The Thinker: Rich Galen


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The Democrats' Debate II

Rich Galen

Thursday August 1, 2019

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  • I may be better at this than I give myself credit for. At the end of the first round of Democratic debates (June 28), I wrote this :
    "After the first round I think the next round of polling - for what it's worth - will show it Biden, Warren, Bernie, Harris, and Buttigieg in that order."

  • The national Quinnipiac poll released earlier this week showed the top candidates, thus:
    Biden - 34%
    Warren - 15%
    Harris - 12%
    Sanders - 11%
    Buttigieg - 6%

  • Ok, Bernie and Kamala were reversed but only by 1 percentage point. With a margin of error at 5.1%, I'm claiming victory.

  • The two nights of debates were held in Detroit at the glorious Fox Theater which, according to Wikipedia "Opened in 1928 as a flagship movie palace in the Fox Theatres chain."

  • The main issue for more than half the participants in this second round of Democratic debates this week had nothing to do with the finer points of health insurance, nor the best way to deal with climate change, nor what to do about student loan debt.

  • It was "Can I make enough of an impression to get to two percent in four national or early state polls and qualify for the September debate?"

  • On the first night, the Medicare-for-All debate went for about 45 minutes. I have followed this issue pretty closely, but I have to admit my eyes glazed over about 20 minutes in and I sort of faked paying attention until the discussion turned to immigration.

  • The first night featured Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren at center stage. They didn't actively debate one another, they staked out the Progressive (used to be called "Liberal") position - especially on health insurance - and let the other eight candidates chase them to stage left.

  • Both Sanders and Warren were fine, knew their stuff, and had the stage presence to pull it off.

  • Pete Buttigieg was very good in his serious, measured way. Beto O'Rourke was Beto O'Rourke and might not make it to January of 2020, much less to November.

  • Marianne Williamson, who got good marks from the cable panelists, is the Michele Bachmann of the 2020 cycle. In 2012 Bachmann was the early darling of the media but faded early when they bothered to look at her actual positions.

  • On the second night, Joe Biden was flanked by Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

  • In the health care segment (which also led the first night) Harris described her version of Medicare-for-All and said it was better than Biden's plan.

  • Biden apparently took the advice not to try and be Harris' best friend and pointed out what he saw as the flaws in her system. Biden said that Obamacare is working and went on to describe how to improve it, not scrap it.

  • Harris took every opportunity to poke Biden in the eye, but Biden was prepared for it and swatted her finger away.

  • Most of the other candidates seemed to have decided that tripping Harris was more important than body-blocking Biden. It seemed to me that Harris began to chafe under the pressure of having to defend her health insurance plan against everyone else on the stage.

  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (who I find as annoying as fingernails on an old-time blackboard) had apparently faded out during the immigration discussion because when CNN's Don Lemon asked her for a response it was "Um "

  • Not quite, "Oops," but in the same neighborhood.

  • Later, when Dana Bash asked Gillibrand about her joining the Green New Deal bill guaranteeing a job, paid vacation, and retirement benefits to everyone in America, the Senator talked about why climate change is so important.

  • Something candidates should lose is having an example of a family member, a friend, someone they met on the campaign trail, or in a Starbucks that helps make their point.

  • That has become the debate version of the special guests in the gallery at a State of the Union address. It has paled with overuse since Ronald Reagan introduced Lennie Skutnick in 1982.

  • Mayor Bill DeBlasio (New York) tried to make hay by directly challenging Biden. Twice. Both times, Biden pivoted away and sailed on undamaged.

  • Sen. Cory Booker - formerly the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey - has adopted an intense speaking style that makes him sound like a late-night TV pitchman just before he says, "But wait! There's more!"

  • In an attempt to duplicate her performance in the first debate, Kamala Harris spent the entirety of the debate in closing argument mode complete with a pen in her hand, that hand waving in the air, and her voice quivering with righteous indignation.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) was not shy about joining the fray. In fact, Tabbert tested Harris when she skewered Harris for having been overly enthusiastic in her role as Attorney General of California.

  • Harris seemed to have been pushed back on her heels by being challenged by a woman.

  • Although he didn't force his way into conversations, when he was asked a question, entrepreneur Andrew Yang was on-point, cogent and, to my ear, impressive.

  • This will probably have been the last time the Democratic National Committee will have to split the field into two parts. In the September debate the bar is higher to get on stage and it is not likely that more than half the current field will clear it.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: Links to the Wikipedia entry on the history of the Fox Theater, to the criteria for making the stage for the third debate, to the Quinnipiac poll that was released earlier this week, and to Lennie Skutnik.

    The Mullfoto is a soothing look at a pretty morning in my neighborhood.

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