Cheat Sheet for Tonight and Tomorrow’s Democrat Presidential Debates

Lambert Strether of Corrente

As so often (and especially after the writers got their Union), the Onion sums it up: “‘I Just Want A Substantive, Issues-Oriented Democratic Debate,’ Lie Thousands Of Americans Hungry For Unhinged Trainwreck.” If you’re still reading, I’m going to go through the logistics and setting of the debates (networks, moderators, candidate arrangement), then the role of the press, and then I’ll look at the form of some of the candidates, although I’m not going to do the idiotic horserace thing of calling winners, then at some sideshow events, and conclude (for now).

Debate Logistics

Date and Time. The debates will take place on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo from 9 to 11PM EST tonight (Wednesday, June 27) and tomorrow (Thursday, June 28) in the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami. According to NBC, the June debates will be streaming online for free on NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News app, and Telemundo’s digital platforms.

The Moderators. NBC anchors Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Rachel Maddow, Jose Diaz-Balart, and Chuck Todd. “Holt will moderate the first hour, with Guthrie and Diaz-Balart appearing alongside him; Holt will also appear in the second hour, with Todd and Maddow moderating, NBC News announced.” Note the diverse ascriptive identities. Candidates “will have to be succinct: The debate’s rules grant 60-second answers and 30-second follow-ups. There will be no opening statements.

The Candidates. Tonight: Cory Booker, Bill de Blasio, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren. Tomorrow: Joe Biden, Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand , Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang. Warren got an easy bracket.

Candidate Placement. For candidate placement in space, the New York Times has these handy charts. Tonight’s debate:

(Beto and Warren are positioned for a dramatic face-off, but I think it’s a shame that Inslee, whose signature issue is climate, is way off at the edge.)

And tomorrow’s:

(Sanders and Biden are positioned for a dramatic face-off.)

These arrangements should create some interesting personal dynamics. The Times once more:

NBC placed the best-known and highest-polling candidates center stage. On the first night, Ms. Warren will have the largest target on her back, as the only candidate on stage who is polling in double digits. She will be surrounded by candidates in search of a breakout moment.

[On the second, elder statesmen Sanders and Biden,] who have each held elective office for decades, will be flanked by a pair of candidates making the case for a new generation of leadership: Ms. Harris, 54, and Mr. Buttigieg, 37.

For candidate placement in time, Time explains:

NBC News went to great lengths to make sure there wasn’t a main event and an undercard, unlike four years ago when it was the Republican Party that had such a mass of candidates. Network organizers this week divided the field into two camps: those polling about 2% and those below. NBC officials wanted to spread out the tiers across two nights and drew folded sheets of paper to [***cough***] randomly [***cough***] assign half of the top tier to one night and the rest to go later.

But fortune is blind, and it still feels like night two is the main event, given the cluster of better-polling candidates on that night. That gives Warren a primetime chance to pitch her big ideas against candidates who, frankly, may seem less serious of a threat.

I don’t mean to be overly cynical about the coin fli — er, folded sheets of paper drawing, but come on: There’s a lot at stake. Like “big ideas.”

The Audience. Not exactly randomly selected. From the Miami Herald:

Thought you couldn’t get a ticket to the first presidential debate in Miami?

If you’ve got about $1,750 to burn, you’re in luck.

According to a private invite obtained by the Miami Herald from a Democratic politician, the Florida Democratic Party is offering exclusive access to the highly sought-after event in the form of sponsorship packages.

For $4,500, a sponsor gets two tickets to a pre-debate reception on June 26 and two tickets to both debate nights. For $3,000, a sponsor will get the two tickets to the reception and two tickets for one of the debate nights, though it is unclear if the person gets to pick which night. A $1,750 donation to the party covers one ticket to the reception and one ticket for a single debate night.

They just can’t help themselves, can they? And that “Almost 40% of Americans Would Struggle to Cover a $400 Emergency” puts the low end, $1750 price of admission into perspective. Now, to be fair, not all the tickets were auctioned off:

The Miami-Dade Democrats were also given a block of tickets, which were allotted to grassroots activists and Democratic leaders who were active in voter registration and “Democratic engagement,” chairman Steve Simeonidis said. The distribution of the tickets was agreed upon by the county party’s leadership team of elected officers.

So, Democrat high-rollers and Democrat establishment. Remember all this when you see who and what’s applauded and who and what isn’t.

