I watched the fourth Democratic debate last night from start to finish. I also watched some CNN, listened to a couple of podcasts and read some articles with various pundits’ thoughts on how the candidates did. I wrote last night and this morning about my thoughts on who did well and who didn’t.
But, as promised, I need to update my top 10 for the candidates. Just my preference, not who I think will win necessarily. After the last month, I’m adjusting my tiers of the candidates. I’m putting Buttigieg in the top tier with Warren, Biden, and Sanders. I think there’s a decent chance that Mayor Pete squeezes Biden in the moderate lane, does well in Iowa and gets some momentum to the nomination. Tier 2 is now Harris, Klobuchar, and Booker. Tier 3 – is now Yang, Castro, and O’Rourke. Everyone else in Tier 4.
- Elizabeth Warren – Staying steady. Senator Warren did well taking the attacks from the moderates. She has her challenges as the frontrunner and may have to adjust her tactics a bit. I think her message is the right one. She characterizes herself as a fighter and gets some criticism on that point. Biden and Mayor Pete make the explicit and implicit argument that we need to get back to a normal and bringing in a fighter to follow someone like Trump isn’t the best way forward. I disagree with that point. I think going back to the Obama era is going backwards, not going forward. I’m with her.
- Pete Buttigieg – Up 3 spots. I’m less of a fan of Mayor Pete’s this morning than I was going into the debate. I think it bothers me that he always falls back on his unity schtick. I don’t agree that comity for the sake of comity is the way to go and that seems to be what he’s arguing for. Warren is more on point with her focus on corruption and fighting against big business. But. If I look at the list of candidates and think about who can I see as president. Who would do a good job? And, honestly, who strikes me more as someone I’d like to see in the top job, rather than just as a VP hopeful, then Mayor Pete is an easy #2. I have been outspoken in worrying about the age of Biden and Sanders. All other things being equal, I will go for the younger candidate over the older one. I think it’s a big deal that Pete would be the first openly gay president. He is very solid on foreign policy. He’s progressive enough. And, if he is the nominee, I think he has the most potential besides Warren to generate a lot of enthusiasm to help get out the Democratic base and help down ticket.
- Cory Booker – staying steady. Using the same rationale that I used in putting Pete at #2, I think I need to have Cory at #3. I can see him in the top spot. He does “let’s all get along” much better than Pete or anyone else. He’d be a good debater to take on Trump. I don’t know that there’s an obvious choice for him to choose as VP, but that’s a problem for later. If Warren ends up the nominee, he’s the leader for her VP choice.
- Joe Biden – up two spots. Joe is too old and doesn’t perform well in debates. He’s not going to fire up the base. He’s very moderate and wants to return to how it was before Trump, which I think is a step backwards. Still, he has lots of experience and is very well liked. He’d likely get lots of moderate Republicans to vote for him over Trump.
- Bernie Sanders – up 4 spots. Bernie is maybe the last candidate I can put on this list whom I can see in the top job. He’s too old and his health is an issue that will be used against him in the general. But, he does have the potential to generate some enthusiasm as the nominee.
- Amy Klobuchar – up one spot. After the top 5, I see these candidates as potential VPs, but I don’t see them in the top job. Klobuchar is sticking to her focus on the heartland and Midwest. Did you hear she’s won in very red districts? As I’ve said before, all things being equal, I’ll go for the woman candidate. That’s why she’s here. Good VP choice for Biden.
- Kamala Harris – down 5 spots. Just a forgettable debate. She’s fading. She’s here because I’ll take her over the also ran men. Maybe a good VP choice for Pete?
- Beto O’Rourke – Down 4 spots. Beto didn’t really shine in the debate, except he was good on guns. I’m not sure he’s adding anything to the race right now. He’s a potential VP choice for Warren, but not the top one.
- Julian Castro – Down 1 spot. If Julian doesn’t make the November debate, he should drop out and endorse. He’s a big enough name that it would make a splash. If he’s angling for the VP job, Warren is the obvious place to land.
- Andrew Yang – staying steady. I’m liking him more and more. I don’t see him in the top spot or as VP, but he gets the candidates to focus on issues that they wouldn’t normally have to deal with. I hope he sticks around and ends up in a Democratic administration.
Others: 11 – Tom Steyer; 12 – Tulsi Gabbard.