After Wednesday’s Democratic debate featured sharp clashes between presidential hopefuls, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said he isn’t worried about the party’s candidates attacking one another.
“We had differences on policy,” he told MarketWatch on Thursday. “Nobody was talking about hand size. Nobody was putting silly nicknames on people. It was all about policy issues. We agree on most everything, and those things that we have differences on, we talked about it passionately, respectfully, and then it’ll be up for the voters to decide.”
Perez’s mention of hand size and nicknames were references to comments by Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential race. Wednesday’s clashes among the candidates included Julian Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary, attacking former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke on an immigration issue, as well as Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan sparring over Afghanistan.
The DNC chief also addressed why Trump got fewer mentions in Wednesday night’s debate than some political strategists expected.
“We’re talking about issues,” Perez said. “We’re talking about health care and what our vision is. We don’t need to talk about Trump.”
The two-part debate in Miami continues Thursday night, with 10 other Democratic presidential hopefuls due to take the stage at 9 p.m. Eastern.
While Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday declined to promise that he will concede ahead of the Democrats’ convention if it becomes apparent that he won’t be the party’s nominee, Perez isn’t sounding concerned about a potentially messy end to the primary.
“I feel certain that all but one are not going to make it to the mountaintop, and everybody’s going to come together,” Perez said. “We’re going to come together with force and unity. I am very, very confident about that, because we know that it’s Donald Trump who is our target.”
NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo are hosting the Miami debates, and organizers have drawn criticism for technical difficulties that briefly stalled Wednesday’s session, as well as for moderator Chuck Todd’s performance, which led to him speaking more than most candidates on Wednesday. Perez said the overall viewership was more important, as he played down such problems.
“Technical things like that happen. Let he who has not had a problem cast the first stone. We had something like 24 million viewers — that’s what it’s all about,” he said.