Push is Rapidly Coming to Shove

Tonight’s debate in Nevada begins at 9:00 PM Eastern Time. You can watch it in the United States on NBC or MSNBC, and on Universo (en español). On the internet, reliable sources report that it will be found on NBC News NOW, NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the Nevada Independent’s web site, the Noticias Telemundo mobile app, and the Noticias Telemundo Facebook page.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I generally find stories entitled “How to Watch [Event X or Y]” irritating beyond belief. But, this time, I do recommend these three sources as food for thought in advance of the debate:

Tom Scocca, Bloomberg Is the Crisis, Not the Cure

Eric Levitz, There Is a Case for Bloomberg. It’s Just Bleak as Hell.

Greg Sargent, As Bloomberg rises, Democrats are stumbling toward disaster

All advance the case against Bloomberg, with actual facts and with reasoned argument based on actual facts. They do not present objective, balanced analysis. Rather, they are works of ethical advocacy, the way they taught me to do it back at Harvard and Columbia. You emphasize the facts that support your conclusion, you deemphasize any facts that don’t support your conclusion. If your opponent makes bad arguments, nail him for it. If your opponent makes good arguments, try to get the intended audience to ignore her.

That said, the sources I cite do employ actual arguments, not bumper sticker slogans.

So, I will be watching the debate to see, first, whether the non-Bloomberg candidates can make fair arguments against him, not just hurl superficially appealing phrases. Not easy to do in a format like we will have tonight. But, hey, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Second, I want to see whether Bloomberg can effectively argue his side of the case.

The sources above strongly imply that Bloomberg is “buying the election” by massively inundating us with advertising that presents a dishonest and false impression of Bloomberg, his record, and what his priorities as president would, in fact, be.

As of the moment, I am unpersuaded by that argument. My current working hypothesis is that, while the flood of advertising is unprecedented and problematic, and while he obviously does not advertise those things that are problematic about his record and character, he does nevertheless accurately portray his accomplishments and his priorities.

It’s a working hypothesis.

I will also have in mind polls of swing state voters that purportedly show Biden and Bloomberg as significantly more “electable” than the rest of the crowd—that is to say, not only much more electable that Sanders but also much electable than Klobuchar.

From this, I do not draw the conclusion that Biden—who cannot seem to win an actual election—and Bloomberg are in fact the two most electable of the lot. Instead, I draw the conclusion that the polls are not giving us much helpful information at all about who is the most electable.

It appears that the issue may come down to the ability of highly pragmatic black voters in South Carolina to reverse engineer the thinking of white farmers in the Upper Midwest.

And, you know, the pragmatic black voters in South Carolina might just do a pretty good job.