn’t already deserted her over her seeming lack of conviction and long history of scandal. Tonight she will face off against:

  • Bernie Sanders, a 73-year old socialist from Vermont who is surging in the polls (need we say more?).
  • Martin O’Malley, the failed former governor of Maryland whose signature accomplishment was taxing rain and couldn’t get noticed in an empty room.
  • Lincoln Chafee, a failed former governor of Rhode Island whose signature issue is converting America to the metric system.
  • Jim Webb, a one-term Senator from Virginia who is rumored to still be running for president.

Hillary Clinton should run laps around this field – not just because she can, but because she has to. With her email scandal growing worse by the day she has zero margin for error. If Clinton falters, Democrats will predictably descend into a state of panic. If she emerges relatively unscathed, it will because she abandoned the center. Either way, Hillary Clinton is entering her first debate with some of the worst poll numbers in her more than two-decades in the national political spotlight. And that’s a problem that doesn’t go away in a single night, no matter how good the performance.


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