When Candidates Talk…

Since May 21, I have been following the email campaigns of every single Democratic Presidential candidate and blogging daily about my insights. Lately, the candidates have been growing more and more bold when it comes to calling each other out by name. That made me wonder how frequently they had called each other out in the past.

One thing led to another, and my massive spreadsheet birthed another color-coded chart of fascination.

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Wayne Messam was neither mentioned nor did he mention anyone, so he was left out.

For my own sanity, I only counted the number of times active candidates mentioned other active candidates by name. I have each candidate’s emails labeled separately in my inbox, so I would go into that candidate’s label and search for another candidate by first or last name: Label:Cory-Booker Michael OR Bennet.

I was on auto-pilot so bad that I didn’t realize the mistake of searching for Joe OR Sestak in Joe Biden’s tag.

Mishaps aside, I then went in and counted each use of another candidate’s name and whether the reference was made in a negative light* for the mentioned candidate or in a neutral light.

Truly positive mentions of other candidates were so rare I just counted them as neutral when they did show up.

The results were, as seen above, unexpected.

*It’s worth noting that the negative light was rarely very negative. Most of the time, it was just a bit of scorn for fundraising or a differing policy opinion.

In their emails, Pete Buttigieg did not mention another candidate at all, in any fashion, while Cory Booker mentioned other candidates a whopping 363 times, though only 9 of those times were negative. Joe Sestak wasn’t mentioned by anyone else at all, while Tom Steyer was the most hated candidate, with 32 negative mentions by others.

If you strip away all of the neutral mentions, the chart becomes much more informative. With Cory Booker’s 354 neutral mentions gone, the scale makes more sense for everyone else.

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Candidates are in alphabetical order from the bottom.

Now there are multiple candidates who don’t believe in saying negative things. Pete Buttigieg is joined by Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan, Tom Steyer, and Marianne Williamson.

Tom Steyer has managed to stir up the most animosity, with Cory Booker, Steve Bullock, and Elizabeth Warren reserving all of their negative remarks solely for the self-funding hedge fund billionaire, as they’ve called him (and these are just the emails where they mention him by name!). I find it incredibly telling that the only criticism leveled at Steyer is that he is self-funding his campaign and “buying” his spot on the debate stage. Nobody attacks him for his policies or beliefs, just for his money.

Nobody attacks John Delaney for being self-funded… though that may be because Delaney is failing to self-fund a successful campaign, while Steyer is showing him how it could be done.

After Steyer, Joe Biden gets the most vitriol, with Bernie Sanders being exceptionally angry toward him, mostly for how he fundraises. Sanders cannot forgive Biden for having rich donors and taking large checks. He also attacks Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg for having fancy fundraisers, and lumps Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke into the pot of “has billionaire supporters.”

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This is an example of the negativity. Oooh, so scathing. /s

Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are tied for being the most critical of their fellow Democrats, though Gabbard restrained herself to just a few targets: Joe Biden (taking air time away from her by sharing a debate stage), Tim Ryan (for screwing up on the debate stage against her), and Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, the media darlings (Gabbard’s words, not mine). While Gabbard hits Warren for taking up air time like Biden, she made sure to reference her attack on Harris’ prosecutor record in California every chance she got.

Julian Castro and Joe Biden had a back and forth over the third debate, when Castro slammed Biden on his memory. Biden called it a “low blow” and pointed out that Castro hadn’t even been right about it, while Castro continued to insist for multiple emails that he had done the right thing to not give Vice President Biden a “free pass.”

Andrew Yang had an odd moment of calling out everyone who had bought air time in Iowa and accusing them of drowning out his message.

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…did he think they wouldn’t buy air time in Iowa?

Again, the negativity is barely there, just a whisper, but it’s still indicating that the other campaigns are trying to hurt his campaign. Sort of.

Perhaps the oddest duck of the bunch is Joe Sestak. A retired admiral, Sestak is sort of off doing his own thing. Currently, he’s hiking across New Hampshire. For how out of the main race he is, Sestak is surprisingly prodding at other candidates.

“We chat with people,” Sestak said. “That’s the great thing about politics. You can ask to go to places.”

Sometimes, he just shows up. Sestak has popped up at a number of larger Democratic gatherings in Iowa, occasionally to the surprise of organizers. He wasn’t on the speakers list for the West Des Moines Democrats’ 4th of July picnic, but was there all the same. He didn’t throw himself into the large crowd of selfie-seekers or media scrum like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar did, instead content to stand on the outskirts of the event, chatting up older attendees one by one.

Is accusing Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar of throwing themselves into the crowd of selfie seekers or media scrum negative? I wasn’t entirely sure, but it didn’t exactly sound neutral, so I did mark it down as a negative. However, it was his email against Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders that really had me scratching my head.

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I don’t think that’s how any of this works.

While I was confused when I received this email, it’s been several months since. Looking back on it now, I think this was a joke that didn’t translate well. Again, it’s not really negative, it’s just… a little harsh.

That’s not to say that none of the emails I marked as negative are negative.

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He even highlighted it for me.

John Delaney is adamantly opposed to Medicare for All, and he’s not afraid to let Bernie Sanders know.

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Does the emoji make it positive?

Beto O’Rourke called out fellow candidates for having high-dollar fundraising events… as if he himself hadn’t held them before.

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Notice the choice of language used around Kamala Harris.

Tulsi Gabbard seems to delight in every chance she’s had to “take down” a fellow Democrat. While all of the candidates are aware there can only be one winner, there is a definite difference between Bernie Sanders’ grumpy old man growling and Gabbard’s go-for-the-throat attempt at a kill. If nothing else, her competitive streak is rock solid.

Overall, though, the Democratic candidates have been remarkably civil to each other for such a crowded primary. With recent events and, as Amy Klobuchar keeps putting it, a “sudden death” round beginning as candidates are getting cut from the debate stage, the candidates are beginning to resort to more desperate measures to keep attention. None of them want to swing first, but they’re all relishing the chance to defend themselves.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.

For more email analysis and way too many charts, check out my blog: But Their Emails!

Written by

A self-inflicted political blogger. I signed up for every Democratic presidential candidates’ emails in May 2019. This is their story.

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