Super Tuesday, Live.

It’s like a regular Tuesday except from Krypton. Well, not really. Actually, it’s like a regular Tuesday except with a genuinely life-threatening number of fries.

I published these predictions a few minutes ago on Facebook and it looks fairly even. There’s not a whole lot of analysis there on my part; I mostly just took the 538.com favorite. Thus, this is as much of a benchmark as anything else. We can use this to look for surprises.

The exception is Texas. Sanders had a pretty big lead there before South Carolina, but Biden seems to be getting a boost of his big win last Saturday. He was gaining fast; that one could really go either way.

What’s the status quo? Biden has Momentum, which changes things dramatically. Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Steyer have dropped out of the race in the last few days which is good news for Biden.

Warren is still in. It’s perplexing that she hasn’t caught on more than she did. I still think that she would have been the Democrats best bet against Trump. She is the Quintessential anti-Trump and that contrast would have been her best argument. Sadly, if the predictions above are correct, this might be her campaign’s last gasp.

7:08 pm. I’ll be switching over to coverage soon.

7:30 pm. It’s a big win for Biden in VA. That sounds good for him. His bounce must be pretty big. NC is called for Biden at the moment the polls closed. Sanders wins in Vermont. No surprise there.

Tom Perez was just talking about the Jones election as a sign of Democratic Party strength, That’s a real misread of the situation.

And Bloomberg wins American Samoa. Did not see that coming. Is the tide turning? No.

7:55 pm. Five Poll closings coming up at 8. Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee. That’s probably 3 for Biden and 2 for Sanders.

8:00 pm. Alabama is called for Biden. Oklahoma, Maine, Massachusetts are all to early to call. All the early calls for Biden should help him. Arkansas will go his way as well.

8:10 pm. Biden is competitive in Massachusetts. That’s a sign that he could run the table. And yeah, that’s ignoring a lot of voting theory vote-splitting arguments.

8:40 pm. No call in Arkansas yet (did I miss it?). Texas is closing soon. There’s a huge line of college students in Austin still waiting to vote. I hope they’re all able to stick it out.

8:57 pm. Watching how everything else is going tonight, I think Texas is going to go to Biden.

9:00 pm. “To early to call” is not a call. “To close to call” is not a call.

9:21 pm. AL SC NC TN OK. Biden is running up a big delegate lead, mostly in states that Democrats won’t win in November.

9:40 pm. NBC’s finally caught up and called Colorado for Sanders.

9:45 pm. James Clybern is on MSNBC right now. Damn, that guy is good. He might be the MVP of the entire 2020 election for better or for worse.

9:47 pm. If Biden’s “officially leading” in Minnesota, that’s devastating for Sanders if it holds up.

10:14 pm. It looks like Biden wins Massachusetts. This is officially a rout.

10:19 pm. And now Minnesota. Crap.

11:40 pm. California is called for Sanders. Too little too late.

12:13 am. So much for Super Tuesday; it’s now Fatigued Wednesday. There’s got to be a better name for it than that. It looks at this point that Biden will win both Texas and Maine. I thought I saw an official call on Texas, but I can’t verify that. What’s the headline for the evening? Biden Wins Big. Biden won everywhere he was supposed to and a lot of places that Bernie was supposed to.

What’s the Matter with Iowa

This was initially published yesterday as part of Prelude to Iowa. It looks like this scenario is playing out in real time so it deserves to be out on its own.

Beware of Paradoxical Results

You might think that first-past-the-post or the plurality vote is the worst voting system ever. You’d be wrong. In 2017, my student, Brandon Payne studied the Iowa Caucuses. He determined that the caucuses violate all sorts of mathematical “fairness criteria.” One example is the Condorcet criterion which states that if one candidate beats every other candidate in head-to-head match-ups, that candidate should be the overall winner. Such a candidate might not win the Iowa Caucuses.

Turns out, the viability constraint can also lead to seemingly contradictory results, which I’ll call the “viability paradox.” As a quick example, suppose that in some state, the voters have the following preferences.

Candidate A35%
Candidate B30%
Candidate C12%
Candidate D12%
Candidate E11%

In a primary election, this would be a clear victory for candidate A.

Now let’s divide our state into five precincts of 100 voters each and let’s assign each precinct 10 delegates. We’ll conduct a caucus to allocate the delegates.

Suppose that the voters are arranged within the caucuses according to the graphic below.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

Notice that there are non-viable candidate preference groups in each precinct. These voters will have to join a viable group in order to participate. They may reorganize themselves as shown below.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png

And so, in this case, Candidate B actually wins pretty decisively, probably 23 delegates to 15 delegates for A. Candidates C, D and E should get 4 delegates each.

There might be good reasons to decide that either candidate A or B is the rightful winner here, but one point is that there is a significant difference. Systems like this can lead to chaotic or paradoxical results. One important take away is that, right or wrong, geography can have a lot of influence on who the victor will be. Even if a candidate seems to be ahead in the polls, they can lose without any shenanigans going on, simply because how their voters are distributed across the state. Surprising results aren’t necessarily nefarious or even necessarily surprising.

