Tonight’s Democratic debate had only six participants (and one ghost, see below), hosted by CNN, moderated by Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip and The Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel.
As per usual, this article does not purport to judge the content of the conversations (If I were, though, I would be thinking Holy Moly these people are clueless!), but rather to attempt to predict how their performance will affect their poll numbers in the Democratic Primary.
Overall this was a rather boring, low energy political forum, it did not lend itself to building enthusiasm, very few spontaneous rounds of applause. This lack of a spontaneous echo chamber actually made for an interesting result, providing advantages in surprising places.
Pete Buttigieg – 2 For some reason, his logic was not as impressive, and he seemed less “presidential” than his previous performance — I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. He got in some good licks on Bernie and Liz but Klobuchar outshined him in every case where they could be compared.
Based on this performance I would expect him to fall a bit, but given the clinical nature of the whole show, I don’t expect much effect.
Elizabeth Warren -2 Warren actually started on a sour note in the military discussions and less capable, she seemed very hollow. She was blasted on health care by the moderate faction but she still held her own, nothing new. Later in the debate, she was more passionate, back to her usual standard, but people are used to that now. She made a good speech about how she and Amy had never been defeated in an election, and that the others had lost a number of elections, much impressing the talking heads, but I found this a bit hollow too. The lack of the above-mentioned “echo chamber” hurt her, I think.
Although Warren’s performance was up to her usual standard, she needed a solid win to reverse her current slide, she did not get it. This performance will not get her the forward momentum that she needs.
Amy Klobuchar +5 – Klobuchar started off seeming a bit spastic/nervous but as the debate went on she proved that she was the adult in the room. She was more credible, seemed strong, very intelligent and confident in the face of candidates who are beating her in the polls. She definitely benefitted from the low energy mood and lack of echo chamber in the debate. In stark reality, she outshined the others.
In comparison to the others, she performed quite well. Undecided voters watching the debate will clearly be drawn to her. Given her slightly favorable momentum, this could push her into contention.
Joe Biden -2 Joe seemed out of sorts. He was squinting, talking too fast, stumbling over his words, he just looked old and a bit weak. I noticed that he flip-flopped on China. He had been saying that China was not a worry for us, but talked this time about how tough he would negotiate with them. I’m not sure anyone will notice.
In general, Biden’s policies and rhetoric have not changed, but his mannerisms were not up to snuff in this performance. People will sense unconsciously his body signals and this will hurt him. Anyone not decided on a candidate will not pick him to vote for, he was just unimpressive. Will it affect his poll numbers? Not a lot, unless Klobuchar starts to convert the moderate Democrats (the odds of which are not zero).
Bernie Sanders +1 – Bernie was the same as always. He was a bit less wild than normal. Got blasted by the moderates on his plans, but defended himself aptly with the usual arguments. When challenged with the CNN article that claimed he said that a woman could not win, he denied it completely and defended himself sufficiently (some of the talking heads blasted him on it, but in my opinion he did fine).
This will not hurt him with his constituency, so this is a net positive for Bernie. But someone undecided and unfamiliar would probably not pick him to support.
Tom Steyer +4 Steyer’s manner of bobbing his head and smiling at the end of his discussion seemed very awkward to me. However, he spoke intelligently and made his points. If Steyer can work on his style to be a bit more Presidential, he would be a lot more attractive as a candidate.
This performance could help Steyer considerably, he held his own among the professional politicians and performed well, his passion came through and he took no hits. Together with the massive amounts of money he is spending, he could gain even more momentum than he recently has. Will it be enough to move to the top? The odds are not zero.
Michael Bloomberg +2 Yes, Bloomberg is the ghost. Bloomberg did not participate in the debate because he does not accept donations and therefore did not qualify. However, he did run commercials during the debate. They were polished, interesting and cogent, a very nice favorable comparison in relation to the six other candidates. This was surprising to me, and surprises are fantastic when it comes to forming opinions.
Bloombergy has bought some very good publicity people and you can never count out a billionaire.