The Next Debates. The DNC is doing a big sort. Vox:

The second Democratic debate, on July 30 and 31, will be a similar two-night affair, with similar qualification rules.

But after that, the DNC has said, it’s raising the bar. Candidates will have to hit 2 percent in at least four polls, and they’ll also have to have 130,000 unique donors. The donor threshold in particular will be challenging for many candidates who currently don’t have national followings. So the third debate could well have a far smaller lineup.

The Role of the Press

History shows that the press is adept at picking debate winners. The canonical case for the modern era is the the first debate between Al Gore and George Bush in 2000. The great Daily Howler (who really originated “the media critique”[1] and has been blogging since the 90s) gives the sordid details.

Here was the press’s immediate (“hot take”) reaction: They picked Gore as the winner:

WHO “WON” BUSH AND GORE’S FIRST DEBATE? Again, there’s no perfect way to judge that objectively. But at MSNBC, pundits offered surprising reactions as soon as the session ended. Host Brian Williams turned to Chris Matthews, requesting “your assessment of what went on tonight.” And Matthews, a long-time, lusty Gore-basher, said Gore had won—overwhelmingly. The vice president had been “overpowering,” Matthews said. “Al Gore was effective in dominating the format. He dominated the time, and I have to say he dominated the debate.” Matthews was far less kind to Bush. “I don’t know whether he’s tired tonight, people say he had a cold,” Matthews said. But according to Matthews, Bush had repeatedly failed to respond to Gore’s critiques of his programs. “There was a little bit of Michael Dukakis out there tonight, and that’s very dangerous in politics,” he said. The following night, on his own program, Matthews said that Gore “cleaned [Bush’s] clock.” Given his endless denigrations of Gore, Matthews’ assessment was somewhat surprising. But when Williams turned to conservative Peggy Noonan, she made a similar call. “Well, Brian, I think Gore dominated from the get-go, to tell you the truth,” Noonan said. “As he stood and gave his statements, I think he seemed to be a person of greater sophistication, greater stature, greater subtlety. He was in his zone. Bush seemed to me, I must tell you, unfocused, a little bit tired in time, a gentleman who forgets the predicate of the statement.”

But after a few days, the press (which collectively literally “groaned, howled and laughed” and booed at Gore in the press room during his debate with Bradley at Dartmouth) had changed — or re-engineered — the story:

But even as these pundits spoke, an alternate view was sweeping the press corps. Gore had done better “on points,” pundits said, but Bush really won, by “exceeding expectations.”… By normal standards, this reaction was startling. By most assessments, Gore had substantially outperformed Bush; as noted, he would end up winning all five viewer polls, by an average margin of ten percent. But TV pundits said something more pleasing: Gore may have done somewhat better “on points,” but Bush had exceeded those low expectations, and therefore had gained more than Gore. And this assessment was hardly confined to TV. Indeed, when the nation’s newspapers appeared on October 4, this view was offered all over the country…. Margaret Carlson offered a different thought about why the corps couldn’t “embrace Gore as the winner, ” and her explanation takes us to the second stage of the mainstream coverage of this event. “The sigh [Gore had audibly sighed when Bush repeated some particularly stupid talking point] kept Gore from winning the debate,” she said, referring to a foolish new flap which was already sweeping the press corps. “The media just couldn’t bring itself to give it to Gore because of what the sigh symbolizes.” Sadly, even by Wednesday afternoon, Carlson’s reference to “the sigh” needed no explanation. Once the press corps finished saying that Bush had exceeded those low expectations, a second wave of punditry started, built around alleged sighing and lying. For the next week, Gore was battered for alleged bad manners—and he was battered for alleged lies. In short, the press corps reverted to the Gore-bashing themes which had driven its work from the start.

To recap, immediately after the debate, the press said Gore won. Viewer polls agreed! But within a few news cycles, the press had determined that Gore lost (the sighs). And that became the official story. Watch for a similar pattern, nineteen years later.

The Candidates (Some of Them)

I can’t go through all twenty candidates (though it’s clear that all those who are not frontrunners will be seeking “a moment” that will help them break out of the pack, ideally comparable to Reagan’s “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” in 1980). What I will do is focus on the candidates at the center of the stage, and see whether they have form. On the first night,; on the second, Biden, Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg.

Candidates on the First Night: Warren, Booker, and Beto.

