The good news for Governor Jay Inslee is that no one has him in the “had a bad night” category, and a few people have him in the “had a good night” category. That might be enough for Senator Elizabeth Warren, the front runner of the first debate group, who basically spoke for the first hour and delivered a solid, but overrated performance, and did nothing, almost literally, for the second hour. People gushing over her safe, not memorable performance feels more like confirmation bias of her status than any real analysis of her performance.
However, in my mind there were three winners: Bill DeBlasio, Julian Castro and Cory Booker. They expanded the nation’s awareness of them and all had strong individual moments (word for word I think no one was better than Bill DeBlasio – and my friend John had presciently warned me that he thought DeBlasio might try for the same things I wanted Governor Inslee to do – tout specifics about your leadership, your progressive accomplishments and then attack at least one opponent by name. He did all those with undeniable rhetorical flourish). I was satisfied with Governor Inslee’s performance for sure, but I wanted him to have more of a debate like one of my top three performers.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I believe Governor Inslee needed to name a couple of opponents (with Warren being the obvious) to make a personal distinction between a plan-maker and a lawmaker. He made that point several times (though Amy Klobuchars attempt at a moment, which did get pander-plause was a misguided “I’m a woman so I don’t need a man to tell me about protecting women’s health” when Governor Inslee was simply pointing out the fact that he has passed more laws on the issue as governor than any of the people on the stage. However, the crowd still ate it up so it counts as a point. But DeBlasio, Castro and Booker, in that order, detected the awkward young gazelle named Beto (as I wrote on Twitter – The CW’s idea of what a president is) as a candidate that they could attack personally. And they did and they all scored points for it. Governor Inslee scored many points during the evening and used my strategy (inadvertently or nor… I am starting to think his people may have actually read my blogs and tweets – can I have a job?) of invoking accomplishments over plans. And he got a few strong applause (called by CNN the line of the night “The greatest threat to our national security is Donald Trump.”). But now comes the work (I’ve gotten about 10-15 people to donate to the campaign and at this point that is probably my ceiling as a fundraiser) of adjusting and improving messaging and debating going forward. So here are my tips and ideas for Team Inslee going forward:
- Stop saying “Donald Trump says wind turbines cause Cancer; they cause jobs.” First off, don’t improve Trump’s stupidity. He actually said “they say the noise from win turbines causes Cancer.” That’s actually dumber. So change the line to “Donald Trump, I’m embarrassed to even repeat this, but Donald Trump says that the NOISE from wind turbines causes Cancer. The only things the sound of wind turbines indicate are the presence of clean energy and new jobs.” The line the Governor uses now is not as rhetorically catchy as he/the writers may think and it avoids the full stupidity of Trump.
- The “deathbed” or “with my last breath” talk about climate change and the governor’s grandchildren is powerful, but might also be a little bit of a downer. I would say something more akin to “My father was a biology teacher (humble roots, education – good points) and he instilled in me not only a love of nature, but a respect for it. And as I see my grandkids growing up I want to honor my father, but also honor my grandkids by ensuring that they have a country and a world that is as healthy and beautiful and prosperous as the one my father introduced me to.”
- I must repeat this even though it was the focus of the last blog – NAME. WARREN. (and others who feel applicable). BCD (Booker, Castro, DeBlasio) all attacked Beto and scored big. It showed they could be fighters (for those worried about Trump’s imposing presence) and it showed a willingness to make important issues personal. Governor Inslee obviously cares deeply about a host of progressive issues and it shows, but his game on Wednesday night was like watching a great tennis player play against a wall at the park. You can see some of the skills, but only when blasting forehand winners past an opponent do people really get to see the skill and greatness. Warren was treated like a figurehead at the debate by both the moderators and the other candidates. Governor Inslee said a couple of times that “plans are great, but as governor…” As correct as those comments were, he MUST name an opponent and draw blood. Saying some less condescending version of “I like Senator Warren’s plans so much I already made them into law in my state” and then drawing a distinction between ideas and ideas + executive experience is a legitimate one, one that will score points and the kind of attack that doesn’t feel like an attack, but more like a vicious backhanded compliment.
- Stop being so polite. Bill DeBlasio scored points by basically seizing every moment he could. It wasn’t quite NYC rude, but whenever he saw a parking space he took it without hesitation. I saw Governor Inslee raise his hand at least 4 times and get ingored. And worst of all, as I feared in a pre-debate tweet, Rachael Maddow wouldn’t let Governor Inslee speak on guns (though he did get in a great quick line about the filibuster) but tried to appease him with being first on climate change (DUH – did anyone not think he would get that question first?). And as someone who would like a climate debate, but did not demand it – I must admit the climate change coverage in the debate was appallingly low. I think, at the risk of appearing like The Lorax, the Governor should absolutelty hammer the almost GOP level of time devoted to the issue. Be more like DeBlasio in style – confidently forceful, but not outright rude. As far as content of those comments – email me! I will work for little money!
- Lastly – where to go from here for Governor Inslee. There needs to either be a town hall or speech in front of a large crowd. Even if he needs to do it in his home state (also Van Jones spoke very highly of the Governor’s performance on CNN last night… and he has an hour long show on CNN on Saturdays…). Or there needs to be a big ad buy. He must call out some rivals by name to draw a contrast. He needs a list, but not a boring one of all his accomplishments, laws and progressive consistency through the years. So here, sort of reiterated from a previous blog post, is my vision of an Inslee ad (or maybe even better a series of individual YouTube/Facebook/Twitter ads that in 15-20 second bursts take each of the bullet points I will share below one by one) that is needed now to change the perception of the candidate and set up the next several months of the campaign (if Inslee’s Super PAC is reading this – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?):
- Beto talking about climate change followed by picture of Governor Inslee and graphic of various sources citing Washington State’s plan as the best climate change plan in the country and the Evergeen Economy labeled the gold standard by Greenpeace
- Cory Booker talking about gun violence followed by a picture of a young Rep. Inslee voting for the assault weapons ban and “Vote to ban assault weapons costs Rep. Inslee his seat in Congress” and/or shot of Governor Inslee face to face with Trump about arming teachers in Florida (and I still think the Governor needs a meeting with the Parkland kids – between climate and gun control, the Governor should be THE candidate for young people)
- Julian Castro talking about immigration followed by Governor Inslee’s debate answer of “fighting Muslim ban, protecting dreamers in Washington, etc. (one of his best answers all night)
- Elizabeth Warren discussing free college, etc and (I think you get the pattern now – Governor passing tuition-related laws in WA)
- Joe Biden on “middle ground on climate” followed by climate graphic and quote of the Governor’s choice
- Bernie talking about taking on Wall Street (followed by Rep Inslee voting against the repeal of Glass-Steagall in Congress)
- Lastly Trump talking about war with Iran and Rep Inslee voting against the war in Iraq
“My opponents many of whom have great ideas, do not have the track record of progressive accomplishment that I have as governor and as a congressman. I know I can make it happen as President because while my opponents talk about that they would do; I’ve already made it happen as Governor.”
If Gov Inslee attacks or names so many opponents many will have to come back at him, but the good thing about that is it will reframe his candidacy. If one or two come after you you look like Beto (though the Governor would have a lot more substance to defend himself with), but if 5 or 6 want to show how good they are compared to him it makes him look more like a frontrunner and less like an also-ran.
And one more thing, great Twitter takeover by the Govenror’s wife of 47 years, Trudi. That video of the Governor sledding at Tom Cruise stunt-level speeds with his grandson should be a viral video. Embrace the Governor’s record and experience and also that he looks like a rugged westerner who will be able to save the country and beat (phsycially if need be… kidding) Donald Trump.
Donate to Jay Inslee HERE if you like Governor Inslee’s plans or just want more of a platform given to climate change, which he is prioritizing like no other candidate.