Following every debate, the question is, who won? In the pre-Nevada debate, no one won – some just did not lose as badly as the others.
Before getting to the candidates, a big loser was NBC/MSNBC, the hosts of the debate. They maintained no control over the questions or the time allotment — and seemed incapable of controlling the freewheeling feuding by the candidates. Candidates ran over their time. They interrupted each other. This was not a debate but an unstructured free-for-all. There was very little talking, but a lot of yelling.
The host had five moderators, but a couple of them seemed to be there more for decoration. Chuck Todd and Lester Holt occasionally interrupted the combatants to ask questions – but it was mostly the candidates that did the interrupting. I cannot recall if the representative of the local press, Jon Ralston, of the Nevada Independent, asking any questions at all. If he did, they were not memorable. Without discipline from NBC/MSNBC, the debate was left to the candidates to slug it out on stage.
So, what about the candidates?
For two hours, multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg moved ahead of President Trump as the big bad rich New Yorker, racist, womanizer capitalist. That was exactly the image that the former New York mayor has spent approximately half a billion dollars to obscure.
Bloomberg lived up to expectations. He was considered an awful debater and he most certainly reinforced that perception in his first debate since his days as mayor of New York.
Bloomberg’s performance – and his new public image coming out of it — may mean that he wasted all that money. Under the winnowing attacks from his five challengers, Bloomberg did not come across as cool, calm and thoughtful – but rather as a cowering candidate unable to defend himself from the facts of his record and history.
If – as he once stated – his purpose was to have all the other moderate candidates step aside to make way for his candidacy, he failed miserably. In fact, none of the other candidates appear to have been weakened by the fracas. Bloomberg did not give any of them a reason to jump ship.
Bloomberg’s main argument seemed to be that he is very rich and gives all his money away to good causes – especially the Democratic Party. All? That is what he said even as his personal fortune continues to grow on a daily basis.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders eked out a win in the debate — but mostly by standing by as the political cheap shots whizzed by him. He got in his standard talking points – and this time was able to physically point a finger at what he disdains, an arrogant billionaire who has more wealth than tens of millions of Americans combined.
Opponents brought up his health, but to much less of an effect than the actual mild heart attack he suffered last year. Sanders’ campaign schedule and platform vigor were all he needed to blunt that innuendo.
Bloomberg may have gotten out the only notable zinger by noting that Sanders is a socialist who is a millionaire with three homes.
Many post-debate analysts thought former Vice President Joe Biden had his best debate. That could be true, but the threshold was pretty low. To the extent he went on the attack, it was all directed at the other two old white guys – Sanders and Bloomberg. Since Biden has been expected to do better in the future than he did in the past, he maintained that trajectory. Uncle Joe did not rise or fall with this performance.
Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg
I lump these two together because they appeared to be splashing water at each other in the kiddie pool. The feud between the Minnesota senator and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana was a continuation of their previous feud over which experience is more beneficial – sitting in Washington or running a small town.
It was obvious that Mayor Pete gets under Klobuchar’s thin skin. She flashed red when Vanessa Hauc, from Noticias Telemundo, ask Klobuchar to explain why she could not recall the name of the President of Mexico – you know, what’s his name. Just a momentary lapse, Klobuchar explained.
Buttigieg would have none of that. He noted that the senator is on committees that deal with Mexico – suggesting that experience and knowledge are not the same with Klobuchar. She shot back with a couple of quick rhetorical question. “Do you think I am dumb? Are you mocking me?” Her pitiful response was just short of calling him a pipsqueak.
If anyone lost ground in the debate, it was Klobuchar and Buttigieg – and there were already slipping from their post-New Hampshire high.
A number of late-night pundits gave the win to Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren – largely because she was the more aggressive. More than any of the others, she shredded Bloomberg’s media-purchased image to shreds. She could not have been more aggressive is she had ripped up Bloomberg’s photo in front of the cameras as House Speaker did the State of the Union Speech.
Warren left it to Sanders to remind the public of Bloomberg’s racist remarks and policies. She went directly for the women’s vote – and delivered two body blows to her featherweight opponent. Warren talked about a candidate who referred to women as fat broads and horse-face lesbians – and noted that those sexist pejoratives did not come from President Trump, but from Michael Bloomberg. Ouch!
She noted that Bloomberg had women who complained about sexual harassment sign non-disclosure agreements as part of a settlement. He countered that there were only a few. She asked how many. He refused to give a number.
In the second punch, Warren asked if Bloomberg would announce on television that he will release all those women from the contracts they signed. Bloomberg declined, saying that both parties agreed to keep it private and that is how it should stay. It was the weakest possible answer, but the only one he could give without completely opening up that can of worms.
No doubt that Warren delivered the hardest blows. She was a rabid political pitbull. She did real damage to Bloomberg that will linger throughout the campaign. But, it did not make her any more likable. Did she win the debate in terms of improving her prospects to be the Democrat nominee for President? Probably not.
While this was presented as the Nevada debate, its impact on the actual primary caucuses is diminished by the fact that the majority of caucuses participants may have already voted early. Not sure how one can vote early in a caucus system, but Democrats seem to be very inventive in setting up their primaries.
Oh yeah! The BIG winner. Obviously, President Trump. Interestingly that was the belief of the Trump folks AND most of those left-wing analysts. No one on that stage looked presidential.
There will be modest shifting in upcoming polls, this debate did not offer up a breakthrough winner – but rather made the entire field look like a bunch of losers.
So, there ‘tis.