The Democratic Debate – Who Won, Who Lost?
Tonight’s Democratic Debate consisted of seven remaining candidates who were able to meet the Democratic National Committee’s criteria. Notably absent is Michael Bloomberg who is gaining rapidly in the polls, but is self-funded and therefore will not get the number of individual donations required by the DNC.
As always, since I admit bias in the conservative direction, I will evaluate each candidate on their performance with regard to gaining stature in the race, standing out, influencing their potential constituents and taking down their opponents.
Something about the stage lighting seemed to accentuate some of the caricature-type features of the candidates, Biden was squinting and looked old, Warren’s spastic motions were way obvious, Sanders looked more insane than normal (note the white part showing above the eyes…), Klobuchar looked stodgy. On the other hand, Steyer, Buttigieg and Yang looked much bigger and more polished on stage than they had before. This was a huge advantage for these latter candidates.
A quick note, the moderators (not surprisingly) were in the bag for Democrat issues and lofted many softball questions. I think based on those very leading questions I would have done pretty well pretending to be a Democrat, even if I had been isolated in Tibet for 20 years. Previous debates had a bit more contention, which allowed the candidates to pick on each other a bit more.
Here are my scores:
Joe Biden, +1 He started out squinting, looking old which was made worse by the stage lighting. He looked a bit weak, stuttered a bit. I felt like I wasn’t sure people would have the patience to wait for his answers. Biden gave a very strong answer on China (wrong in my opinion, but strong), but Yang came in right after him and gave an answer that seemed way more knowledgeable (but actually less responsive…). This was an example of victories snatched away from Biden.
In the second half of the debate, Biden was much more energetic, especially on health care. He attacked Bernie effectively, shooting holes in the socialist strategies, and establishing himself as a lead moderate. People will remember the second half more, I think, for Joe Biden.
Joe gets a positive mark because he did not hurt himself (very much) and displayed the same old Joe, which people like. I don’t think Joe will gain from this performance, but he is still the frontrunner and will not lose because of it. And that is a victory.
Bernie Sanders, -4 Same ole, same ole. The lighting really brought out the wildness and looks of insanity. Some of his answers did not seem coherent, but hardcore Bernie supporters who know “berniespeak” will understand and still follow him.
But the other candidates successfully attacked his socialist strategies, and while his cult of supporters will likely stick around (after all, they have been around since 2015…) Bernie will not get other Democrats or independents to follow him.
Elizabeth Warren, -6 As mentioned above, the stage lighting was not kind to her, the visual impression was jerky and spastic motions, too much blinking and looking old. Her rhetoric is the same as she has been using, and unfortunately is what is currently dragging her down in the polls. Her opponents attacked her successfully, and she had nothing new to offer. She also hogged the camera and came off as rude in that respect.
Her performance was about as good as her previous ones, but that is not good enough in the current media environment. I believe her numbers will continue to fall.
Amy Klobuchar, -3 I honestly believe Klobuchar is the most capable politician, and would be best able to get things done (because she has actually done the most), and I have said many times the Democrats would be crazy not to nominate her. But this performance will not get her elected. As mentioned above, the stage lighting made her look stodgy and penguin-like. Her answers seemed lacking in content sometimes, especially where others had talked about responding to China, and she deflected very obviously. She did manage to attack Buttigieg effectively, maybe there is still hope.
Based on this performance, I believe her numbers will begin to go down some. She still hasn’t displayed the right amount of charisma to beat the others. She needs to up her game radically, or drop out.
Pete Buttigieg, +3 As mentioned above, the stage lighting made Buttigieg look tall, confident and perhaps a bit presidential. Pete still communicates well and is very good at presenting his view in an intelligent manner, but he really brought nothing new or astounding to the table. He was successfully attacked by Warren, and in return successfully, insulted her a bit, and implied she was a hypocrite. His stage performance and interactions anchor his position as a major player.
Pete got hit a few times on the “wine cave” he used to raise money. There is a danger that this might become a meme about him. He was also attacked effectively by Klobuchar on his lack of respect for other’s accomplishments in the political realm. This may be the beginning of a more legitimate line of attacks on his lack of experience at the national level.
Overall this performance is positive and may very well help him continue his upward momentum in the polls.
Andrew Yang, +6 As mentioned above, the stage lighting made Yang look neat, tall and respectable, a very good effect for him. Yang answered questions confidently and with a knowledge of technology that others in the debate could not match. For example, Joe Biden talked passionately about China, but Yang’s answer thereafter was much better and seemingly more informed. His rhetoric about “solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place” made me perk up, thinking that he is a differentiated candidate that bears listening to. At times, he seemed to pander to various groups, but he did it well and effectively.
Yang’s performance as an equal on stage with the big candidate will allow some people to pay attention to him for the first time, and for everyone else to re-evaluate him. I believe Yang will benefit more than anyone else in the debate, based on this performance.
Tom Steyer, +2 At the beginning of the debate, Steyer made his case and differentiated himself. He appeared more assertive and confident than in previous debates. His claim that he is the only one who can take Trump toe to toe because he has built a business from the ground up was an eye-opening differentiation for the audience. Standing on stage with the others as an equal, with good stage lighting, was a plus.
Unfortunately, he was not as assertive later in the debate and was forgotten during the jovial and passionate health care sections. Still his best performance so far.
Based on this performance, Steyer will likely be taken seriously as a candidate, and I believe he will steal some percentage points from people not there, but not a lot of them.
Michael Bloomberg – Bloomberg was not at the debate,but his percentages will go up and then level off as he spends tens of millions of dollars. I don’t believe he will win in any state, but he will be a spoiler for the others.
Hillary Clinton – All bets will be off when Hillary enters the race (yes, Bruder, she will…). It looks like Biden is not self-destructing as anticipated, so Hillary will have to get her own supporters. The “commitment and consistency” effect (a method of “influence”), will keep them with Joe as long as he stays in the race.
I don’t know if it is good or bad, but the tone of this debate was very pessimistic. Suspending my bias as best I could, I felt bad about America after this debate.
There are patterns of “influence” that say people are worried about what they might lose more than they covet what they might win. I’m sure that is what they were going for, but there is a difference between potentially losing something, and a general feeling gloom. In contrast with Trump’s upbeat and success-oriented approach, I believe Trump’s optimism will win out if both camps stay in their current form.
This race is nowhere near over. My prediction is that the Democrat side of the race will be very different in June from what it is now.