Warren, as it turns out, was a champion high school debater who went to college (GW) on a full debate scholarship (although she converted it to an academic one). “Fellow debaters described Warren’s style as a sort of polished brutality.” Warren, then, has form; we can look to her 2012 Senatorial debates with Scott Brown to see (four debates were scheduled; Brown bowed out after three). Here’s an exchange:

One of the sharpest exchanges came over women’s rights. Brown said he supports women’s rights, while Warren talked about his vote against equal pay for women.

“I live in a house full of women,” said Brown, referring to his wife and two daughters. “I have been fighting since I was 6 years old to protect women’s rights. We are both pro-choice. I believe very much in women getting the same pay and benefits. … When you refer to paycheck fairness, you know, right idea, but the law is the wrong bill.” He added, “You can cherry pick votes certainly and try to distort things, but I’m very happy with what I’ve done and I’m going to work.”

Warren said she had “no doubt” that he was a good husband and father. “He’s had exactly one choice to vote for equal pay to equal work, he had exactly one chance to vote for insurance coverage for birth control and other preventive services for women,” she said. “He voted no. He had one chance to vote for a pro-choice woman from Massachusetts to the United States Supreme Court, and he voted no. Those are bad votes for women. This one really matters. There is a lot at stake.”

“You have another 20 seconds if you wish,” said moderator Jim Madigan, who meticulously kept time.

“No, you know, I think that says it all,” Warren said.

Ouch!

Booker had two Senatorial debates with Republican Steven Lonegan (who he beat handily in the election) in 2013; the first was characterized as a draw. The second was characterized as a “slugfest.” Here’s an exchange:

Later, Booker said Lonegan would want to gut environmental regulations, using the polluted Passaic River as an example of the need for them.

“You may not be able to swim in that river, but it’s probably, I think, because of all the bodies floating around of shooting victims in your city,” Lonegan shot back.

“Oh my god,” Booker replied. “This is what he thinks of our cities – bodies floating in the river. How insulting is that?”

(Pretty insulting, though not as insulting as Lonegan comparing Newark to a “black hole” (!!)). A good riposte, but in the reading perhaps a little week. The Times asks, correctly “Is Cory Booker Too Nice? (And Is That Bad?).” I’m not sure “nice” is the way to deal with “polished brutality” (to be clear, I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I don’t want to have a beer witih any of the candidates, for pity’s sake).

Beto had his own Senatorial debate with Ted Cruz. Beto, too, has form (and notice the play to the moderator):

“Ted Cruz has put his career above the interests and priorities of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz.”

“Cruz tried to respond to the comment but was cut off by the moderators because it was not his allotted time for a response.

“I have to respond to that,” Cruz said. “I get 60 seconds for rebuttal.”

As Cruz and the moderators spoke over each other, one voice could be heard coming through.

“That’s not what you said when you established the rules at the outset,” O’Rourke said.

That’s a moment.

Candidates on the Second Night: Biden, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg.

Biden, surprisingly for such a relaxed, loveable, deeply sincere dude, has form, even without sunglasses. From Water Cooler, June 17, 2019:

“Joe Biden’s greatest (and not-so-greatest) debate hits” [WaPo] • From 2012, still germane. (1) “Moments of genuine emotion are rare in politics. In his debate against Palin, Biden choked up when he talked about his ability to relate to Americans’ struggles, as he mentioned the tragic death of his wife and daughter in a car accident and discussed what it’s like to be a single parent.” So we can expect Biden to milk his son’s death in debate. (2): “[H]e’s also capable of unleashing colorful zingers against the opposition. Case in point: A 2008 Democratic presidential primary debate in which he had this to say about then-GOP presidential contender and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani: ‘There only three things he mentions in a sentence: A noun and a verb and 9/11, I mean, there’s nothing else.'” • Biden’s tag stuck to Giuliani, too. (Biden also eviscerated Paul Ryan.)There’s no reason to think that Biden will do badly in the debates, especially with the press having pre-positioned their anti-Sanders storylines.

Personally, I think Biden milking his son’s death of money and votes is about as unseemly as it gets, but I have no doubt the press will eat it up with a spoon. Biden may have lost a step since 2012, but it won’t do to underestimate him.

Sanders will naturally be relentlessly on message. Whether Sanders has an instinct for the jugular in the moment is not clear to me. “I think the secretary of state is right, the American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails” suggests that Sanders, like Booker, has (in my view) a problem with being too nice.

Harris has participated in a single Senatorial debate (with another Democrat, Loretta Sanchez). Here in excerpt from the Sacramento Bee:

On the debate over police body cameras, Sanchez said, “My opponent was absent.”

