I loved the debate, for me it was like watching an Indiana Jones movie. I laughed, I hooted and hollered, I bounced in my seat and clapped my hands. And when it was over, the first thought that went through my head was that if they had had a bunch of power tools pegged to the back wall, it would have been Thunderdome. Here are some impressions from the debate tonight, while they’re fresh in my ind.
Jesus Joe, where have you been – After the New Hampshire primary, I wrote that Joe Biden looked and sounded like a beaten candidate. I stand by that. But if you’ve been waiting tor Biden to wake up and get serious, then tonight was your night. Biden came through like my Kansas City Chiefs in the last 10 minutes of the Super Bowl.
Biden was tight. Biden was focused. Biden was passionate. In short, Biden was everything that you’ve been waiting for. His answers were clear and concise. He spoke directly to the people through the camera, instead of looking down at the podium. And best of all, Biden seemed to be in total control. Unlike most other candidates, Biden didn’t throw up his hand every time somebody spoke, he was surgical in his attach responses. And because he chose his spots carefully, he tended to get called on when he raised his hand. As I said in the title, Welcome back, Joe.
The happy warrior unsheathed her sword tonight – In every debate so far, Elizabeth Warren has been the most passionate, yet most polite, non confrontational candidate on the stage. That ended tonight. Warren skewered Bloomberg with her “Meghan Kelly moment,” quoting insults to women, and then saying she was talking about Mike Bloomberg and not Donald Trump. And she pinned him like a butterfly to a cork board over his refusal to free women with complaints from their non disclosure agreements. And for dessert, she mangled Mayor Pete over his insulting attitude for Amy Klobuchar.
Warren needed a good performance tonight to get back into the top tier, and she delivered. Her biggest issue so far, to my eye is that her support is broad, but shallow. There are no enclaves in demographics or ethnicity where she polls high enough to surpass the 15% mark to generate delegates. She may have fixed that tonight. She should have scored points with women by skewering Bloomberg on his sexism, and for defending Klobuchar against Buttigieg. She spoke to middle class families about her creation of the CFPB, and to minorities in plastering Bloomberg over red lining. And as usual, she refused to directly engage Sanders, so as to not offend his voters. All in all, a good performance for her.
Bloomberg should be in intensive care – You can either agree or disagree with me about Tom Perez being smarter than we gave him credit for, but getting Bloomberg on the stage tonight was a Godsend for Democrats. From the moment he stepped on the stage, Bloomberg showed himself for what he is, an uber rich, pompous, arrogant horses ass. And it only got worse for Bloomberg form there.
One of my favorite parts of watching a debate is watching the candidates scurry behind their podiums the minute the group photos are over, where they hunch like a bunch of high school kids with 5 minutes left on their SAT’s. Bloomberg just stood there, with his hands on the edges of the podium, and stared off into space.
For a guy with billions of dollars, Bloomberg was woefully unprepared. Any qualified adviser could have told him what he would be hit on, and they probably did, but he just didn’t care. Bloomberg’s pathetic attempts to defend himself from the attacks was straight out of the Donald Trump/Jamie Dimond playbook. I’m rich and powerful, and you’re not, so get the fuck over it. Bloomberg didn’t really try to defend himself, just sniped at anybody who dared to question him.
Bloomberg might just find out how it feels to blow $400 million dollars. Bloomberg’s success in the polls has been by owning the narrative in states where nobody else was up on the air. But tonight, black voters in South Carolina were exposed to his relish for stop-and-frisk. Suburban soccer moms were exposed to his sexist history. Going into Super Tuesday, every other candidate now has a library of Bloomberg’s responses to pressure to use in 30 second spots. It will be interesting to see what happens to his polling over the next two weeks.
Bernie is not a good front runner – This is the first time in pretty much two cycles when Sanders has been the undisputed from runner, and as such subject to accelerated attacks, and he wasn’t very good. Sanders seems to be much more comfortable punching up as an underdog than blocking shots and counter punching as a front runner.
Sanders biggest problem is that he’s just too damn by rote, he just keeps repeating his same basic argument. That’s fine when he’s using it for contrast with somebody else. but when people are attacking the core of his beliefs, simple repeating them does the other sides job for them, by highlighting the contrast. Bloomberg’s best moments were when he was jousting with Sanders, throwing his own socialist beliefs back in his face.
I might be wrong, and this is a subtle point, but I think that Bernie might have accidentally exposed a bit more of himself than he wanted. Under attack, Sanders finally admitted that taxes would go up for the middle class, but was weak on his part about the savings from premiums and deductibles making up the difference. But at times, especially under fire, he just very softly hinted at government control over some other programs. Bernie already has severe problems with older voters like me, and these vague hints of creeping socialism may hurt him even more.
Buttigieg may have miscalculated – Mayor Pete has spent his whole campaign cultivating an almost Midwestern, aw shucks wholesome persona, a middle class guy that can get things done. But Buttigieg is also enough of a politician to know that Amy Klobuchar is the golden goose that holds the eggs to the moderate lane. So he went after her.
I think he went about it the wrong way. I remember earlier in the primaries, Julian Castro was getting reviews for his debate performances. But then he got all cocky and shit, and got dismissive and insulting about Beto O’Rourke’s immigration policies, and he tanked. A month later he was gone. And I think that Mayor Pete may have made the same mistake.
Buttigieg has swiped at Klobuchar before, but he’s always kept his toes just off of the line. Tonight he stepped over it, and Klobuchar came out with all guns blazing. Her riposte about Buttigieg’s miserable state wide showing in Indiana did more damage than Mayor Pete’s initial assault. And when Elizabeth Warren jumped in to defend Klobuchar, his defeat was complete. Whatever the mechanics, Buttigieg insulted the very voters he is hoping to bring over if and when Klobuchar exits the race.
Klobuchar followed the physicians creed – “First, do no harm.” One of the reasons that Klobuchar shot up in the polls after the New Hampshire debate was that she was widely seen as looking presidential, people could see her in that job. She did nothing tonight to diminish that image. Her swipes against Bloomberg, while pointed, were less frequent and strident than the others on the stage. Instead, she provided precise, measured answers to her questions.
Her defense against Buttigieg’s assault was very well put together, almost like she had seen it coming. Clearly Klobuchar had the same designs for Buttigieg voters that he had for hers, but she chose to defend herself without becoming -personally insulting to Mayor Pete. Klobuchar’s best moment was when she admitted her error in not remembering the name of the Mexican president, and following up by saying that maybe we needed a president with a little humility, who knew how to apologize for mistakes. It played nicely.
So, what’s the final takeaway? I dunno. How about this. There was no walkaway winner, but the battle lines were drawn, with blood in the sand. And while no candidate propelled themselves sharply higher, Mike Bloomberg is flat on his back, looking up at the lights. The Russians have an old adage, In war, two blunders are not permitted. Bloomberg badly underestimated the branding and image consequences of these debates, that’s on him. But another clunker performance before South Carolina could well mark the end of his being a viable candidate. Because actions speak louder than dollars.
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 Clodwork 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