Five Mistakes the Five Candidates Made

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I debated not even writing this article (get it?) but there is just too much to say about this week’s Democratic Presidential Debate on CNN. Broadcast live from Las Vegas, the #DemDebate showcased the five top Democrats’ strengths in living color, and it also highlighted their weaknesses. I for one was deeply moved by how badly each one wants to be president, and how badly each one screwed up under the bright lights. Here’s my top five whoopsies from the spectacle:

Lincoln Chafee Doesn’t Think Before He Votes or Speaks
When asked about his vote on the Glass-Steagall Act, a 1999 financial regulation bill, Chafee looked guilty of something, like he forgot to replace the toilet paper. Caught in a spot where he couldn’t defend the vote he’d cast, Chafee chose to claim ignorance of the law. The problem is, Congress makes laws; that’s the whole gig! On live television, this man told the world “Glass-Steagall was my very first vote. I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office.” When moderator Anderson Cooper pressed him on whether he voted on a bill which he did not understand, Chafee stuttered a bit and then said “I think you’re being a little rough.”

Rough? If you’re president, you’ll need to deal with tougher bullies than Anderson Cooper! But the real mistake here isn’t phoning it in that day on the Senate floor. “Sure, I’ll just click “Yea” and then go to lunch!” His error is making excuses. Just be honest; you were in over your head on your first day. And then throwing his dead dad in as a backup excuse in case we didn’t buy the first one didn’t help. I expect Lincoln Chafee to be out of the race by Thanksgiving.

Jim Webb Cries When He Doesn’t Get His Way
Jim Webb, a candidate whose name I heard for the first time on Tuesday (I’m not the only one), spent most of his time complaining that he was not getting enough time. What debate coach advised him to try to look whiny and entitled? Dude, you are <1% in the polls. This isn’t really about you! Then, when he did have the floor he meandered and said basically nothing in way too many words.

Webb reminded me of a certain breed of stand-up comedian. They’re not scheduled at the club, no one promised them stage time, but they hang out at the club all night in case an opportunity arises. When they finally get a shot, most of them start off by saying:  “Hmm, let’s see…what do I want to talk about?” Why are you onstage if you have nothing to say? Sit down.

Martin O’Malley Showed Zero Emotion
There’s a fine line between collected and boring and O’Malley crossed the line. As a native of Baltimore, I’m familiar with this man and I know he has a lot more passion than he brought to the table last night. But so does your average salamander. You won’t win the presidency by lulling us to sleep. He played it so safe that he looked like Al Gore on lithium. Wake up, Marty; it’s showtime!

Hillary Clinton Refused to Take a Stand on Drugs
When asked about legalizing marijuana, a hot button issue with a lot of constituents (many of whom will be too busy eating Doritos to actually vote), Clinton gave a non-answer. It seemed her polling experts, pundits, speech writers, and marketing team hadn’t told her how to answer it yet. For me, it contributed to her image as someone we can’t trust.

Have an opinion! Even if people disagree, they will respect you for being authentic.

Bernie Sanders Zoned Out While What’s-His-Name was Saying Whatchamacallit
Speaking of authentic, I believe Bernie Sanders whenever he speaks, and I firmly believe he wasn’t listening when Jim Webb was babbling on and on about foreign policy with no real point in sight. Sanders was probably just feeling relieved that he wouldn’t have to hear Webb complain about not getting enough time for at least another ten minutes.

When someone’s rambling, it’s hard to pay attention, but you’d better learn how or else you’ll #feelthebern.

Everyone makes mistakes, but politicians are held to a higher standard, or at least they should be. In my opinion, some of these flaws are more fixable/forgivable than others, but all five candidates have a lot of work to do. Fortunately for them, there’s still 13 months until Election Day!

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