I’m watching the second part of the debate right now. Who else is watching?
I’ll try to go into more detail on this later, but before watching the debates my three favorite candidates have been 1) Klobuchar, 2) Booker, and 3) Biden. As a centrist and pragmatist, I am interested in a candidate with
- accomplishment in previous leadership, especially
- a proven track record of working through political opposition by finding common ground
- sound policies and common sense instead of unrealistic sweeping promises
- energy and ability to defend themselves under fire, while being respectful to other Democratic candidates and not picking fights over petty stuff
My impressions so far:
Worst interrupter award: de Blasio. (Runners-up: Gillibrand, Swalwell)
Worst enabler award: Chuck Todd (“thank you, Ms. Williamsen…thank you…your time is up…thank you…”) They need to start shutting off mics or have a buzzer or gong or something.
Drama: I’m not very interested in the squabbles, beauty contest, demographics, and other horse race aspects of the debate. At least not right now. I’m most interested in deciding which of the candidates would be a competent President. (I’d much rather have John Kasich try to primary Trump but that’s not happening.)
Production Values: Poor. The questions are usually pretty good but the moderators are doing a terrible job getting the candidates to shut up and both nights have had technical issues. (Last night the first set of moderators didn’t get their mics shut off, and tonight many of the candidates did not understand that a certain question was addressed to them.) Hopefully CNN’s debates are better, and NBC gets their act together before their next one.
20 Candidates over Two Nights: I mean, they did what they had to. I would have liked to see Tester on stage but this two-night setup is about as good as NBC could have done without a third night. (I would have preferred three nights with seven candidates each, personally.) But the random draw is better than a top card/undercard.
I personally think the first night was much better than the second night, but that’s just the luck of the draw I guess. Hopefully the next debate is a different random draw, then after that some of the dead weight drops out and the field goes to 18 or 16.
Swalwell: I just want, so badly, to slap this guy across the face. He adds nothing new, interrupts constantly, and much more importantly, doesn’t seem to have accomplished a single thing in elected office, other than get other people elected. Drop out and start getting Democrats to run for Senate in swing states. Grade: D-
Williamsen: Not competent to be running for Congress. Every answer she gives is a distraction from actual questions and answers. Grade: F
Bennet: A lot of what he said just wasn’t very coherent. He tried to make a point against single-payer by bringing up Canada, but the point (you can cover the equivalent of Canada by adding 10% of Americans to Medicare) was awkward, inartful, and not very helpful. He punted on the details of a very good question about China to go back to an immigration question that wasn’t his to answer. Grade: C-
Gillibrand: Senator Gillibrand sounds like she gets a fair amount done in the Senate, but she spends a lot of time grandstanding, taking way more than her share of the credit for team legislative accomplishments, and oh she hasn’t ever run anything. I couldn’t help but compare her answers and manner to Senator Klobuchar, another Senator with about the same tenure, but who had a lot more insight in her debate answers, interrupted a lot less, didn’t throw personal attacks, and has actually run something. Her highlight: railing passionately against corrupt money in politics. Lowlight: declaring “It’s mindboggling that we are [on this stage] debating whether women should have access to abortion” when the question asked of the candidates was not that at all. Grade: C
Hickenlooper: I’m gonna be honest I didn’t take a lot of notes for Hickenlooper because his name is long and a pain to type. (Double ‘o’s followed by a ‘p’ hurts my hand.) The one question I remember was a grilling about his soft spot for oil companies (he worked for one as a geologist) and saying they could help fight climate change. His point may have been fair but his answer wasn’t making any sense. Which is a bummer because he was a governor of a swing state which I think automatically makes a great candidate. Oh well, maybe next time. Grade: C-
Yang: I am very skeptical of Universal Basic Income, but he has his eye on the ball in general with the issues. I am looking forward to learning more about Andrew Yang in the next few months, though I really don’t think he has the experience or chops to be president, I am mainly curious about his other ideas. Grade: B+
Harris: I don’t like her (will address this in a future post) but she seems to have mainly delivered in this debate. My main problem with her is she seems to think she can just steamroll through the entire Republican party as president just by being very sincere and determined. This would lead to a disastrous and one-term presidency. Her ‘busing’ attack on Biden was a low blow. Grade: B
Buttegieg: I really like Mayor Pete’s methodical approach to the issues. But that’s easy to do when you don’t have a record to defend–until literally this week he had no reason to ever play defense. I really liked his ownership of the situation of the recent shooting, his response, and his refusal to jump into the mud with Swalwell (who is a jackass). Grade: A-