Harris, sitting on a lead less than five weeks before the Nov. 8 election, did not shrink from the verbal lashings, using the question about police shootings and law enforcement transparency to prosecute Sanchez’s legislative record.

Harris has said she didn’t support the measure, Assembly Bill 86, because it would have taken discretion away from district attorneys. At the debate, she seized on Sanchez’s use of the word “absent,” citing a recent report showing she has nearly the worst attendance record in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I think it is is important that you show up,” Harris shot back. “You can travel and have a lot of stamps in your passport, but when you have been appointed to be the chair of the anti-terrorism task force and you don’t show up once, that should call into question your commitment to protecting our country’s national security interests.”

Harris is not bad, but (as it should, frankly) Harris’s response sounds canned. (Attendance is also a gotcha whose lameness is on a par with demands for tax returns.) But this exchange should give Harris supporters pause. From NPR, “A U.S. Senate Candidate Just Dabbed At The End Of A Debate

The two Democrats vying for the Senate spot, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Sanchez, a representative for California’s 46th congressional district, were held to time constraints by the debate’s moderator. When it was time for Sanchez to wrap up, she kept talking over the moderator until she struck a final pose: stretching one arm out to the side and lowering her head into the crook of her elbow.,,,

(The pose, a millennial dance move, hence used to pander to them, is called a “dab.”) But here is Harris’s response:

Californians watching at home only saw Harris reacting to the strange pose from her opponent. She raised her eyebrows and pressed her lips tightly together before saying, with a laugh, “So, there’s a clear difference between the candidates in this race.”

I don’t think Harris seized that moment. So, whether she can improvise is open to question.

Buttigeig, so far as I can find, has not engaged in a mayoral debate. I would expect him to be prepared and on-brand. However, if you look at what happened in latest Town Hall, he may stumble when challenged. From CBS News:

2020 Democratic hopeful and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg told protesters in his city on Friday that there will be a review of the police department after a white officer shot and killed a black man without his bodycam on. “I’m not asking for your vote,” Buttigieg told one protester, who responded “you’re not going to get it.”

That’s a moment, but not a good one.

Sideshow Events

During the debates, the Club for Growth will run attack ads in Iowa against Biden, based on their polling (“[V]oters are less inclined to vote for Biden if they were told he previously had taken positions that include opposing slavery reparations and busing of school children as part of desegregation system”). Of course, the biggest sideshow of all — the man has his own tent! — is President Donald Trump, who started a rumor in the Wall Street Journal (“tentatively“) he would live tweet the event, but now seems to have backed off (“it just seems very boring, but I’m going to watch it because I have to”). If Trump does, consider adding “He’s got a point….” to your drinking game.

Conclusion

Having started with The Onion, let’s end with Politico, “Democratic bigwigs fear debates will devolve into horror show“:

Interviews with nearly 20 Democratic elected officials, party chiefs, labor leaders and operatives the past week revealed an air of foreboding verging on alarm that the debates will degenerate into a two-night, bare-knuckle brawl. With the divisive 2016 Democratic primary fresh in their minds and the current presidential candidates starting to take swipes at one another, the fear is that voters will be left with the impression of a bickering, small-minded opposition party.

Well, it’s hard to see how that can happen[2]. But if it does, good. Great!

NOTES

[1] The Howler’s How He Got There is a good companion to the classic What It Takes.)

[2] Don’t they see that a child of six could translate Establishment statements like “an air of foreboding verging on alarm that the debates will degenerate” into “we’d better rig the outcome?”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

43 comments

      1. petal

        And then see if Gillibrand rolls it out on night #2!
        Thank you for writing this up, Lambert. I posted it for my friends in case they want to look at the man behind the curtain. Unlikely, though!
        And seeing those ticket prices, really drove it home that nobody gives a damn about someone like me. Cheers.

        Reply
  1. Cal2

    “Harris has participated in a single Senatorial debate (with another Democrat, Loretta Sanchez).”

    Yes, two women propped up as sinecurial defaults by the state Democratic Party. Not mentioned is that Harris barely won the A.G. race against a guy with the personality of a sack of potatoes, who sounds like Elmer Fudd and hardly campaigned. Mandate!

    Candidates, just ask Harris about her record as San Francisco district attorney. She “won” running unopposed the second time. She was a disaster, censored by local and federal judges and basically run out of town to Oakland.

