Up until this point, the democratic debates haven’t been very enlightening as there have been far too many candidates on the stage, so topics got little more than a superficial treatment. There were, broadly speaking, two distinct camps, (1) the progressive camp and (2) the moderate camp. The significant difference between the two camps was on Healthcare. But the candidates were mostly in agreement and polite to one another. At one stage, Kamala Harris surged in the polls after a strong debate performance, and Cory Booker had a couple of good moments; however, the early debates served only to eliminate the no-hopers rather than help to decide the eventual nominee. Harris or Booker may yet earn a place on the ballot, as a potential Vice President, depending on who tops the ticket, but the early debates did not make for good viewing. The Nevada debate saw five candidates on the stage, including, for the first time, big-spending Mike Bloomberg. Even before it began, it felt like this debate would be different.
I decided I would score each candidate throughout the debate. To begin, I awarded them all 10 points, and I then added a point when I agreed with them or believed that they had made a good point, and I subtracted a point when I disagreed or thought they gave a poor response. While I tried to be as objective as possible, I had my biases before the debate began. I had been impressed by the Bloomberg campaign advertisements attacking Trump. I thought they were very effective, and I was looking forward to hearing him making his case. On the other hand, he was another billionaire who was buying his way into the process, and not only was he a former Republican, but he was a significant financial donor to other Republican politicians.
Bernie has his soundbites, and no doubt, he has his convictions, but every time my ten-year-old daughter see’s him on TV, she says, “he is too angry to be President.” Maybe he is correct to be angry-it may be what the country needs- but I can’t help feeling that if my daughter, as a casual viewer, finds it off-putting that so could many others. Biden has performed poorly since he launched his campaign. If he hadn’t of served as Vice President to Obama, then he would already have “suspended his campaign.” He is likable enough, but it seems as if his best debating days are behind him, and he often seems confused.
Mayor Pete comes across as a thoroughly decent young man. A very reasonable sort of fellow. However, the opposite to Biden, he can seem too polished, too ready with the prepared line, and often that line can be a meaningless platitude aimed at steering a safe middle ground. He lacks a bit of charisma. I’m not sure Id like to grab a beer with him- I think he would make me feel guilty if I ordered a second one. Amy is a bit like Pete but not as friendly and without even his limited charisma. She is so middle-of-the-road that she is entirely unmemorable.
My favorite candidate going into the debate was Elizabeth Warren. The woman has a plan for everything, and she has the fire in her belly to deliver. Obviously very bright and articulate, she sounds like a woman on a mission. And I believe her. Warren comes across as very genuine. She has clearly thought about the issues facing the country and is convincing when she offers her solutions. My worry about Elizabeth is; can she attract the working-class vote to defeat Trump. Also, we know he won’t engage in the substance of any debate, Warren would wipe the floor with him if he did, but how will she cope when he throws “Pocahontas” and other low and cheap shots at her. Incidentally, despite the cringy video of her having a beer with her husband, I would totally grab a beer with her.
And so to the debate. Bloomberg was dreadful. It was such a lackluster performance that one would have to question both his preparation and his team. He is so out of touch with ordinary people he should withdraw from the race immediately. From believing he earned his $56 billion because he “worked hard” to his defense of “stop and frisk,” and his explanation for “redlining” convinced me that Mike was no Democrat and made me wonder if he was even human. I hope he continues to spend some of his fortune, creating great adds attacking Trump, but he was the worst performer in this debate. He scored a total of one point.
Amy Klobuchar also had an awful night. She came across as emotional, bitter and angry in the back and forth with Pete. She had tried to deflect from topics using humor for most of the debate, but when Pete tackled her on the issue of competence, she couldn’t hide her emotions. This is not a sexist comment (I’ve already described Bernie as being too angry and have praised the other woman in the race). It’s just an observation. Pete raised some legitimate questions about her knowledge of US-Mexico relations, and her voice quivered, and she replied: “Are you calling me stupid?” not attempting to defend her competence. Amy continued to plow her middle-of-the-road furrow. However, Klobuchar had her best moment with her closing remarks when she called for Democrat unity to beat Trump. She scored fourteen points.
It was Pete who applied the pressure on Amy and took her out of the race. His best moment in the debate was when he challenged Klobuchar about not knowing the President of Mexico’s name. He speaks well and is very polished. He sticks to his talking points, but they can sound insincere- as if he has a list that he has to check off for each question. Pete is the very definition of a moderate and seems to be terrified of saying anything interesting. I am left feeling that he is too much of a gentleman to take on Trump while not committing steadfastly to any particular policy is unlikely to win him the working-class vote. Nevertheless, he scored reasonably well, getting twenty-two points.
Joe Biden had his best performance in a debate thus far. At the same time, Sanders was his usual self-full of passion and righteous anger- but without giving the audience anything new and certainly not going into specifics. Biden scored well by attacking Trump and having a go at Mike while he was also strong on Mexico, and I liked his comment about taxing wealth not work. The big thing for Biden was he displayed competence in this debate. Joe had no major gaffs and was quite composed throughout the discussion. Bernie was playing it safe and trying to make sure that he suffered no damage, which he achieved. Both of these gentlemen scored Twenty Three points each.
The clear winner of the debate was Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren was head and shoulders above everyone else. Not only did her intelligence shine through, so did her passion and her composure. Elizabeth effectively attacked Pete and Amy on Healthcare, and she had a good moment when she came to Amy’s rescue when Pete was attacking her. However, it was the ruthless way in which she went after Mike Blomberg on the Non-Disclousure Agreements (NDA’s) that demonstrated that she has what it takes to not only take on and beat Trump but to become the 46th President of the United States. She scored a remarkable thirty-four points.
After the debate, it seemed like a lot of the commentators and pundits agreed with me that Mike Bloomberg was terrible and that Elizabeth Warren won the contest. She raised around nine million dollars from small donations in the three days after the election, and it seems that a lot of on the day, voters went for Warren. However, as there was a lot of early voting in Nevada, Bernie Sanders had an impressive victory in this state
However, since then, a number of videos have emerged of Sanders praising the Soviet Union in the 1980s while he also praised Fidel Castro’s literacy program after the Cuban Revolution. These developments could damage Bernie’s attempt to seek the nomination.
Next up is South Carolina, and Joe Biden is well ahead in the polls there. Tom Steyer is also showing well. Then next Tuesday is “Super Tuesday” when fourteen states will vote. By Wednesday morning, the list of potential nominees should become much shorter. I predict a top three of Sanders, Biden, and Warren. Pete Buttigieg may hope he has done enough to become a Vice President pick by the nominee, and hopefully, Mike Bloomberg will stick to writing cheques to make advertisements targeting Trump.