I woke up this morning still processing how the debate went last night. As I mentioned last night, the MadDoc watched some of the debate with me before she crashed. When I got up, she was in the shower and she was ready to discuss the debate (this woman gets me). She asked me who won and I gave a shorter version of what I wrote last night. Then she proceeded to run down the line of the candidates and how she thought they did. Here’s what she thought, as best as I can recall:
She isn’t the big Warren fan that I am and she noted the same thing that most people have about why she won’t say she’ll raise taxes. She said if she would do that, she’d like her much more.
She has been with me most of the time in noting how Biden just stumbles and rambles in his debate answers. Not just last night, but in the other debates as well.
She said, and I agree, that Tulsi Gabbard just sounded like a Russian sleeper agent.
She thought Klobuchar came off as abrasive and Mayor Pete didn’t impress her either.
I mentioned that I might be favoring Booker over Mayor Pete as Warren’s VP and she said he was wishy washy and didn’t look strong enough. His “can’t we just all get along” act doesn’t play well with her
She thought Steyer looks like a psychopath.
On Harris, she said she comes off as inconsistent in her tone. Very matter of fact sometimes and, at other times, over the top emotional.
After she went through the list of candidates, she settled on Bernie. She appreciated that he seems to be up front with his plans (a clear contrast with my preferred candidate), so if she had to call someone a winner from last night, it would be Bernie.
It seems to me that Warren has a pretty good shot at getting the nomination. She’s got a good organization in place. She’s well liked by Democrats in general. She has a good, easy to understand message and she’s effective at communicating that message in any situation that arises. Her stumble in the last couple of debates, though, encapsulates the main challenge she has going forward. The question of not answering the tax thing on healthcare is a proxy for the larger question of whether she’s too far left to win in the general election. Or at least whether people perceive her as too far left. It’s an effective attack on her by the moderates. Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar did a good job last night of going at her where Biden just hasn’t been able to get any traction. After the last debate, my thought was they just need to come up with a better answer for that question. Now that she’s doubled down on refusing to discuss this in terms of taxes, I’m going to defend her a little on that. I said last night that they’re trying to avoid the soundbite that Republicans could use against her in the Fall. I’m not sure now that’s it. I think she’s just trying to keep maximum flexibility on the issue. I watched her interview on CNN after the debate and she kept using the term “revenue streams.” She’s made this a thing by steadfastly refusing to say the word “taxes,” but I think she has the right idea to keep coming back to the cost part of it. If you want to avoid the issue being demagogued on being a tax hike, then you keep trying to reset the discussion in broader terms. It’s similar to the rhetorical tactic of rejecting the premise of the question. Except that she’s not explicitly saying, “that’s a Republican talking point” or “your question doesn’t focus on the right thing.” However, since it’s becoming a thing, they’re probably going to have to quit with the jujitsu and come up with a more direct answer. I’ll be watching this closely for the next debate.
On healthcare as a policy, I think in my ranking of the issues the next Democratic president should focus on I had healthcare 11 out of 12. Just getting elected and stopping the Trump attack on healthcare, plus using executive power to support the ACA should be first order of business. If you’ve got one or two big legislative pushes to do in your first term, I’m not sure I would go back to healthcare. But clearly this is a huge issue for voters. It’s played a prominent role in all of the debates so far and polls seem to back that up. Assuming, though, that healthcare gets some legislative attention, I prefer the idea of Medicare for All. For me, Warren looks at this as an aspiration, as opposed to Bernie, who I think would go at the issue exactly as he has with his proposed legislation. I know the die hard progressives wouldn’t want to hear this, but I almost think Warren’s embrace of Medicare for All is an exercise in keeping the Overton window open as widely as possible. If your policy as president is some namby pamby public option, and if you assume that there will be give and take in the legislative process, you don’t leave yourself much room to compromise in drafting the bill. However, if you get elected on the idea of Medicare for All, everyone gets coverage and the private insurance companies should be out of the picture, then you’ve left yourself a lot of room to give things up, while still coming out the other end with a very good system of universal healtcare coverage. Maybe you transition the private insurance companies into a Medicare advantage role without actually banning them. Maybe the timeline of implementing the program is extended to enable people more to time to adjust to the government run program. Or, if something like Mayor Pete’s Medicare for all who want it plan comes across your desk, you sign it and say you’re going to keep fighting for Medicare for All. I know she can’t say it now, but I would really like to see Warren transition to something like – here’s the plan I prefer, but I’m going to sign anything that crosses my desk that does x and y and z. I’m not going to get bogged down in whose plan it is.
I’ll do my candidate Top Ten later. Warren is still going to be #1, but I’m torn on the rest of the top 5. I was thinking Mayor Pete might be my #2, but there was something last night that rubbed me the wrong way with his attacks on Warren. Yeah, I know I’m in the tank for her, but something bothered me about his and Klobuchar’s attacks. I’ll let you know if I figure out what it was.
I said last night that I thought the format with 12 on the stage worked ok. And it did. But as I’ve been doing my write-ups, I’m thinking more and more that we just need to get down to the winnowing. Why have Bullock, Delaney, Bennet, Ryan, Meecham, Williamson, and Sestak not officially dropped out yet? Eight candidates have qualified for the next debate (Warren, Biden, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, Yang, Steyer, and Booker). Candidates from last night who haven’t qualified for the next debate are Castro, O’Rourke, Gabbard, and Klobuchar. Gabbard just needs to go. Her only path left is as a VP candidate and I think she shut that door with her answer on Syria last night. Castro had a decent night, but he’s just faded too much. I’d love to see him drop out and make a big endorsement. His only viable option as VP is with Warren, so why not go all in with her? I think Klobuchar’s performance last night gets her on the stage in November. O’Rourke is an interesting case. His debate performance did nothing for him. His focus on gun violence hasn’t really taken off. I think there’s a decent chance he doesn’t make the next stage. Would he drop out then? I’m not sure. I’m guessing we’re still gonna have 9-10 on the stage in November. Still too many. I’d love to see the debate include only the following: Warren, Biden, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, Yang, Booker, and Klobuchar.