    “San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office violated defendants’ rights by hiding damaging information about a police drug lab technician and was indifferent to demands that it account for its failings, a judge declared Thursday…in a scathing ruling, the judge concluded that prosecutors had failed to fulfill their constitutional duty to tell defense attorneys about problems surrounding Deborah Madden, the now-retired technician at the heart of the cocaine-skimming scandal that led police to shut down the drug analysis section of their crime lab.”
    https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Judge-rips-Harris-office-for-hiding-problems-3263797.php

    Her record as state attorney general? A giveaway to financial elites, like Mnuchin and investors in Herbalife. Nothing much accomplished.
    But, “Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski declared in a much-quoted opinion that there is “an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land.” … The People (of California) v. Efrain Velasco-Palacios. In this unpublished opinion from the Fifth Appellate District, the California Court of Appeal reveals that state prosecutors and California Attorney General Kamala Harris continue to be part of the problem…”
    https://observer.com/2015/03/california-prosecutor-falsifies-transcript-of-confession/

    Her record as senator? Grandstanding at hearings, (Kavanaugh got in BTW.), and posing for pictures, hand on chin, deep in thought, flogged by adoring photo editors at the S.F.Chronicle, where her old married boyfriend, Willie Brown, who appointed her to state commissions works.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2019/01/27/willie-brown-kamala-harris-san-francisco-chronicle-letter/2695143002/

    Reply
    1. jrs

      She’s a smooth operator though, so smooth, and it comes across well, i could see her doing well. I hope I’m wrong.

      I get pretty depressed that our fate might be determined by @#$# like these “debates” (all 10 minutes of fame each candidate might get), but so it goes. It’s entirely possible decent candidates also do well of course, I just think it’s a lame way to choose a President.

      Reply
      1. Big River Bandido

        What you see as “smooth”, I see as “vapid” and “phony”. Harris simply seems to me to be unintelligent and uncreative in the same way as Biden.

        Reply
    2. chuck roast

      Thank you for that wrap-up. A recipe or success if there ever was one. It might even make Donald Trump blush. I now have certain, unmitigated and absolute confidence that Kamala Harris will be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president of the USA.

      Reply
        1. Cal2

          Then Bernie, the only possible winner, blows it and loses to Trump.

          Far more people who know her, hate her, than supporters she might bring to the ticket.

          Most of the people I know, support Bernie, after a lot of arm twisting by me.
          If Bernie were stupid enough to choose her as V.P., most of us, me included, would vote for Trump.

          Tulsi Gabbard or Warren are his only logical choices. If he wants to win.

          Trump voters would vote for their economic interests with Sanders and their outsider interests with Gabbard. They would not vote for anything with Harris on it.

          Reply
        2. edmondo

          Biden is merely a stalking horse for the REAL establishment favorite. I predict Buttigieg/Harris 2020. A neoliberal dream come true.

          I also predict that I will throw away my mail in ballot in November 2020.

          Reply
        3. Massinissa

          Oof. If Sanders picked Harris as VP, I’m voting Green again. Of the twenty candidates, Harris is at the bottom for me.

          Not going to vote for Biden even if he picks FDR for his VP.

          Reply
  2. mauisurfer

    If America’s political Parties again choose two such incompetents as Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, as being the final contenders for occupying the most powerful post on this planet, then what chance is there that civilization won’t be destroyed in fairly short order? The only U.S. Presidential candidate who is campaigning upon the theme of “no more regime-change wars” is the Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, and her polling-numbers from registered Democratic Party voters are below 1%; so, anyone who in such a world as this, is willingly bringing new children into the world, has to be either uninformed or else unconcerned about the world in which that child will be living. The likelihood of global catastrophe during the next few years is vastly higher than most people are aware. This issue is virtually ignored in American politics. An uninformed and misinformed electorate is impossible in an authentic democracy, and the future of the world is now dependent upon precisely such an electorate, in the most powerful nation on this planet.

    eric zeusse

    Reply
    1. Cal2

      Bernie Sanders chooses Tulsi as his V.P.
      That is the winning combination against Trump.
      It would Protect President Sanders from “Wellstoning,” as his V.P.is prepares to take his place after a first or second term. A nightmare for Neocons.

