News from Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

I watched the Democratic presidential candidates give their speeches last night at Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. And I have to say that not much news was made. They all gave pretty familiar stump speeches.

The one thing some pundits are talking about is that Bernie Sanders “attacked” Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to these kinds of things, too few people note the difference between going after someone’s record vs going after them personally. Last night Sanders did what any candidate in his position would do – highlighted the distinctions between himself and the front-runner. I don’t consider that “negative” campaigning. It’s exactly what Sanders needs to be doing right now. Otherwise, why be in the race at all.

O’Malley was…well…O’Malley. Nothing new and therefore it probably doesn’t matter much.

Clinton gave a speech that anyone who has followed her campaign has mostly heard before. As the front-runner, she didn’t focus on her competitors. Instead, she’s paving the way for the general election by highlighting the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The one smart move Clinton made last night that neither of the other candidates bothered with was to give a shout-out to Vice President Joe Biden. Of course that was her way of inviting any of his supporters who had been holding out to caucus for her.

In some ways it was the crowd that actually made the biggest news last night. Clinton was the last to speak. And as she came to the stage, reporters who were in the arena noted that the Sanders section emptied out. That was not a good look for them at a Democratic Party event. I doubt very much that the Sanders campaign organized the walk-out. But this is exactly the kind of thing that gets him in trouble with the Democratic base he needs to appeal to in a state like Iowa.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .