July 31, 2019

Some Quick Impressions of Round 2 Night 1 of the Democratic Debate

Detroit

The Democratic debates we have had so far in 2019 have been helpful in providing voters with a chance to meet a crowded field of candidates, many of whom were previously unknown. By the time we get through the second night of the second round of debates tomorrow, we will have had the opportunity to see these candidates and get a taste of what they are like. I think this was a valuable experience but that it is now time to cut the number of people invited to future debates by at least half. Having 10 different candidates in each debate spread across two nights has not allowed for the substantive discourse we need. That means it is time for several candidates to drop out of the race.

As far as I'm concerned, the best thing about the first night of the Round 2 debates was how Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren stuck it to the mainstream news media pundits by not going after each other like nearly all the pundits said they had to. Once again, these pundits were wrong. How they hold on to their jobs when it is clear that their speculation is not even terribly well-informed is beyond me. I think it is important for voters to remember that they are there to push various narratives and not to inform us.

I thought that both Sanders and Warren performed well in this debate. Sanders did much better than he had in the Round 1 debate or in any other appearance I've seen from him since 2016. He has been losing ground in the polls and needed a strong performance. That was exactly what he delivered. While I still don't see myself voting for him in the primary unless a few other candidates (including Warren) have been eliminated by then, I thought his performance in this debate was impressive. Prior to this, he had been slipping down my list of desirable candidates. He regained some ground here and probably would have moved even higher had he not began yelling about "income inequality" once again.

Although I thought that Warren did well here too, her performance struck me as being less of a difference from what we saw from her in the Round 1 debate. She did better here but not by as wide a margin as Sanders. It seemed like Warren had much more difficulty answering questions within the allotted time. That may have been a strategic choice on her part, but I don't think it did her any favors. She's still high on my list, and I did not see anything last night that changed that; however, I do think it could be helpful for her to work on delivering clearer and more concise answers rather than stories about friends or talking points. My guess is that Sanders may get a bigger bump from this recent debate just because his performance was so much better than the last one.

Pete Buttigieg had a good night, but it is hard to say whether it was enough to give him the kind of boost he needs. He's another candidate that is high on my list, and I'd really like to see him stick around as long as possible. I don't think he has a chance of being elected president, but I've really appreciated his intelligence, demeanor, insight, and contributions. It sometimes seems like he's the only adult in the room, and I'd like to see more of him. Sadly, I don't think last night's performance, while solid, was the sort of breakout he probably needed.

As for everyone else who was on the stage last night, I think it is time for them to go. I like Amy Klobuchar, but she does not seem comfortable on the debate stage and is gaining little traction in the polls to continue her campaign. Beto O'Rourke has now turned in poor performances in two consecutive debates, although last night's was somewhat better than the previous one. I realize he's popular enough that he may outlast some of the other candidates, but he seems out of his element and ineffective on the debate stage. Unless he's counting on voters to support him because they feel sorry for him, I think it is time for him to go.

Update: Impressions of Night 2 can be found here.