From left, Democratic presidential candidates businessman Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stand on stage, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, before a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Who’s the target audience? That’s the question that resonates throughout nearly all marketing strategies. And what is politics except how well someone can market themselves?
Enter lagging presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, who was pretty definitively crowned the winner of last night’s Democratic primary debate by the conservative commentariat.
Biden: Meh, playing for SC
Everyone else: Status quo (which ain’t bad for Bernie or Pete)
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 8, 2020
Final debate assessment:
– Klobuchar threw a stapler at the heads of the others tonight. Is it enough knock them out or just a glancing blow?
– Bernie is just Bernie. If you like him, he did nothing to make you waver tonight: the old man trying to send back soup at a deli. 1/
— Jeff B, fightin' the COVID one bootleg at a time (@EsotericCD) February 8, 2020
Yang Who cares
Steyer Nobody cares
— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) February 8, 2020
And look, I get it. Klobuchar was well spoken, made her points strongly, and even managed to land a few decent jabs at the other people on stage. Perhaps most noticeably, she seemed rather sane in comparison to the likes of Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer (although don’t be fooled, Klobuchar is still a liberal’s liberal on nearly every issue). In fact, I was just about ready to pronounce her the winner as well, agreeing in last night’s live blog that I thought she was doing the best.
But then I had to stop and ask myself the question that began this article. Why do I think she did the best? And who’s the actual target audience here? I can firmly say that conservative personalities are not who drive results in a Democratic primary. I’m also pretty sure the #NeverTrump elements who likewise swoon over Klobuchar aren’t doing so either.
And then the perfect comparison hit me. Klobuchar is Jon Huntsman circa 2012. She’s the candidate who naturally appeals in demeanor and policy (by being slightly less objectionable) to the other side. The problem for Klobuchar is that the other side is irrelevant. She finished 5th in Iowa and is currently polling around 5% in New Hampshire, which I believe would be good for 5th place again. There’s no evidence she’s registering in Nevada and I doubt she has much appeal in South Carolina. What’s her path here? I’d posit it simply doesn’t exist.
But past the realities on the ground, I’m not even sure most of the people watching that debate last night would consider Klobuchar the winner on the merits. Why? Because she doesn’t represent where the current Democratic party is. There’s a reason Bernie Sanders is poised to win the nomination. There’s also a reason the more woke and liberal Pete Buttigieg is surging as ole “moderate” Joe Biden craters. Medicare for All, inter-sectionality, climate change cultism, and calling America racist represent modern Democrat orthodoxy. If you don’t toe those lines, you aren’t going to win.
So sure, Klobuchar seemed the most well spoken last night. Jeb Bush was also a lot more well spoken than Donald Trump in 2016. It doesn’t matter. What matters is who actually aligns with the voting base of their party. Klobuchar simply doesn’t do that in comparison to the field, and I can’t say she won the debate when those who actually matter almost certainly disagree.