Here’s my advice for Martin O’Malley and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders. If you’re talking about process, you’re losing. I don’t know how the presently planned debate schedule compares to prior years, but we don’t need 19 debates before New Hampshire. To be clearer, it makes sense to complain about process if you can thereby get the process changed in a way that favors you, but if you can’t change a thing then you just come off looking weak and ineffectual, and you lose an opportunity to say something that might distinguish yourself from Hillary Clinton.
Jim Webb did better than O’Malley in Minneapolis simply by not going. He went with his daughter to set her up in college rather than getting headlines about how “the debate schedule is rigged.” Lincoln Chafee understood what his job was and used his brief moment in the spotlight to point out that he isn’t mired in controversy or scandal. That’s a pretty incomplete platform for a run for the Democratic nomination, but it was a shot at the frontrunner that people actually care about. It was also risky since most Democrats aren’t pleased to see people pile on Hillary Clinton over what they consider to be overhyped concerns about her State Department email server. The reason it made sense for Chafee is that Democrats are nervous that Clinton will get torn apart over her reputation for concealment and dishonesty. It doesn’t have to be a deserved reputation to sink her chances in the general election, and it’s a risk that is worth mentioning.
Running to be a candidate with less drama attached is a starting point. Running to be the candidate who got shortchanged on the debate schedule by the DNC?
That’s just incompetent campaigning.