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Democratic Debate - III

Rich Galen

Friday September 13, 2019

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  • The third Democratic debate took place on Thursday night. After tightening the rules, this was the first debate that had only - ONLY - ten candidates involved. Previously there were 20 on two nights.

  • That being the case this was the first time Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former VP Joe Biden have been on stage together. No conspiracy involved; just the luck of the draw in the first two.

  • Even with the higher standards for admission, only three of the candidates are polling in double digits nationally according to the averages: Biden (26.8%), Sanders (17.3%), and Warren (16.8%).

  • The other seven are all in single digits: Kamala Harris (6.5), Pete Buttigieg (4.8), Andrew Yang (3.0), Beto O'Rourke (2.8), Cory Booker (2.3), Amy Klobuchar (1.2), and Julian Castro (1.0).

  • After more than eight months of campaigning (at least in Harris' case) if they can't crack 10 percent support, they shouldn't be on stage. In the cases of Klobuchar and Castro, TWO percent is a bar they couldn't clear.

  • Many of the candidates have decided that the ability to beat Donald Trump is the most important thing. Other than chipping at one another on the nuances (to me) of their differing health insurance plans, they kept coming back to why whatever they were for is better than whatever Trump is selling.

  • The first 40 minutes were devoted to heath care. Julian Castro went straight after Joe Biden saying Biden "couldn't remember what he said two minutes ago." Castro then went on to interrupt Buttigieg.

  • As reporter Walter Shapiro put it: "Julian Castro is living proof that the danger of going on the attack in a multi-candidate race is that the attacker seems shrill and is the least likely to benefit from the attacks."

  • The gun control portion was a rehash of previous talking points. Beto O'Rourke did well, coming from El Paso, has the standing to be passionate about gun violence, got kudos from several of his opponents.

  • After the halftime (90 minute) break they started with trade policy. Andrew Yang said he would not repeal tariffs on day one, but would work toward a deal with the Chinese. He did not indicate what the outlines of such a deal might be.

  • Most of the others showed a distinct lack of (a) understanding about trade policy and/or (b) a policy that's different than Trump's.

  • On Afghanistan, Elizabeth Warren said she would bring all U.S. troops home immediately even without a deal with the Taliban, but didn't explain how to keep Afghanistan from returning to a training ground for terrorists it was before 9/11.

  • Pete Buttigieg - the only combat veteran of the 10 - had an idea that has merit: Change the Use of Force law to have a three-year period after which it would have to be renewed. We have had troops in Afghanistan for 18 years.

  • Joe Biden verbally wandered around the Arabian desert for what seemed like five minutes trying Joe to explain his Iraq vote when he was a Senator.

  • Andrew Yang said "we're not very good at rebuilding countries" and pointed to Puerto Rico. I would have pointed to the Marshall Plan which helped to rebuild a whole continent.

  • Bernie Sanders, when asked about Socialism in Venezuela, bristled and said that it was unfair to compare Venezuela with his economic theory of Democratic Socialism.

  • At the two hour mark, the moderator from Univision, Jorge Ramos, switched to the environment. This is in everyone's comfort zone and they had the ready answers that they have used at coffee shops throughout New Hampshire and luncheonettes across Iowa for months.

  • After 40 minutes on guns, the environmental discussion lasted only about seven minutes before the debate moved to education, another safe zone for these candidates.

  • Buttigieg said "Step one is to appoint a Secretary of Education who actually believes in public education." Warren used her call to pay teachers more to riff on her wealth tax on the top one percent of earners in America.

  • Harris said she wants to spend two TRILLION dollars on historically Black colleges and universities. Editor's Note: The debate was at Southern Texas University: An HBCU.

  • Bernie Sanders said he would cancel all student debt by "imposing a tax on Wall Street speculation."

  • Biden said on education, "We have one school psychologist for every 1,500 students. It's crazy." I don't think he wanted that to come out that way.


  • This was far and away Joe Biden's best performance. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders did no harm, got their points across, but did nothing to close the Biden gap.

  • Pete Buttigieg was very good - again, but Andrew Yang's answers meandered and confused me. . It, was far and away, Kamala Harris' worst performance. If her entire rise was based on her first debate, then her campaign ended last night.

  • Beto O'Rouke, as noted above was strongest in the gun section, but didn't have much after that. Julian Castro (also as noted above) failed in his attempt to raise his standing by attempting to reduce Biden's.

  • Amy Klobuchar started strong and then disappeared. Cory Booker was pretty good throughout. Neither of them will be the nominee.

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