One week from tonight the first day of the two day first round of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Debates will commence. I thought today would be a good time to get my two cents in on the debates and also do a periodic review of the campaign to date. Let’s explore.
I’ll take the second – and easier – part first. To date the big winner has been Pete Buttigieg. He has come out of relative obscurity to become a household name, at least for political junkies. I don’t see him becoming the 2020 nominee, or the 2020 Veep pick for that matter, but a Cabinet position in a Democratic administration if he wants it seems very likely. He has also raised his profile to the point that a successful run for the Indiana Governor’s mansion or a U.S. Senate seats could be in his future (with or without Cabinet service.)
The disappointment to date has been Cory Booker. Senator Booker should be among the leaders but his campaign has yet to catch fire. I know it’s more of a marathon than a sprint but you can’t be too far off the pace and still break the tape first.
I want to give special recognition to Elizabeth Warren. I like Senator Warren along with what she has stood for and her performance over the years. Entering the campaign I pegged her weakness as being basically a one trick pony; she is fantastic on consumer protection but had no history on much of anything else. In six months she has turned that completely around. Now the line on her is that whatever the issue, she has a plan for that. Another intangible is that she is one of the few candidates that speak with an infectious passion. Unless she commits an unlikely fatal faux pas I see her being one of the last candidates standing or the winner.
The lineups for the debates are as follows: On Wednesday Booker, Julian Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan and Warren. Thursday Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang will grace the stage. Thursday definitely has more “star power” but that may not be the entire story. I have some questions/things I will be looking for. You might want to keep some or all of them in mind as you watch.
Will anybody(s) attack the leader Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders for that matter? With neither on the stage Wednesday night will any of those ten still attack them? More specifically will a relative unknown like Williamson or Yang take a shot at a leader in the polls in a sort of Hail Mary? Will anyone play to a hidden agenda of self-promotion for either future business or political achievement? Will Biden and/or Sanders attack the other? How will Biden in particular react to an attack, especially from what already appears to be an also ran?
Will height (especially male height) matter? As of this writing the stage positions have not been announced. Booker, de Blasio and O’Rourke are all tall. Standing next to each other (they are all in the Wednesday grouping) there is no advantage but it could help them if they are near center stage and next to a short opponent(s). (This is not an absolute. 6’7” George Pataki went no place in the 2016 GOP contest although he was far from center stage.)
If you go back to the 2008 Democratic debates Joe Biden was the clear winner even though he did not end up being the nominee, or coming close for that matter. To put his performance in perspective remember he was up against the formidable trio of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. I’ll be looking to see if he is still as sharp.
What will be the line(s) that will be remembered and who will have them? Will it matter? Remember, “I’m Ross and you’re the boss” and “You’re no Jack Kennedy”; both of those guys lost.
Will one or more candidate die on stage? (I have to almost hope so. 20 is an unsustainable number of candidates). Will someone(s) have a great night that sustains them for a while? Does that matter? Remember Carly Fiorina in the 2016 Republican debates.
I’ll sum things up with my winner of the draw and a little known fact. I think Klobuchar got the best draw. She should be one of the power candidates and needs a boost. Sharing the stage with fewer high profile candidates on Wednesday night she should get an extra opportunity or two to shine.
A little known fact is that Elizabeth Warren started college on a debate scholarship. Will that skill show itself allowing her to dominate, communicate and deflect attacks?
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