My usual disclaimer – I don’t like these people, don’t agree with their opinions, this article is only about how I believe their performance will affect their candidacies.
This debate was run by ABC News, anchored by George Stephanopoulos. The moderators were professional, and the candidates were shown their time so that (unlike the other debates) the moderators did not often have to step on a candidate to get them to shut up.
The venue was much better than the last time, with an enthusiastic but muted audience. Camera angels were slightly upward, and no awkwardness in coverage of anyone. Everyone managed a Presidential look. Candidates are speaking faster, more polished, tougher to tell who is scoring points.
And that’s the problem.
For some reason the candidate made the unconscious decision to sing “Kumbaya” and all cheerlead the issues. It was very frequent that someone would “disagree” and then proceed to agree wholeheartedly and go even further.
There were a few attempts to attack other candidates, notably Bernie and Pete, but they were quickly forgotten. The stage setting and demeanor of the candidates was such that big moments were frequent, and old moments quickly faded.
Tom Steyer -3 – Tom gave many impassioned speeches, on climate change, racism and more, and he was effective in doing so. But rather than make the case that he is the best candidate to beat Donald Trump, he appeared to be encouraging the rest of the candidates to get their stuff together.
It seems to me that Steyer no longer believes he can be President and is content to have his voice heard and perhaps heeded. While this may indeed be the only option for Steyer, it does not help his candidacy. His poll numbers are insignificant, he is toast.
Amy Klobuchar +4 – If you didn’t know any of the candidates on the stage, and were moderately intelligent in politics you would have liked Klobuchar. She argued effectively, got plenty of air time. Her closing speech was excellent.
This performance helped her. The question is whether she can get enough extra support to get on the board with some delegates.
Elizabeth Warren -2 – Same ole’ Liz, nothing new. Warren certainly contributed to the discussion bringing up the same points and pleas as always. This was vintage Warren.
But Warren has been slipping steadily in the polls, she needed much more than an average performance to have any effect. This is a net loss for her.
Joe Biden +4 – In my opinion, this was Biden’s best debate to date. He was relaxed, energetic, coherent, and (unlike the other candidates) provided a great deal of new substance that demonstrated Biden’s depth of experience. Biden’s closing speech was excellent and, I believe, won him some points.
This is something that Joe needed in New Hampshire. He may not win the state but this should boost his numbers there and prepare for South Carolina. Everyone keeps saying he is on the ropes after Iowa, but Biden is still in front nationally and has yet to get to his best constituency.
Bernie Sanders +3 – Vintage Bernie rhetoric on the wild and hyperbolic side, but in this case, he was much more inclusive. In fact, at the beginning of the debate, Bernie was statesmanlike in his leadership and gentility. Bernie suffered some seemingly severe attacks, however, magically, all effect disappeared within a minute or two. To the point where I couldn’t remember the arguments.
I gave Bernie a positive score because I expected a lot more damage from attacks. Bernie presented very well, was consistent in his (hyperbolic) messages.
Pete Buttigieg +1 – Pete’s rhetoric was exceptional as always. The weird part was that he was attacked rather successfully several times about his lack of experience on the national stage, but, as with Bernie, after mere seconds those attacks were forgotten. Pete perhaps pontificated a bit too much, but he was effective in engaging with the group. One of the commentators after the debate noted that Pete was caught lying about statistics in South Bend where he was mayor. The moderator cited a great many statistics and Pete struggled to cover up. I do not believe it affected much in this debate, but this could be VERY big trouble in the general election.
I put him in the slightly positive category, even though he was outshone a bit by Amy Klobuchar.
Michael Yang -5 – Yang appears to have been marginalized by the moderators, did not speak nearly as much as others. When he did speak, he provided nothing new, attracted no attention.
His numbers are already in the dirt, I doubt he will survive past New Hampshire.