Just A Tuesday Night In Iowa

If you sought exciting TV Tuesday night I hope you didn’t tune into the Democratic debate from Drake University in Iowa like I did. This debate was significant in that it was the first time that all the candidates with any chance of securing the nomination were on the stage at the same time. With that in mind, let’s explore.

CNN and the Des Moines Register hosted the debate. Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip of CNN acted as moderators along with Brianne Pfannensteil of the Des Moines Register. Only Phillip was impressive and not terribly impressive at that.

The participants included all five with any chance of ultimately becoming the nominee: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; they were joined on the stage by Tom Steyer. In reality Steyer exploited a “loophole” in the qualifying criteria to buy his way onto the stage.

The pre-debate hype was all about a feud between Sanders and Warren. When the moderators attempted to spark it not much developed. Both Senators made the intelligent move of defusing it and if anything using it to bolster their record and/or electability.

While I don’t expect Klobuchar to win Iowa she needs a better than expected showing to “earn a ticket out of it”. In her case that could be as low as a fourth place finish. She was “Iowa nice”, presenting herself as a practical progressive. She made her case, was assertive – going over her time repeatedly – while looking confident and to a degree presidential without being nasty. To me she won the debate; the question is was her performance strong enough to earn that ticket especially considering she (along with Sanders and Warren) will probably not be able to be in Iowa as the impeachment trial goes on in the Senate. Iowa, like next up New Hampshire, is very much a press the flesh contest.

In my opinion (not that of a lot of others) Buttigieg was the second place finisher Tuesday night. He looked presidential and comfortable. A top three finish should be his minimal goal with a win being something that could propel him.

Senator Warren did nothing to hurt herself but the question is whether she helped herself any. She had too many “greatest hits moments” simply repeating talking points and falling back on her “panacea” wealth tax.

Biden and Sanders left me with the same negative impression. They both seemed old and you know their age will be used against them if they make it to the general election. Biden got tongue tied seemingly every time he answered a question. Sanders appeared to have a difficult time hearing. I find that disconcerting in that on pure policy I probably identify the most with Bernie (in a non-existent perfect world) and there is no doubt in my mind that Joe has the best resume. While neither helped themselves Tuesday night; neither killed their chances. I will not be surprised if either wins Iowa and expect both to participate in the New Hampshire primary.

Steyer did his usual great job of playing to the camera. Is he the only one who realizes that the TV audience is the real target, not the auditorium crowd and certainly not the moderators? Steyer’s positions (except for term limits) are perfectly acceptable to me. If by some quirk he ends up being the nominee (which I highly doubt) I could vote for him in the general.

Many have criticized the system Tom Perez and the DNC have used for this cycle but here if the bottom line to me: already at this point every candidate on the stage is someone I could support. I certainly have preferences but I didn’t find anyone on the stage unacceptable.

I wasn’t looking to be entertained Tuesday night. I was hoping I could resolve who I was willing to endorse. Unfortunately I did not come to that resolution yet. Leaning yes; decided no.

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