The second part of the second round of Democratic Primary Debates … is in the can. Again, ignoring my despair and sadness with their far left positions and only looking at how they presented themselves on stage, here is how I believe they fared and how their poll ratings will be affected. Just like last time, ratings are from -10 to +10.
First, some highlights of the content:
Climate change – PANIC!!! Oh My GOOOOOOODDDDD! IT’S TOOOOOO LAAAAATE!!!!!!!
Trump – racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, racist, guilty, guilty,guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty…
OK, on with the scores.
Bill De Blasio +2 – Looking respectable, high energy, very good speaker. He challenged Biden, Biden cracked slightly. He had some powerful moments, where he was able to say “as mayor of the largest city in America.” This is a good meme for him. Based on his performance he deserves a substantial boost in polls. And if people didn’t know about his record and that his city hates him, he might very well get that boost. Realistically, nothing here for him. Time to return to NYC, with tail tucked…
One quick note. Even if he managed to make his way to the nomination, he sunk his chances of actually being President with the remark that he will “tax the hell out of rich people” (and apparently a website to the same effect). That one quote makes him despised and mistrusted by the people who create jobs and build economies and who have made America great.
Kristin Gillibrand -6 – Gillibrand has occasional moments of excellent messaging, but this performance was disappointing. In the last debate, she was head to head with Kamala Harris and lost only slightly. This time she was just a footnote. Her manner reminds me of a high school cheerleader, not powerful, not presidential. At one point, she seemed surprised and distracted by a moderator question, and had to dance a bit to answer. Went through the whole ordeal that she is a “white woman of privilege” and what that means and how apologetic she is, which, if she had a ghost of a chance of winning in the primary, would sink her in the general election. This may play to her base though, and people who like her will like her more.
Tulsi Gabbard +8 – A shockingly beautiful display, she was an angel in bright white, with a good tan, voice low, confident and powerful, VERY presidential. She attacked Harris and got away with it, scoring substantial points. The commentators were kind enough to point out that she was the sole military veteran on stage so she drew focus on a number of important issues. Very powerful and distinguished closing speech. When the camera flashed from Gabbard to Harris, Harris appeared unkempt and tired. Harris had more airtime, but Gabbard surprised everyone.
I know a lot of Hawaiians were critical of her decision to run, and she is taking friendly fire from the party. However, this may be the performance that boosts her into higher polling numbers. And it’s a good thing, because this is probably her last chance.
Kamala Harris +4 – Harris was surprisingly sedate at the beginning, with a tendency to get a bit too technical. After a warm-up period, she became the focus of attention, perhaps not quite measuring up to Warren’s stage presence but attacking a lot to great effect.
She could have done better though. She became surprisingly defensive on her record when under attack. This is not an attractive situation for her, in fact, she seemed ugly to me during that defense with an underlying anger and resentment that was very un-presidential. Almost Hillary-like.
I believe she got a disproportionate amount of airtime from the CNN moderators (turns out Joe got more…), to the point of unfairness, but it was perhaps a tribute to her lawyerly skills, much to her advantage. Very noticeable when the camera went from Gabbard to Harris, she looked tired and unkempt by comparison. Her opening and closing speeches should have been much more energetic, given her position in the polls.
Harris is in a true contender position, but she will not get the boost she was hoping for with this performance. She must do much better in the next round to keep her 3rd/4th place standing. This is good enough at this stage, though, it buys time and campaign contributions to sustain her to the next stage.
Joe Biden +1 – I believe we saw the true relaxed Joe Biden this time, not especially sharp, but still a very agile political speaker. I mentioned back in February that he had no chance in hell of winning because his opponents have been gathering ammunition for a very long time (and they have plenty of it). If his ‘friends’ are finding this much to attack him with, think what the Republicans will bring! At one point he was being double teamed by Harris and Gillibrand, and he seemed very perplexed. But Joe took shrapnel from every candidate at one time or another and kept his sense of humor. His attacks against Booker and Harris were not overly effective, easily fended off, it lost him points.
Joe won some clashes and lost some clashes, but appeared to keep his sense of humor. He was addressed frequently as Mr. Vice President, actually a huge advantage.
I thought after the last debate that he had fended off Harris just fine, but he was sunk by the media’s hunger for a sound bite. His poll numbers have gone back up to his pre-first-debate level. This time, while his performance was fine, I believe his numbers will start to drift down – not quickly, but with a definite trend. Warren and others will rise.
Andrew Yang +5 – Yang was much more cogent, clear and relevant this time. His arguments were clear and distinguished from others, established very well as unique and different, I believe he will get a couple more points out of this performance and enhance his cult following. He is still not a contender, but perhaps in a position to make a push. His opening and closing statements were both very good. I believe he became a real candidate after this. Boost his poll numbers to 3-5% – and then he will either sink in the next few weeks or find some new way to get attention. This, by itself, will not sustain a run up the poll standings.
My old friend Democrat consultant Steve Marchand is taking over his campaign in New Hampshire. Marchand is a power player in this small but important state, with one of the earliest primaries and generally believed to be a bellwether. If Yang can manage to get into the low double digits by primary time, a win in NH would catapult him to contender status. With Marchand in the mix, the chances of this are not zero.
While this may help him in the Democrat primary, I believe his comment that it is too late on climate change and that we must “move people to higher ground” would sink him in the general election. He really shouldn’t say stuff like that.
Corey Booker-6 – His whole manner tonight was over-acting and artificial energy, he appeared un-genuine. He was an apt debater, but he seemed much more like a commentator than a presidential candidate. I liked his performance last time, this time not. Nothing presidential about him. Maybe he was auditioning for a job at CNN? His campaign is toast.
Jay Inslee – 5 – I thought he did reasonably well in the last debate, but this time he looked weird, like an old, somber Drew Carey. He is still overshadowed as “strong old white guy” candidate by de Blasio. His attacks on Biden were not really effective and I don’t remember anything else he said. Time to hang it up, Jay.
Michael Bennett -10 – Bennett had occasional moments of energy and compassion, but they were too few and far between. He seemed awkward, he was a poor speaker (compared to others on stage), he was very sedate in the opening, he frequently looked rattled and because his communications skills were not up to the level on the rest of the stage, his messages were not getting through. His stage presence was not very good, He looked small on stage. He still sounds like a cartoon character to me. Nice guy, good ideas, but time to ride off into the sunset.
Julian Castro -7 – Seemed reasonable and articulate, and he had some moments in the last debate, but now he appears to me to be the consummate bureaucrat. He had little in the way of spark in this debate, nothing to generate additional support. If he stays in the race, his only path to success is to pair up as a vice presidential candidate, probably with a third-place primary candidate next spring.