One overarching critique of the Democrat South Carolina debate was that we have seen that movie before. For sure, there was a bit more heat and chaos, but nothing substantively changed – not even the likely positions of the candidates in the polls.
On stage, we saw what amounted to the seven dwarfs of presidential politics. They were collectively worse than they might be individually. Not one of them looked like presidential timber.
Some of the problem had to do with the rules – or lack thereof. The rules were bad as written – designed to relegate the issues to talking-points and political zingers – and even those feeble rules were never enforced by incompetent moderators.
The low point – or high point, depending on your view – was when all seven candidates engaged in a shouting match that rivaled an episode of the Jerry Springer Show – just short of tossing the podiums at each other. There was not a legible word to be heard in the verbal melee.
Like the Nevada debate, there were no real winners – just some did relatively better, or less bad, than others.
Most post-debate analysts gave the first-place prize to former Vice President Joe Biden. I concur, but only because he did not lose his mind with rude interruptions and irrational yelling as was the case with his opponents. His yelling was at least comprehensible.
By not doddering, Biden most likely kept his lock on the South Carolina primary. It could, however, be his last hurrah.
The big loser was Massachusetts Senator – and tenacious scold – Elizabeth Warren. She reprised her failed role as the hardcore feminist to again try to bring down former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg—a guy who is not even on the ballot in South Carolina. Warren will soon learn that rehearsed indignation is not a great vote-getter.
Friends and foes alike cannot figure out why Warren again went after Bloomberg and his collection of Non-Disclosure Agreements. After all, it is Sanders who blocks her path to the presidential nomination — if she actually had a path.
And why she chose to bring up that discredited story of how she lost her teaching job because she got pregnant is unknown and inexplicable. The record shows that she was offered her job for another year, but she chose to resign and be a stay-at-home-mommy. With that kind of thinking, will Warren again claim Native American ancestry?
Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer used one of his rare appearances on the debate stage to join the attack on current front-runner Bernie Sanders – establishing that billionaires do not like Sanders any more than he likes them. With a huge investment in advertising, Steyer may buy himself a third-place finish in South Carolina, but that would appear to be the end of the road for his very expensive candidacy.
Bloomberg did not perform as badly as he did in Nevada – and how could he? His debate skills were unmatched on the stage. He was by far the worst verbal combatant. Even as others disparaged the role of fat cat billionaires in the political process, Bloomberg kept selling his wealth as a primary asset – that $100 million he gave to Democrat congressional candidates in 2018 and tens of millions more for this and that. He stood out as the only candidate who could actually buy an election. Or so he thinks.
Bloomberg seems to believe that his huge expenditures can get him a political make-over. He apologizes for being a racist and misogynist in past years. He flips from con to pro regarding the minimum wage. He is hoping that all those media buys will sell the 2020 model Bloomberg. Unfortunately for Bloomberg, politics is more than money – and a political public persona is more than slick television commercials.
Senator Amy Klobuchar’s sales pitch was the same as always. Look at me I’m a person who can get votes from moderates and Republicans. Maybe so … but based on the first three primaries, she cannot get them from Democrats. She is likely to stay in until the primary in her home state of Minnesota. If she stays on after that, she will only be a spoiler.
Perhaps the most likable and sane candidate on the stage was former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He reminded me of the first few lines from Rudyard Kipling’s “If …”
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
And concludes “… you’ll be a man, my son.”
It is nice sentiment, but it is not going to get Buttigieg enough votes to become a real contender.
As was expected, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was the candidate with a target on his back – the obvious role for a front-runner. If in the Nevada debate, the participants formed a circular firing squad, the South Carolina alignment was more traditional – with front-runner Sanders as the point person.
While Sanders was not mortally wounded politically, he did take some serious hits. His programs that cost more money than there is came under fire – even from Warren, who has her own accounting problems.
Sanders historic support of the National Rifle Association – his opposition to the Brady Bill and his vote to exempt gun manufacturers from civil suits – took some of the luster off Sanders’ progressive bona fides. Not to mention his past support for communist regimes in the old Soviet Union, Nicaragua and Cuba.
The main theme of the Sanders’ critics was “un-electability.” His extreme socialist leanings would be a problem throughout the United States. More specifically, his praise of Fidel Castro and his animosity toward Israel would most assuredly cost him Florida in the General Election. His anti-fracking policies would deny him any chance of carrying Pennsylvania. His plan to eliminate the use of fossil fuels would cost him West Virginia and Texas.
Sanders still has momentum – and he is likely to go to the convention with more delegates than any other candidate. That is, unless the Democrat establishment, the moderate candidates and the media can make him scary enough in the next few days or weeks – and God knows, they are trying.
If you want to summarize the South Carolina Debate in one word, CNN Alisyn Camerota said it. “Embarrassment.” Again, the real winner was President Trump.
So, there ‘tis.