One week from tonight Detroit becomes the political epicenter of American politics as twenty Democratic 2020 hopefuls take the stage for two consecutive nights of debates in two heats of ten each. The draws are complete and I just wanted to share some of my “pregame” thoughts with you. Let’s explore.
On Tuesday night Pete Buttigieg, Steve Bullock, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson will take the stage. On Wednesday the lineup is: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Bill de Blasio, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee and Andrew Yang.
In a reverse of the Miami situation of about a month ago, the first night has more “star power” and potential. It will be interesting to see how that makes it through the news cycle.
In my mind the way too large field has separated into a clear five person top tier of Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders and Warren with three of them on the stage Tuesday night. Also in Tuesday’s field is Amy Klobuchar who I think may have faded too much from the top spot to win it all but a case might be made for her in the Veep spot and certainly for Attorney General in a forthcoming Democratic Cabinet.
There are two classic matchups with this draw: Sanders and Warren on Tuesday followed by Biden and Harris on Wednesday. Many see Sanders and Warren contending for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. If that is so Sanders is fading while Warren is surging. If they subscribe to that theory the trick will be to be sufficiently progressive to land a “punch” on the other and placate the progressives in the Democratic primary electorate without becoming too progressive and in the process hurting their electability in the general. That is easier said than accomplished!
Buttigieg’s has been the most interesting story of the young campaign but I still don’t see him on the 2020 ticket. Other than auditioning for a Cabinet spot (assuming he wants one) he should be playing a long game; his day is yet to come. In order to do so he has to make his presence known without committing a flub. He is both smart and able to articulate a point which is all he should need Tuesday night.
There is a lot of pressure on both Biden and Harris to perform well on Wednesday night. Biden is a great debater and beloved by Democrats but he cannot afford another butt kicking by Harris or anyone else for that matter this soon after Miami. Harris is in the rare air of the top tier but cannot come off as just attacking Biden. At the same time she certainly cannot afford to shrink into the background. (With what we have seen of her intellect and personality I don’t think that will happen.) While the rest of their draw is relatively weak that means they will also be somewhat desperate and may be willing to throw a “wild punch”. Between the two nights it is almost a guarantee that someone will land a zinger and emerge.
What I wanted most out of the first two debate rounds is that they winnow the field down to a much more manageable number. The electorate, and to a lesser degree the press, simply can’t keep good track of over twenty candidates. (Remember there are about five that aren’t even making the cut for the debates.)
To me there are fourteen debaters in need of an unexpected great night or they have to consider their alternatives. For several it is dropping out and running for reelection to the seat they hold now. For a few others who are not up for reelection in 2020 they need to go back to their day jobs until it is time to support the eventual nominee. For a couple others it is time to drop out, take a brief rest and then help the team by declaring for the Senate. For two or three it is time to search for a new career outside of politics.
There are my expectations/predictions. We’ll circle back shortly after the debates and see just how it worked out.
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