The First Part Gaggle
Last night, the Democrats held Part One of their two-day First Debate. My comments will be reasonably curt because that's all I think it deserves. I know MSNBC gave it A LOT of hype for the past couple weeks, but in large part that's because they were hosting it. Beforehand, a friend gave me his thoughts on what candidates would have to do be be winners and losers. I said I thought it would be unlikely that there'd be winners and losers. It was simply much too early. Too early for many people to watch and care deeply enough to make someone a winner or loser -- and too early for someone to to do something SO big or SO awful that they'd be a winner or loser.
For someone to be a winner, they'd have to do something so major the whole evening as to swamp everyone -- but with only about 10 minutes at most for each candidate, that would be hard to do. And for someone to be a loser, there simply wasn't enough room for those at the bottom with 1% to drop. And for anyone near the top, there's plenty of time to make it up.
I think at this point, people will drop out when they simply don't have enough money to keep running or find it much too pointless. Not because they did badly at the debate. Doing badly at the debate when you're around 1 percent isn't going to convince you to drop out -- you're only at one percent already, for goodness sake. And if you're at the top tier and do badly,
To be clear, I do think candidates can do well, which would be helpful, and other candidates who have poor nights and don't do themselves any good. And such was the case last night.
For my taste, I thought Amy Klobuchar did well. And Elizabeth Warren did, fine, too. Also, Julian Castro was okay, along with Cory Booker. Jay Inslee did reasonably well, except he barely touched on what is virtually the entirety of his campaign, the environment and Climate Change. The foundation of his argument is that the issue impacts all issues -- and he never mentioned. As for the rest, no one really did bad enough to hurt themselves, though I think Tim Ryan came close, most notably on the question of fighting the Taliban who he claimed attacked us on 9/11, when it was, in fact, al-Qaeda.
Afterwards, I listened to some of the post-debate analysis on MSNBC, and the only poor comment I heard came from Nicolle Wallace. She fretted that when you run against an incumbent president, you have to frame the race as a referendum on them, and she noted that last night the candidates rarely even mentioned on Trump. She said that it was almost as if they were running scared, and if they do that, they risk losing in 2020.
The problem with her analysis is that right now the Democrats are not running against Trump. They're running against one another, trying to get the nomination. Trying to convince the Democratic voters why they're the best candidate. And as so often been said -- including during the debate -- if Democrats only talk about Trump and impeachment, they risk alienating voters who care about issues like health care, the economy, war and immigration. Once someone gets the nomination and becomes The Candidate, then everything changes. Happily, Eugene Robinson chimed in and said precisely what I was thinking -- "When we have the two party's nominees, trust me, we will hear plenty about this being a referendum on Donald Trump."
Tonight conceivably could be slightly difference since, because of the luck of the draw, more of the top-tier candidates will be on the debate stage together, so there could be more attempts to position themselves. We'll see. But whatever happens, the core reality remains -- there will be hard to be a winner and loser. Though some will likely do themselves some good, and others perhaps a touch of harm.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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