Josh Marshall

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Jim Clyburn’s endorsement of Joe Biden is a big deal for South Carolina. Clyburn is the third ranking member of the House leadership and an institution in the state. Endorsements generally don’t make a huge difference. And I doubt this one will make a huge one. But we’re now all down to margins. So it’s important.

Polls generally show Biden on the upswing in the state after trending down for weeks. Biden winning seems likely. But what is the margin?

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That was a pretty messy debate. The moderators managed to tsk-tsk the candidates without actually controlling the time or keeping people on point. Many of the questions were trivial, meant to trip up rather than illuminate or simply gross. Asking the two Jewish candidates about whether to move the US Embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv was a good example of that of gross. Asking Amy Klobuchar whether she’d bar US citizens from returning to the US to prevent the spread of Coronavirus was both dumb and trivial: a question meant to put a candidate on the spot for purely theatrical reasons.

But if it was a messy debate it was still a pivotal one.

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8:48 p.m.: This was a moment …

8:34 p.m.: This is pretty wild. That’s all I’ve got.

8:20 p.m.: Jeez, that one fusillade from Warren on Bloomberg. I’m not sure, in the current dynamics of this race, that any of this will redound to Warren’s benefit. But these attacks on Bloomberg on merciless.

8:07 p.m.: Warren’s line here about why she’d be a better President than Sanders, let me say something about that. I tend to see all of this through the prism of who can beat Trump and who can build the largest political coalition. But when I think about who would likely be the best President in terms of actually using the levers of the presidency, I think Warren would be the best. It’s the mix of her deep grasp of policy and — something that is talked about much less — a deep understanding of the intricacies of how the federal bureaucracy works. Over her dozen years at the highest level of American politics she’s demonstrated that again and again.

8:06 p.m.: Yikes, that Putin line from Bloomberg.

A few days ago I got into a rather intense spat with a longtime reader who became incensed with me after reading this tweet exchange.

Here’s the tweet, which is a reply to a tweet by Bernie Sanders.

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Here’s a good article that gets at the real issues with predicting how strong a general election candidate Bernie Sanders would be. It’s different because it gets down into the specifics with real data. Indeed, what is particularly strong about it is that much of what it says people on both sides of the intra-Democratic debate agree on. (We’ll get to that in a moment.)

As I’ve argued, I don’t think you can say Sanders is unelectable or some kind of sure loser when a year’s worth of public polls show him beating President Trump. Current polls show Sanders and Biden both beating Trump by comparable margins. Until recently, they showed Biden doing somewhat better. But compared to all the other candidates they ran relatively similar margins against the incumbent President.

This article gets into the fact that even though the toplines are similar, they’re made up of significantly different coalitions.

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We’ve been overwhelmed by great emails engaging this debate about Obama and the rise of Trumpism, which of course is also a debate about the nature of the Democratic party at its heart. I am trying to make my way through them and choose if not necessarily the best (it’s hard to pick!) then the ones that pivot the conversation in an interesting or helpful direction.

TPM Reader JO makes a separate but good point …

My tuppence worth on this debate.

In assessing the role of the Obama administration in the rise of Trumpism, I certainly would agree that it cannot be attributed to policy failures as such. But neither was it an Act of God that Democrats were helpless to do anything about.

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There’s one point I want to reiterate or clarify about the posts from earlier today. We’ve gotten a lot of great emails agreeing and disagreeing with my basic points – I’ll be publishing several of them this evening. But some of those who on balance agree with me have asides like, ‘but here’s a case where I think we can criticize Obama.’

Let me be clear: this really isn’t about defending Obama.

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TPM Reader JB on the road to Trumpism …

Interesting exchange of views among you and your readers on this subject. A couple of thoughts, for what they’re worth.

It’s probably useful for us to distinguish between things Obama did as President and events that took place while he was in office. The Great Recession was chief among the latter; it had a massive economic and political impact we are still trying to process over a decade later.

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Soon after I published the post below about Obama and Trumpism, I got a note from my friend Josh Green, asking me to reread this 2018 piece and let him know what I thought. Here’s the link. I recommend it. As Josh describes it, it’s basically “the opposite of your headline stating Obama didn’t lead to Trump.”

This is a welcome interchange. Because it allows me to elaborate on, and hopefully refine, my thinking.

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