Sanders: Old Man Shouts at Cloud. He doesn’t yet seem to have a coherent response to the claim that Medicare for All will take away health insurance from tens of millions of people who actually like it. Grade: B-
Biden: Biden would have been the ideal Democratic candidate four years ago. Hillary had so much baggage and none of the candidates were even a little competent except for maybe Sanders. But this time around there are multiple candidates that are highly qualified and well-prepared. And he is, of course, four years older–he would be 78 years old at his first inauguration. This isn’t a horse-race issue, a president’s health is a legitimate concern. (Sanders, who is even older, seemed a little more spry tonight, and for some reason I’m a little less worried about him lasting four years as president.) Grade: B
Ryan: Ryan didn’t have a ton to contribute. But at least he wasn’t an ass about it like some candidates I could mention. He spent most of his comments talking about the need to take care of the working class, as if the other candidates didn’t agree with him. He had one really interesting exchange with Gabbard about the need to stay in Afghanistan, his defense against her chest beating (“I served the country because of 9/11!”) was pretty impressive. Grade: C
Inslee: Gov. Inslee (my future governor!) is a one-issue guy. To be fair, he makes a very reasonable argument that that one issue, climate change, is more important and urgent than any of the other ones. His plan to overcome Senate gridlock by “taking the filibuster away from McConnell” implies a poor understanding of how the Senate works. His best line: “Trump says wind turbines cause cancer, we know they cause jobs.” But he leaned on his “I’m a governor” schtick a little too much. Grade: B-
Delaney: I don’t think building two companies necessarily qualifies somebody to be president, but it’s interesting to see one of those guys on the Democrat stage. He really shone at shooting down de Blasio’s railroading of Beto on private health insurance early on. I hope to hear more ideas from him and I like his approach though I think he lacks experience. Grade: A-
de Blasio: Somebody get this douchebag off the stage. His entire contribution was shouting angrily from the side of the stage about how liberal he is and why can’t everybody be as liberal as New Yorkers and that he’s their mayor so obviously he should be president. Oh and it was great when he said that having a black son “sets me apart from all my colleagues” when it comes to racial disparities in policing, when Cory Booker was standing RIGHT THERE. Dumbass. Grade: F
Gabbard: Her main accomplishments last night were (a) bragging about her military service everywhere it was relevant and several places where it wasn’t, and (b) ignoring the questions asked of her to go to her stump speech. But I guess a lot of people liked her? I’m not sure why exactly. Grade: C+
Castro: Secretary/Mayor Castro seems to have good ideas, and he spoke very strongly on immigration (though he didn’t answer the direct question.) He mentioned needs for change in immigration law and how we deal with Central America. He then interrupted out of turn and rode everybody hard (especially Beto) on whether they agreed with him on a related, minor point. That was bad form, he’d already had a chance to bring it up. And honestly, he was kinda weak the rest of the debate. Grade: B-
Booker: I expected more from Cory…he had some really good moments (immigration, opioids, criminal justice reform) but nothing really stuck out–except his unnecessary Spanish, which was even worse than Beto’s. Grade: B
Klobuchar: Amy Klobuchar is so great. Where Gillibrand or Harris would have interrupted with an unnecessary personal attack, she responded with a measured response and moved on to more important issues. I can’t think of a single point she made that I strongly disagreed with. Grade: A
O’Rourke: I am baffled and amazed he polled high enough to get one of the two center spots on Wednesday. Beto was in rare form last night, responding to his first question about tax rates with unnecessary Spanish and completely failing to answer the yes/no question, even after given a follow-up chance. And it was mostly downhill from there, with two exceptions. He had a good explanation of his support of keeping private insurance, until he was shouted down by de Blasio, who sucks. He also had one seeming moment of lucidity halfway through a discussion about intervention in countries with genocidal conflicts. He was actually pretty astute in explaining his minimal-interventionist views. Grade: D+
Warren: Senator Warren performed admirably. I really liked her until about a month ago (will address in another post), a lot of what she advocates is unrealistic. But she is sincere, and as drastic as her proposals are they are very well-supported by evidence. Much more so than, for example, Bernie. I particularly love her focus on treating gun violence as a research problem. People don’t discuss this enough–most common gun control proposals are no evidence to support whether they will be effective. But that is because we do not have any funded scientific research on gun violence and this needs to change. Grade: A-
Candidate Performance, Ranked:
- de Blasio