Watching The Debate So You Don’t Have To – South Carolina Edition

So, I watched the debate, but not live.  There was a campaign related meeting I had to go to and a basketball game to watch first.  I took notes as I normally do, but it was too late to write something up last night while it was fresh in my mind.  I have a grandma doctor appointment to go to this morning and another campaign thing to handle after lunch with the MadDoc.  Therefore, I’m just going to bang out a few quick thoughts and give you my ranking.

The moderators were pretty terrible.  They let the candidates talk all over each other.  It was entertaining to watch the first section because of all the fighting and jabs at each other.  On the other hand, it wasn’t a great look for the Dems.  For better or worse, this chaos will abate after Super Tuesday.  Or, at least, I hope it will.

When they got to the second section, it turned boring.  The fact is that the Dems really don’t disagree too strongly on most issues.  That’s why almost every debate has included a healthcare section, because that’s where you can find meaningful differences between the candidates.

The Democratic voters in South Carolina are overwhelmingly African-American, which explains the number of questions and answers touching on race.  The group of white men and women on the stage have to show their bona fides in advance of the South Carolina primary.  It made for an awkward section of the debate.

The last question was ridiculous.  With that said, I though Warren and Pete had the best answers.  Warren, then Pete, if I’m ranking them.

I was stingy with the “good answer” notes.  I gave one each to Warren, Steyer and Bloomberg.

I’ll also note that I paused the debate for a bit because MadDoc and I got into a rather contentious discussion when they started talking about legalizing marijuana.  I’m for it, she’s against it.  She comes at it from her knowledge of studies of long term marijuana use and her experience with patients who use it frequently.  I come from my legal background, my pro-defendant bias in the criminal justice system, and my peculiar brand of libertarianism.  Since I know she will read this at some point, I’ll say that I understand her perspective.  But she’s still wrong ;-).

Now, on to the ranking.

  1. Biden – Joe definitely has a ceiling when it comes to debates.  For me, this was one of his better ones.  Also, no one else really shined.  So, by default, Biden won this debate.  And he needed to, since South Carolina is his firewall state.
  2. Buttigieg – Pete is a little desperate to get some traction in a state he’s not doing well in.  He had some memorable lines and he’s been the most consistent in pointing out the problem with Bernie at the top of the ticket.  Last time it was his line about choosing between someone who wants to burn the party down and someone who wants to buy it out.  Last night he used the same line he gave in his speech after Nevada, that we need to care about more than just the Presidential race.  And Bernie at the top of the ticket is going to endanger the House and the Senate.  I agree with him on both of these points.  He also continued to show a good grasp of foreign policy.
  3. Warren – It was just an OK debate for the candidate who has consistently been the best debater since the beginning.  She took advantage of the moderators lack of control and interjected quite a bit.  I’m sure some white men someplace are calling her shrill for doing so.  She won the last question and was pretty good all the way through.  She doubled down on Bloomberg with the women and their NDAs.  And her explanation of how he’s the riskiest candidate was solid.
  4. Sanders – Bernie was attacked.  Finally.  They get that he’s going to win if they don’t do something.  Bernie’s responses were, as usual, some combination of deflection and pivoting to his stump speech.  I think it was Steyer who said that Bernie is right about his analysis of the situation.  It’s just his proposed fix is wrong.  The question is whether the fact that he’s really fuzzy on how to pay for M4A and his other programs will cause him to crash the way it did with Warren.  His base of support is so enthusiastic, I suspect not.  He’s got a high floor.
  5. Klobuchar – In the first section, Amy returned to the nervous sounding candidate of the early debates.  Later on, she did better.  Too many attacks going around for her to get into the mix.  I think we’ve seen the end of the Klobuchar boomlet.  She’s gonna stay in through Super Tuesday because she wants to win her home state over Bernie.  But I suspect her money will dry up and she’ll be out around March 4.
  6. Bloomberg – The mayor did better this time than last.  Although that’s a low bar.  He had his answers better rehearsed this time.  If you’re inclined more to the center, then you probably think Warren’s attacks against on the women and NDAs was too much.  I’m not so inclined, so I think he really hasn’t answered the question and Warren is right about how risky it’ll be if he’s the nominee.  But he was better than…
  7. Steyer – This billionaire was just not ready to be back on the stage.  He’s polling pretty well in South Carolina and he wants to keep his position, so he was playing to the South Carolina electorate hard.  If he doesn’t do well, I could see him dropping out before Super Tuesday.  Then again, he’s got the money to stay in if he wants, so who knows.

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