Going all-in: How the election was lost

This isn’t the blog post I expected to be writing today. But I’m not alone in that department.

Like it or not, in a few weeks, it’s gonna be President Donald Trump.

What happened?

What do you say we set the wayback machine to January 2008 – the last time a president was being termed out – and a Saturday night candidates forum in New Hampshire televised by ABC featuring all the candidates from the two major parties.

And quite a field it was, with about a half-dozen candidates from both parties, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards for the Democrats and John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney for the Republicans.

It was an exceptional night, that’s for sure. I recall the moderator, when the debate moved from the Republicans to the Democrats, calling all invited candidates on the stage and told the audience that one of the people before them, in a year, would be preparing to become President of the United States.

This time around, though, we only had that on the Republican side, which may be to the Democrats’ downfall.

Republicans were offered a choice of several candidates – Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, to name just a few – and made their choice.

The Democrats? T’was Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with a brief appearance by Martin O’Malley.

And, we’ve since learned via Wikileaks, the Democrats stacked the deck against Sanders to go all-in with Clinton.

Call it Wednesday-morning quarterbacking, but of the errors made in this campaign on both sides, this was a biggie for the Dems. As we know from our years of watching and playing poker, going all-in has its risks and rewards, so you better have the right hand.

Perhaps they thought Clinton would just pick off where Obama left off when she entered the Oval Office, riding the coattails of his enormous popularity.

Clearly, like so many political observers, they miscalculated the intense dislike many have for Clinton, dismissing it as so much noise from right-wing oriented media.

And, try as she did, like during the second debate, she couldn’t overcome the image of being a better policy wonk than a campaigner, which has become even more critical in the era of 24/7 election coverage not only on the cable news channels, but expanded to social media as well in ways that didn’t exist in 2008.

Trump, on the other hand, took to the social media aspect well. A bit too well at times, but it did keep his name in the news.

One other thing to consider too: Except for Obama’s two terms, the country has been led by a member of the Bush or Clinton family since 1992. And enough was enough.

Heading into Tuesday, it appeared to be the Republicans that were in disarray, torn between the true conservatives, the Tea Partiers and the religious right, with a few neo-cons and other hanger-ons along for the ride. It still is, since Trump can’t be pigeonholed into any one group.

But the Democrats are in bad shape too, trying to figure out what went wrong as well as finding a way to capture the energy Sanders and his supporters bought to the table.

Keep your seat belts fastened and your batting helmets on, the next couple of years are going to be a bumpy ride, no matter who you voted for.

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