The second night of Democratic Primary Debates was last night. Again, Ignoring my disgust with their far left positions and only looking at how someone who actually believed them might view their performances, here is how I believe they fared and how their poll ratings will be affected. Just like yesterday, Ratings are from -10 to +10.
Joe Biden: +4. People were looking for the Joe Biden who can be tough and not as ridiculous as the conservative media makes him out to be. Biden delivered that. He had excellent delivery, good passion and emotion, definitely in charge and the man to beat. And nobody can out-“tearful” Joe Biden. Not quite Trumpian, but not bad either.
He cracked just a bit when attacked by Kamala, but his experience showed through most of the night, and he should benefit greatly from this performance.
His goal as the frontrunner was not to lose, but he actually won.
Bernie Sanders: -3. Bernie was wild as always, and he is a great evangelist for his positions, passionate and utterly honest. But in this case, he kept getting trapped by the questions which showed that he did not understand how to actually do anything that he has promised (most on the conservative side already know this, but I’m referring to the actual stage performance).
His followers will still be wildly supportive, but anyone who was not previously hypnotized will probably realize from this performance that he is a good evangelist but has no clue how to fix anything. People have been gathering ammunition against him for a long time, and he is starting to be outed as a charlatan. He lost credibility and will not see a poll bump from this.
Andrew Yang: -5 His manner is typical of a tech guy, very reasonable but not passionate and not very likable. He was not able to speak a lot (almost like he didn’t realize he was supposed to be on stage), and when he did, he did not draw people to him.
While ignoring my conservative instinct that everything out of his mouth was absurd, I can still say that this performance should make him realize he has no shot and indeed did NOT belong on the stage. He has a cult following which may increase quite a bit, but it is not enough for Presidential contention. No visible polling bump for Andrew.
John Hickenlooper: -1 While definitely one the ‘adults’ on stage, and while his experience is considerable as a governor of Colorado, he did not contribute a lot to the conversation. His apparent reasonableness was lost on the audience (from which he had little support). He was shouted down a lot (the moderators did little to control the candidates), and anything substantive he might have said was quickly forgotten.
He is way down in the polls, this performance will do little to change that.
Marianne Williamson: -6 Marianne appears to have a slight speech impediment, which was disturbing in its first impression (I had never seen her live before). But I got used to it after a while, and I realized she does have some force of personality. Her problem is that she is completely, utterly unable to talk about specifics. Her understanding is more about a holistic approach to helping the country, and she talks in dreams not in plans. Her answers, compared to the (well informed) others on stage, just seemed to be irrelevant. My impression is she is not really executive material.
I seriously broke out in laughter with her final speech that addressed Trump directly, “you harnessed fear to win your election” and “I will harness love and meet you on the battlefield.” Holy Moly!!
Williamson lost out based on this performance. I believe she will generate a small cult following, but for most, she goes from “little known” to “reject.”
Michael Bennett: -4 – What little opportunity he had to talk was really buried among the passion and substance of the other candidates. Bennett has a sad voice and sounds a bit like a cartoon character. He doesn’t have it in him to rouse an audience in this kind of company. Nothing stands out about what he said, no memorable stories.
If anyone notices him based on this performance, it will be to dismiss him.
Kamala Harris: +7 Kamala managed to participate in all of the conversations, frequently breaking in, but without being too rude. It was effective. The crowd was definitely in her favor and established herself well, with substantive arguments. Of course when she took shots at Biden, she created a debate highlight with soundbites that will be played over and over (Sorry Joe, your response was actually good, but nobody will play that…).
Note: The question isn’t why did she do this. The question is, why didn’t everyone else? It is actually ridiculous that others did not do this, since anything vs. frontrunner Joe Biden gets you immediate and lasting coverage. What would you have to lose?
Her final speech lost her some points, seemed a bit weak and uninspired in comparison to the rest of her performance (her campaign should have known better than to allow this to happen, SERIOUS mistake in preparation).
Overall this is a huge victory for Harris, she should see a make a huge jump in the polls, perhaps into actual contention for the nomination (as I predicted in February).
Pete Buttigieg: -3 – Pete presented well and established himself as a decent orator, but for some reason, I was expecting him to stumble (he didn’t really, but it kind of made me nervous…).
Also can’t stop thinking about Alfred E. Neuman, the MAD Magazine character. That imagery from Trump’s tweet is stuck in my head, and I thought about it while he was speaking.
Pete seemed to hold his own, but that was not good enough with Biden, Bernie and Kamala on stage. There is no way to see this debate and not think that while he might be adequate, he was not the best candidate on the stage. His close was actually good, but it was too little, too late.
I’m thinking the obvious experience differential between Pete and the others in this performance will lose polling points and pull him down to irrelevancy.
Kirsten Gillibrand: -5 Kirsten is confident, passionate and knowledgeable and gave a great performance. Unfortunately, the other young strong female on stage was Kamala Harris, who was the superstar of the night. Being number two in your “type” is deadly, because instant choices will be made, and she will have lost the support of those looking to vote for her type. If not for Kamala, this would have been a great night for her and she might have seen the jump she needs to be a contender. I believe the actual result will be a net loss of poll position, perhaps even to irrelevancy.
Eric Swalwell: -3 – Eric was not able to hold his own on this stage. He is not a bad communicator, but he had no crowd support, and wasn’t able to work his way into the constant interruptive banter with the other candidates.
I can’t say this will hurt him terribly because he is way down in the polls, and this presentation on the national stage may actually give him a slight boost. But most will be recognizing him (like Williamson) to reject him, not to support him.
Final Author’s Note: The problem with these kinds of debates is that qualities that are not normally good for a politician or a leader are necessary to be heard. Rudeness, pushiness and the ability to plausibly exaggerate to impress the audience are key qualities. A gentleman like Hickenlooper has no chance, and the ability to see a possibly massive intelligence (like may have been expected from Yang) is totally missed. In short, the audience is really choosing the best propagandist, not the best leader, the most capable adminstrator, or even the best communicator.
Debates this large are essentially a circus.