      Reply
  3. Dita

    My eyes are on the second debate, but I’ll watch tonight for Gabbard as well as the anticipated schadenfreude of watching DeBlasio get cut to ribbons ha

    Reply
    1. Pavel

      Agree that Tulsi is the main — or only — reason to watch tonight. I was once a Warren fan but then she caved to HRC in 2016 and I learned more about her positions. To give her credit, she does seem to be hitting some sort of stride.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think Deblasio is so far from the action it’s doubtful he’ll even get scratched, let alone cut. Of course, the fool might try to dive in. But nobody’s going to come looking for him. There’s no upside.

      Reply
        1. Joe Well

          NYC is quite the political soap opera, and then like the only substantive policies to come out of it is congestion pricing and soda taxes.

          Reply
      1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        De Blasio came out swinging and i thought he did very well.

        Dat said Sanders/Gabbard 2020

        Reply
  4. nippersmom

    I find myself rather wishing Booker was on night 2 against Biden. His biggest redeeming quality seems to be refusing to back down on holding the old creep accountable for his racist policies. I’d like to see Booker have an opportunity to flay Biden onstage.

    Reply
  5. edmondo

    The best I can hope for is that my TV breaks around 8:30 tonite and the repairman can’t get here before Friday.

    I can’t imagine being masochistic enough to actually watch this shytshow.

    Reply
  6. dcblogger

    brilliant pre-debate analysis. I would say that Warren got stuck at the kiddie table rather than easy bracket. She won’t be able to directly challenge Biden and I am sure Biden had a lot to say about that. Biden wants to avoid being on the debate stage as long as he can. I assume that Bernie is going to talk about student debt Thursday night.

    Reply
    1. Daniel

      I tend to think it’s serendipity for Warren.

      In a horse-race primary, she will be on stage as a frontrunner, and all of the candidates will take jabs at Trump and Biden while playing nice with each other. The moderators will fawn over her. She will come out as the “winner” of a debate while taking no risks. It plays directly into the narrative the media has lately been at pains to curate.

      Biden-Sanders will be a series of gotcha questions for Sanders and Biden being allowed to run over time to lather it on.

      Reply
  7. Anonymous Coward

    For those of you who are Tulsi fans here, she made a significant jump in the latest Economist/YouGov poll (to 3%). I believe this puts her in 5th place, tied with Beto. Some of the breakouts are even more interesting if you drill down (e.g. “Idealogy: Conservative” 10%).

    Reply
  8. john ashley

    Why must the questions come from these hacks in the so called press.

    Why can the questions not be from outside the 1% once in a while?

    Register online and draw at random and have a couple of sets of questioners?

    They can rotate at half – time.

    It’s a joke and you are NOT in on it.

    You could not PAY to waste a moment on it or the thugs if they have any.

    Reply
  9. bruce

    In the next seventeen months, the Democratic candidates are going to cannibalize one another with unimageanable holy fervor. I have an ominous sense of foreboding, a frisson of apprehension about this whole thing.

    Reply
  10. Edward

    The presidential debates used to be managed by the League of Women Voters. The two parties colluded to bias the debates in ways unacceptable to the League and pushed the League out. Now the parties manage these affairs, which represents a conflict of interest. The debates should be organized by a neutral party.

    This is a fantasy, but what I would enjoy seeing is including Iranian, Palestinian, Russian, and Venezuelan journalists/experts asking some of the debate questions.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      the debates are definitely going to be an attempt at manufactured consent. The whole structure of the thing … each candidate gets 10 minutes etc.. It almost can’t be otherwise.

      I’d love to have The League of Women Voters back.

      Reply
  11. Democracy Working

    The Democratic presidential candidates will do something tonight, just don’t call it a debate.

    Here’s one suggestion: a pageant. As in beauty pageant.

    Instead of debaters, the Democrats on stage in Florida will much more closely resemble contestants parading on a boardwalk, striking poses, trying to look glamorous and charming to the judges, and inwardly praying for the others to trip on their real or metaphorical high heels and take an embarrassing tumble into the seats and out of the competition.

    Full piece by Arnold Isaacs in the LA Times

    Reply
  12. Chris

    My prediction is Warren will be helped to get moments tonight and build up the narrative of her gaining support in the race.

    Then on night two everyone but Bernie will have been given help and Bernie will be stomped on by the moderators. He’ll be front and center looking stupid, and the media will crow about how he gets unwarranted coverage based on his position in the polls. After all, his positions are “virtually identical to everyone else running for the Democrats” so why doesn’t he just drop put now and save us all the trouble?

    Trump wins against the Blue-No-Matter-Who candidate in 2020 :/

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