There were only six people on the stage in the pre-Iowa debate. Seven tonight, so Andrew Yang back on the stage.
The dynamic was different tonight because the pecking order has changed. Bernie and Biden are at the top of the pack and Pete got a lot of attention as well. For the first time in any of the debates that I can remember, Bernie was the focus of attacks. Warren had been the focus in the past, but she’s faded.
I think it would be good if the next debates were with 4 candidates (maybe 5 with Bloomberg). Steyer and Yang should probably be done. Maybe the higher polling threshold for the next debate will get us the 5 candidates. Also might be less if someone drops out after a disappointing showing in New Hampshire.
The format was OK and they at least let some cross talk go on and a little bit of debate happen. Steyer was the most aggressive jumping in over top of people.
There was no opening or closing statement segment. The first question got everybody involved in a question of Sanders’ electability. It was the first sign that Sanders would be the target of some attacks. He is consistent in falling back on his standard rhetoric. None of the attacks were fatal, but he was put on the defensive a little bit. Bernie was also attacked on guns and it harmed him a bit.
The closing segment was the same question for everyone – what to do about child poverty. Most of the candidates pivoted from the question to transition to a version of their stump speech. Warren and Yang were the most effective at actually answering the question and saying something about making things better for kids in poverty.
I did a little bit of the good answer thing again this time. Steyer had one, Yang had one, Warren had one, and Klobuchar had one. I also noted that Steyer had one entirely confusing section.
On to the ranking:
- Amy Klobuchar – Good debate for Amy. She got in some attacks on Bernie and Pete and also didn’t hit the moderate stuff too often. Now that we’re looking at Bernie at the top of the heap, I think I may be looking at arguments a little differently. I might be drawn to a more moderate stance because I worry about Bernie as the nominee. Amy is the best moderate for me.
- Elizabeth Warren – Now that Cory Booker is out, Warren is the best overall debater and has been consistently good in all of the debates. She’s fallen in the polls, I think, because of the rise of Bernie. Now that she’s down middle of the pack, she doesn’t get attacked, so she can just do her thing and hammer on corruption and extol the virtues of the 2 cent wealth tax.
- Pete Buttigieg – I’m probably pulling for Pete to win in New Hampshire because it forestalls the Bernie juggernaut. He had a really good answer on the Commander in Chief question.
- Joe Biden – Joe didn’t have the problem he’s had in previous debates of rambling answers. Nothing exceptional, but no stumbles.
- Bernie Sanders – He lost his footing a bit in some of the segments where he was the focus of attacks, but he kept solid on his standard stump speech.
- Tom Steyer – Tom had one really good answer and one super confusing answer. He was more aggressive, but that’s probably a net negative for him.
- Andrew Yang – I like Yang better than some of the others on this list above him, but he really didn’t make an impact for me.