A Pleasant Surprise

Last Tuesday night I chaired a meeting of the board of a non-profit so I taped the debate. Based on the past debates and the huge field in all honesty I wasn’t expecting much. Over the next few days I watched it. I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s explore.

I’ve been tough on moderators in the past but I will compliment CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett along with the New York Times’ Marc Lacey for keeping order on Tuesday night. Cooper in particular tossed a bunch of softball questions that lent themselves to Trump bashing answers. While many played up the sparring there was much less of it this time around. In my opinion the sparring is overblown. All the candidates basically want to get to the same “destination”; there is just an often irrelevant difference of chosen “routes”. CNN apparently realized that they had a monopoly on political discourse for three hours (still one hour too long) and didn’t need to create controversy where none of consequence exists.

Here is my personal bottom line: while I have a clear first two preferences among the twelve, I could easily support any of them that have even the faintest chance of being the eventual nominee and the few of the twelve outside that would easily be much more preferable than Donald Trump, Mike Pence or any eleventh hour GOP nominee.

Let’s look at winners and losers.


Bernie Sanders – I was among the many who was watching to see any indication that Sander’s heart attack had left him physically unable to continue. Well, to put it succinctly Bernie looked and sounded like Bernie.

Joe Biden – Again he did enough to keep himself near the top. He did not distinguish himself and his constant need to correct himself for mentioning the wrong country or entity is concerning,

Elizabeth Warren – She repelled attacks and stood her ground defending her polices. On the middle class tax question I wish she had just used the term net cost; that would have been clearer and easier for the people to understand.

Tom Steyer – One thing about Steyer stood out to me; he played to the camera. Steyer would make eye contact with the questioner, maintain it while succinctly answering the question and then turn to the camera to go into a canned statement. Steyer alone realized that the moderators, other debaters and studio audience were not his target. Steyer can buy any donation amount he needs; his challenge is public support. The public was in TV land.

Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang – Both continue to impress although some of Yang’s policies seem a bit too far out there.

Amy Klobuchar – I have to wonder if she didn’t view Tuesday night as her last chance to get in to contention because she came out and maintained a fire I have never seen in her before.

Honorable Mention:

Cory Booker – His performance reminded me of George W. Bush’s old line, “I’m a uniter; not a divider.” The main differences are that Booker is much brighter and appears to be able to deliver on his statement.


Kamala Harris – There was no spark and I’m not sure she did enough to excite the people watching to get the bump she needs to stay within striking distance of the leaders.

Julian Castro – While I can’t outright criticize his performance he simply didn’t do enough to get the boost he needs despite having perhaps the best sound bite of the evening.

Tulsi Gabbard – She looked like she wasn’t ready for the big leagues, perhaps because she isn’t.

Beto O’Rourke – While I like the emotion he shows on the trail complete with all the body motion he just didn’t look good behind the podium Tuesday night. In fact all the herky jerky motions reminded me of Luis Tiant’s hesitation moves in his pitching motion.


While I’d like to see Booker drop out and concentrate on reelection to the Senate while helping the eventual nominee that may not happen soon because he has one of the best machines in Iowa.

Opening statements were skipped in consideration of the large field, which was a good move on CNN’s part.

Again the all will answer the final question format was used which is just a disguise for closing statements.

I’m sick of hearing the largely manufactured arguments about funding health care! We simply have more than enough money already on the table in America; we just don’t spend it efficiently.

Joe Biden had the final closing statement and it was his best moment. It was like ending a basketball victory with a slam dunk; it sent the crowd home united and happy. I heard a shade of Barack Obama in it.

Note: Sunday’s article is more often than not based on the big political story of the preceding week. Last week was so jam packed with huge stories that Monday’s and perhaps Tuesday’s articles will effectively be extensions of Sunday.

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