I know it sounds unbelievable, especially when faced with back-to-back 11+ hour days of impeachment testimony, but there actually is a world outside of the House Intelligence Committee hearing room, and it continues to spin. Here are a few things I twigged to last night, once the national obsession with Trump’s dirty deeds, obviously being done dirt cheap.
In the lead up to the debate, Chris Matthews had an interesting observation. While the primaries are getting sufficient coverage, and while policies are still important to primary voters, the impeachment hearings are king. Matthews said that network ratings, including MSNBC’s were extremely high during the hearings. He said that as much as people are following the primaries, they’re more interested right now in watching Trump “go down.” Matthews point was that while everybody has their own important issues, for Democratic voters, the overriding issue is giving Trump the Denver Boot. And that the Democratic candidates are missing an opportunity by not spending at least some of their time highlighting Trump’s perfidy, and portraying themselves as the one best suited to take him down. Frankly, I agree with Chris, Trump is the #1 issue, so the candidates may as well use him effectively.
After the Kentucky governor’s election, I wrote that MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki poin ted out some interesting dynamics. Once again, the Democrats had a huge surge in turnout in the cities, and especially the suburbs, and it was just enough to win. But at the same time, the GOP incumbent, Matt Bevin, under performed Trump’s 2016 results in several key areas, including “coal country” in both eastern and western Kentucky, and actually lost a couple of districts that Trump carried in 2016. But because Bevin was so unpopular, it was impossible to tell if the GOP was depressed, or if they just wouldn’t turn out for Bevin.
Last night, Claire McCaskill related that in her reelection race in 2018, she too benefited from a surge in Democratic turnout, especially in the suburbs, but a surge in GOP rural voting was enough to offset that. But when she looked at the results of John Bel Edwards victory in Louisiana, once again she saw the now familiar Democratic surge in cities and the suburbs, but again, noticeable softening in the more rural, traditional GOP strongholds.
I wish that there were a couple of more off year or special elections left this year. McCaskill’s story shows that last year, Trump was able to generate enough enthusiasm in his strongholds to get the job done. But in 2019, Trump made last minute appearances to rally with his candidates in both Kentucky as well as Louisiana, not only was it not enough to get his candidates across the finish line, unlike 2018, there was softening in the very same areas he had managed to inflame a year earlier. Is “Trump fatigue” actually starting to settle in on Trump’s less maniacal voters? If so, that’s bad news for the GOP with still another year of his nonsense left to suffer.
The debate last night seemed almost pastoral. While the Democrats on the stage slapped at Trump, they didn’t do it as often or effectively as I thought they could have. Andrew Yang got a laugh when he was asked what he would say in his first call with Putin if elected, and he replied, “Hey, I’m sorry that I beat your guy…Naw, I’m not really sorry.” And Kamala Harris got off a deliciously wicked shot when she said that Trump got “punked” by Kim Jong Un. But what struck me the most is that the debate was almost collegial. The candidates actually chuckled a few times, and even lightly joshed with each other. But there were no personal attacks, with one notable exception.
Tulsi Gabbard bombed. Her attack on Pete Buttigieg was shallow, cheap, and deceitful, and it was nice to see Mayor Pete dispatch her with ease. But she got her payback. She sat down afterwards with Chris Matthews for what she thought would be a puff interview, instead Matthews turned her over to Steve Schmidt, who excoriated her for being dishonest in her attack. and having questionable judgement for meeting with Bashar al Assad. Gabbard was clearly pissed, but tanked her response anyway.
The moderators did an outstanding job. Mainly because they finally opened up the debates, moving off of an almost one track line of questioning on healthcare and taxes, and got into other areas, such as world affairs. This allowed the viewers to hear fresh new answers on fresh topics. To my mind, both Sanders and Warren seemed a little shaky on their feet when it came to the foreign policy questions, they didn’t stumble, but they just seemed out of their comfort zone.
All of the other candidates had a good night. They all handled themselves well, and made coherent points. Cory Booker scored a nice point on Biden, when he talked about pot, and actually I think that Biden overreacted just a bit, it wasn’t a heavy jab. Kamala Harris scored some nice hits, as did Amy Klobuchar. Buttigieg got more air time with his front runner status in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he used it wisely, making solid points, and ably parrying the jabs that front runner status brings. Biden had his best debate. His gaffe by not recognizing that there was a second African American Senator, who was on the stage at the moment was his worst, and I thought that he did a nice job of turning the inevitable question about Hunter Biden and Burisma around to say that it showed just how scared shitless both Trump and Putin were to have to go up against him. Buttigieg did a nice job of responding to Kamala Harris’ charge that he was unfamiliar with black discrimination by reminding her that white gay people get discriminated against too. And I thought that Joe Biden gave by far the best closing last night. Not only was he the only one not to ask people to visit his website or donate, but he was the only one who presented a bright, powerful, positive future for America, once we ditch Glorious Bleater. And if there’s one thing that people are desperate for right now, it’s a positive vision. If Biden does more of that in public, it will more than offset many occasional gaffes.
It was put on the post game wrap up last night that while everybody but Gabbard had a good night, it was unlikely that anybody actually “moved the needle.” I agree with that, up to a point. While the national polling averages seem to have stabilized the last couple of weeks, there could be some post debate movement in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls. But I largely agree for this reason. Nationally, this race has broken down into a top four, and pretty much everybody else. The number one issue is to beat Donald Trump, and while the lower tier candidates may have impressed some voters with their performance, when the voters look at the polls, they may write them off as being to far behind.
Steve Kornacki showed a fascinating poll last night which brings the electability issue. His poll showed that among Biden, Warren, and Sanders, somewhere between 40-46% of voters said that they could be wooed into changing their minds and voting for that candidate if he or she showed that they could beat Trump. But when it came to Buttigieg, a stunning 57% said they could be convinced to vote for him if he proved tough enough to beat Trump. That is incredible room for growth, and if Buttigieg starts sniping at Trump more often and effectively, and places highly in Iowa and New Hampshire, possibly winning one, he may move up quickly in the polls.
One more thing. Despite his good showing, I thought that Cory Booker looked desperate to make an impression last night. He ended many of his responses with a plea to go to his site. Almost every commentator after the debate used the word “desperate” in their description of Booker, and Booker himself, in hi post debate interview with Chris Matthews said, “I desperately need people to go to my website.” I assumed that he was dry on cash, but that doesn’t seem to be the real reason. Steve Kornacki pointed out that Booker has three weeks to place at 4% or better in four polls! If he can’t do that, he’s not on the stage for the December debate, and if he doesn’t make that, then he’s basically done.
To know the future, look to the past. before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clockwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen