Debate 10

In half an hour from this post going live, the ninth Democratic Presidential debates will begin on CBS. I’ll try to be live-tweeting and let you know if anyone is emailing during the debates.

We’re back up to 7 candidates on the debate stage, so I decided to look at their emailed negativity.

There could be some overlap in red and blue.

When talking about negativity in candidates’ emails, there are a few ground rules that need to be established.

  1. Donald Trump/his administration is NOT counted as a Republican for this. He gets his own special category.
  2. A candidate can be negative toward BOTH Democrats and Republicans in the same email, but they cannot be negative toward one of them and still be counted as “not negative.”
  3. “Negative” is a highly delicate word that I am using to mean “any statement or accusation that is less than a purely neutral comment.” For example, if you mention the “political establishment,” or a candidate’s “dark money groups,” those count as negative. MOST of the time, a negative comment is barely negative, or is even just a statement of fact. However, a fact that is meant to make someone look bad (Mike Bloomberg is flooding the air waves with his billions) is considered negative. A fact that is stated neutrally (Mike Bloomberg has billions) is not considered negative.

With that being said, let’s dig in.

One candidate had more than half of the Democratic negativity.

Amy Klobuchar is missing from the above chart because she sent 0 emails attacking her fellow Democrats. Mike Bloomberg has sent 2 (though he has only sent 63 emails in total), and Tom Steyer has sent 4.

Out of the remaining candidates, Bernie Sanders is overwhelmingly the harshest toward the Democratic party, frequently lashing out at the political establishment fighting to keep him down, or at his fellow candidates’ fundraising or advertising tactics. Pete Buttigieg has recently stopped playing so nice and started hitting back, directly aiming emailed attacks at Bernie Sanders and, to a much lesser extent, Mike Bloomberg, in some of the politest, most tactful takedowns I’ve ever seen. Elizabeth Warren is not a fan of her fellow candidates’ fundraising efforts either, though she has resisted the urge to berate “the establishment.” Joe Biden has a tendency to attack Bernie Sanders when he does attack fellow Democrats.

I would have expected to see a lot more here.

All of the candidates have thrown some shade at Republicans this cycle, though none more so than Joe Biden, who lashed out at Trump’s sycophants in Congress whenever possible. Amy Klobuchar has spoken out against Republicans quite frequently herself, while Bernie Sanders falls firmly in the middle with occasional references to the Republican establishment or Mitch McConnell. Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer have sent the fewest emails, so their small slices aren’t too significant, but Pete Buttigieg tends to refrain from being negative toward Republicans (or even mentioning them at all: basically any Republican reference is counted as negative).

Just for perspective

Emails that are not-negative are fairly evenly distributed, though you do have to take into account how many emails each candidate sent.

  • Amy Klobuchar: 3% negative
  • Mike Bloomberg: 5% negative
  • Elizabeth Warren: 6% negative
  • Tom Steyer: 6% negative
  • Pete Buttigieg: 7% negative
  • Joe Biden: 9% negative
  • Bernie Sanders: 21% negative

One of these candidates is not like the others…

If we turn to look at the category of Donald Trump, however…

Big shift in colors.

Joe Biden overwhelmingly mentions Trump the most. Just as a Democrat-negative email is most likely to be sent by Sanders, a Trump-referencing email is most likely to be sent by Biden.

Now, these emails are not exactly all negative toward Trump. They are simply if an email references Trump in a way other than “we need to beat him/I can beat him.” Defeating the incumbent President is the goal of the election, so I took out those references.

While most of the emails are critical of Trump for his policies and ineptitude, Amy Klobuchar especially likes to say things like how she is “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.” I counted these emails as Trump references. Pete Buttigieg has also taken to referencing Trump more, though he tends to phrase it as putting an end to Donald Trump and Trumpism/consigning them to the dustbin of history.

Bernie Sanders barely mentions Trump at all.

There is no overlap between this chart and the last.

If the candidates refer to Trump but do not mention any part of his name in the email (the current President, the current administration, etc.), it gets counted as a not-name reference. Again, Joe Biden is the biggest offender here, but Pete Buttigieg has refrained from mentioning his name more than most other candidates.

Once again, looking at what percentage of emails from each candidate references Trump, we get another interesting picture.

Much more obvious curve.
  • Elizabeth Warren: References Trump in 4% of her emails.
  • Bernie Sanders: References Trump in 4% of his emails.
  • Pete Buttigieg: References Trump in 10% of his emails.
  • Amy Klobuchar: References Trump in 18% of her emails.
  • Tom Steyer: References Trump in 22% of his emails.
  • Mike Bloomberg: References Trump in 27% of his emails.
  • Joe Biden: References Trump in 36% of his emails.

There is definitely something to be said for not obsessing over Trump. However, when you’re running a campaign to be a better option than Trump… maybe you should be mentioning him at least as often as you’re attacking the party you’re running in.

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