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Clinton, Bush not so inevitable in this summer of TV and Trump

Clinton, Bush not so inevitable in this summer of TV and Trump
Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the podium of the Democratic National Committee summer meeting Friday. (C-SPAN screengrab)

Based on the reports out of the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in Minneapolis today, the party's leaders still don't seem to get the political message of the summer: It's TV, not the powers that be, from which voters are taking their presidential cues.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were certainly the anointed ones at the start of summer. They were the the two that the party establishments - and much of the legacy media - spoke of as inevitable.

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But now as summer comes to an end, both are in decline. Bush looks pathetic, and Clinton looks mostly angry that she can't seem to brake, let alone control, her downward slide.

As I surfed the morning cable news shows today, I realized I was seeing Clinton and Bush in regular rotation for the first time in weeks. Usually, it is all Donald Trump with some footage on the latest big Bernie Sanders rally thrown in.

Clinton was onscreen because because on Thursday she compared GOP candidates to "terrorist groups" when it comes to women's health issues. That was not a good being-on-screen.

The former secretary of state was getting criticized across the dial for her rhetoric. And even though Trump wasn't onscreen, I wondered if he was the driving force: that she got more aggressive in her speech because it seems to work so well for Trump.

Trump was indirectly, at least, behind the extra airtime for Jeb Bush as well. His storyline on cable TV: He was punching back against Trump.

Early in her campaign, it looked as if Clinton thought she could avoid TV and still get the nomination thanks to party officials backing her and a strong ground game. She had the money for lots of big media buys down the stretch, too.

But now, it looks like the game has decidedly changed, and the stretch might be too late - especially if Joe Biden enters the race.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was one of the bearers of the bad news at the DNC gathering when he called out leadership for deciding to limit TV debates at a time when the GOP drew 24 million viewers for its first on Fox. A second Republican debate is scheduled for Sept. 16 on CNN.

As reported by AP:

... O'Malley is slamming the Democratic National Committee's decision to hold only four debates before the Iowa caucuses next February.

O'Malley says the move is "totally unprecedented" in the Democratic party and says "this sort of rigged process has never been attempted before."

As the party's chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, sat a few feet away from him, O'Malley asked: "Whose decree is it exactly? Where did it come from?"

His speech generated some applause in the ballroom but was a direct rebuke to DNC leaders, including Wasserman Schultz, who came up with the plan for six debates beginning in October and ending in February or March.

O'Malley says when Republicans can draw more than 20 million people to watch their first debate this month, it's important for the party to offer its own ideas.

He says Democrats are responding "with crickets, tumbleweeds and a cynical move to delay and limit our own party debates."

For once, O'Malley's got it right - very right.

Bernie Sanders ripped the party today for "same old, same old" establishment politics as well.

By the last hour of the morning shows today, they were all back to Trump all the time except for breaking news or follow-ups on earlier breaking news stories.

TV's been a huge player in presidential politics, of course, since the 1960 debate when Richard Nixon decided to take on Jack Kennedy without wearing television makeup.

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It is kind of astounding, especially given Team Obama's mastery of digital media the last seven years, that Clinton and the Democratic Party machine are still having  so much trouble getting the TV part right.

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