The 2020 Democratic Debate Round 3

This isn’t a live reaction to the third debate. Life happened. But I do want to look at the debate and have my own reactions before I really dive into the coverage. Thanks to the magic of TiVo, I can watch this debate today, or any day. Now where’s that damn remote? Here we go!

This debate was sponsored by ABC News and the moderators are George Stephanopoulos, Linsey Davis, David Muir and Jorge Ramos.

Who was in round 3? The contestants… er… candidates on the stage are:

  • Former Vice-President Joe Biden
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
  • California Senator Kamala Harris
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigeig
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • Former Representative Beto O’Rourke
  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
  • Former Cabinet Secretary Julián Castro, and
  • Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

That should be close to ABC’s (or the DNC’s?) perceived ranking of the candidates with the more prominent candidates taking center stage. We know that the “big ticket” tonight is Warren vs. Biden. Biden is the ostensible front runner while Warren seems to be the challenger who is gaining ground the quickest. Those two haven’t been on a stage together yet and folks are curious how the encounter will play out.

Booker came out strong and Yang is going to give $1000/month to 12 families for 12 months. Buttigeig seemed taken aback by that before regaining his footing. I can’t put my finger on why, but I’m not impressed by Harris. Bernie sounds like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, at the end of the famous filibuster. He must be working hard; he’s lost his voice. Warren’s opening was excellent and got a good response from the audience. Biden is in good form, but the “we refuse to postpone” riff was a little flat.

Early on, Warren is better on the will-you-raise-taxes question this time. The only relevant question is: taxes + premiums, will the total be more? Will the average family be paying less? Biden is doing well so far, but I don’t know if he will be able to stand up to the tag team of Sanders and Warren. Klobuchar gets the first word aside from the Biden/Sanders/Warren center stage. I don’t feel like she’d playing at the same level. Warren is making the argument that people will keep their current doctors in a more efficient system.

Buttigeig weighs in. “I trust the American People to choose what’s best for them.” He’s got a progressive idea expressed in terms that should ring true for conservatives. He does that alot and it’s pretty good.

And here’s the sort of thing that makes me uncomfortable about Harris. A Medicare-For-All Plan that’s part public and part private fundamentally isn’t Medicare-For-All. She either doesn’t understand that or she wants to have her cake and eat it too.

Biden’s definitely doing better this time around, but he looks like a muppet nodding along with O’Rourke.

Castro’s going after Biden pretty hard. It seems desperate and the crowd doesn’t like it. And Buttigeig is right; Castro’s coming across like a jackass and its going to turn people off.

Yang: “I am asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” Hilarious.

Booker’s pretty good making the “don’t let the best be the enemy of the good” argument and later on racism. He’d clearly thought that through. Buttigeig is strong there as well; I want to know more about his Douglas Plan. Castro, Harris, O’Rourke all pretty good here.

But unlike in his Senate run, Beto always seems to be trying too hard.

This debate seems pretty friendly; there are some squabbles and there are folks promoting themselves, but it’s cordial.

I would have expected these guys to be reflexively anti-tariff but it’s more nuanced than that. Buttigeig is again performing much better than you’d expect based on his office.

Wait! Did Harris just make a dick joke? Backing up… well, no but “that guy in the Wizard of Oz” who turned out to be “a really small dude” was the actual Wizard of Oz. If you’re going to evoke the movie, watch the damn thing. Also, turning the moment into an implied short joke aimed at the moderator is not smart. Also also, that’s kind of a Trump move and he’s much better at that than she is.

OTOH, if you’re going to sneak in a dick joke, trade policy might be the safest spot.

Everybody sounded pretty good on Trade, National Security, Education. Nothing seemed particularly surprising.

Biden got a question on reparations. It sounded pretty tone deaf to me. Using social workers “to confront the problems that come from home.” Might have been meant innocently, but doesn’t come across that way in context. It reminds me of when he called Barack Obama an “African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy .”

Protesters. What are they yelling about? I want to know!

Boy, hearing Biden talk about losing family members was both gut wrenching and compelling.

Analysis:

This was, for the most part another respectful cordial debate. It was palpable from the audience and the other candidates that wanted it that way when Castro tried to go after Biden. That did not go the way Castro thought it would.

So, no real fireworks and I think, again, this debate is unlikely to shake things up much. The “top 5” in the polling, Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris and Buttigeig, will probably remain the top five. If anyone is likely to drop in the polls based on this debate, I think it would be Harris; this might have been her weakest performance so far. Of the remaining five candidates on the stage, I think Booker is the most likely to break out of the pack.

I might have more to add after I absorb some of the coverage.

Picture Credits:

  • Featured Image: TampaBay.com
  • Biden and Warren: LA Times

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