Strong words from both Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malaley at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee where both candidates claimed the party was rigging the process by scheduling only six debates.
O’Malley addressed the DNC’s summer meeting and bitterly denounced the party leadership for holding only 4 debates before the early state caucuses and primaries in February.
What began as a routine forum of candidate speeches evolved into a surprisingly dramatic day at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley issued thinly veiled attacks on Clinton and the party leadership.
Speaking from the dais, with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz sitting a few feet away, O’Malley blasted the party’s limited number of sanctioned debates as a process “rigged” in favor of the front-runner. The DNC is holding six debates, only four before February’s first caucuses in Iowa, which O’Malley argued is a disadvantage for all the candidates and a disservice to Democrats generally.
“This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before,” said O’Malley, who has struggled to gain traction in the polls. He added: “We are the Democratic Party, not the undemocratic party.”
Sanders — who later told reporters he agreed with O’Malley — lamented low Democratic turnout in last year’s midterm elections and said the party must grow beyond “politics as usual” if it hopes to produce the level of voter enthusiasm required to retain the White House in 2016.
“We need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of that establishment,” said Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.
Asked later whether he was speaking specifically about Clinton, he told reporters, “I’ll let you use your imagination on that.”
The barbs from Sanders and O’Malley came as Clinton and her campaign flexed their organizational muscle here. The front-runner and her top aides worked aggressively behind the scenes this week to secure commitments from party leaders pledging to be delegates for her in next summer’s nominating convention in Philadelphia.
Clinton’s organizational push sent a clear signal to Vice President Biden, who has been weighing a late entry into the 2016 campaign, that he would begin far behind her.
Watch the look DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz gives O’Malley as she shakes his hand rather awkwardly.
Clinton, meanwhile, held herself above the fray, concentrating her fire on Republicans, saying about the GOP, “The party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump.”
She has retooled her strategy to go on the attack against Trump and the Republicans, hoping to distract people from the ever growing number of questions swirling around the use of her private email server.
It won’t work. The controversy has momentum now, impossible to keep off the front page as the FBI is now seriously looking at Clinton as a criminal suspect.
The risk for the Democrats is that they will go into the fall campaign with a candidate who may be severely damaged by suspicions she mishandled classified information. And with no credible alternative to Hillary Clinton — including Joe Biden — Democrats are becoming more fearful with each new revelation coming from the scandal.