You might even want to argue that results like this are a good thing because a lot of voters got to express their second choices. Here’s why you’d be wrong. It’s not systematic. In Instant Run-Off voting, for example, everybody’s second choice is counted unless their first choice is. In the caucus exactly whose second choices are counted is determined by an accident of geography. In deciding a winner between candidates A and B above, should the second choices of voters who picked candidate C in precinct 1 be less important than those in precinct 3? They shouldn’t be but in the current system they are. This is worse than a plurality vote because this could be taking us even farther away from a good collective decision.

In fact, it’s a bit worse than that. Apparently, the state weighs the delegate counts in rural counties a bit more heavily than their urban counties. If the Democrats who think we should dump the Electoral College are to have any intellectual consistency, they should reject these results and work to reform this process.

References

  • Payne, B., The Iowa Democratic Caucuses: A Mathematical Analysis of the “Vote,” Unpublished Manuscript.

Prelude to Iowa

These things happen on Tuesdays, right? Nope. Turns out it’s tonight. The democratic caucus was quite the roller coaster ride four years ago, perhaps we can hope for a more definitive result this time around. I plan to live blog the caucus and the results from my comfy couch in upstate New York. Results will be coming in shortly, which you can keep up with here: Iowa Results, Live.

How do the Caucuses Work?

Primaries are pretty straightforward; party members come out and vote for their preferred candidate, the votes are tallied and delegates are assigned based on the vote counts. There’s a certain amount to unpack there, but if you believe in the assumptions of first-past-the-post voting, primaries should make sense to you.

Caucuses on the other hand, can be kind of weird and I’m sure that most people don’t know what will happens at a caucus site in Iowa Tonight. Here’s what is scheduled to happen.

  1. Caucus-goers will arrive at the site. Those who are not registered have the opportunity to do so, including people who want to change their party registrations and 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before Election Day in November. Only registered democrats are allowed to participate. The number of caucus-goers is established.
  2. At 7:00 pm CST the Caucus is called to order. Representatives of campaigns may speak and caucus-goers may talk among themselves. After 30 minutes, every participant will join a “presidential preference group” or an “undecided” group. Volunteers will determine how many caucus-goers are in each group.
  3. Each preference group’s viability is determined. If a candidate has the support of fewer than 15% of the participants at a caucus location, that group is considered non-viable. Members of that preference group will not be permitted to support that candidate without additional voters. If every candidate is viable, the caucus can proceed to step 5.
  4. If one or more groups are non-viable, the members of those groups have four options. They can:
    1. join a viable group,
    2. merge with another non-viable group to form a viable group,
    3. attempt to recruit members from a viable group to become viable or
    4. leave the caucus. Every group must be viable before the caucus can end.
  5. The size of each preference group is determined. Once every group is viable, the results can be officially recorded and released to the Iowa Democratic Party and the media. The caucus is declared closed.

Conventional Wisdom

This is all over the place. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com last time I looked, had Biden as the favorite to win the caucus. Meanwhile the betting sites are giving the advantage to Sanders, who has led in the most recent polls. The very last, important poll will not be released. Still, it seems likely that one of these two men will wind up the victor. If I had to bet, I’d bet it will be Sanders. I still think he has enough of an enthusiasm gap on Biden to make the difference. But it’s a very different situation than it was 4 years ago. He isn’t the only challenger left standing.

If either Biden or Sanders wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, I think there’s a good chance that that person will go on to win the nomination.

Inherent in this relatively genteel tone is the belief that the candidates have time to sharpen the distinctions among them. But recent Democratic primaries indicate that they might not. In the past four contested Democratic primaries—2000, 2004, 2008, and 2016—the winner in Iowa has gone on to capture the nomination each time. The winnowing process has been swift and merciless: As I’ve calculated, in these four races combined, Democratic candidates who did not first win either Iowa or New Hampshire have won a total of just five states—and of those, three were the home or neighboring states of the candidates who won them. Not since 1992 have Democrats had a primary race in which more than two candidates won multiple states well into the process.

Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic

The next tier of candidates seem to be betting on the race lasting long enough to make a mark. That may or may not be the case.

Beware of Paradoxical Results

This section was expanded a bit and moved here: What’s the Matter with Iowa.

If you’re interested in the original version, it’s not very different, but it’s preserved here: Paradoxical Results

References

Iowa Results, Live

3:52 pm: You know what happens when you assume; I thought the Caucus was tomorrow, but as I was working on a companion piece, Prelude to Iowa I discovered that results were already coming in. So I’ll jump back and forth between the two posts. Prelude to Iowa will be published when there’s something complete enough to share.

Early Lead for Sanders: We already have some results as the good folks in Ottumwa caucused earlier today. The final tally was 9 for Bernie Sanders, 6 for Elizabeth Warren and 3 for Pete Buttigeig. Klobuchar and Yang had some support in the first alignment but neither was viable. M*A*S*H fans will remember Ottumwa as the home town of Radar O’Reilly. I’m sure Walter would be proud.

6:08 pm: It sounds like Amy Klobuchar has won a satellite caucus somewhere in Florida. If there’s a surprise tonight, it will be her beating expectations, but I don’t think she’ll break into the top tier, NY Times endorsement or no.

7:00 pm: Prelude to Iowa is now live. More to come, only “How do the Caucuses Work?” is done for now.

7:53 pm: “Beware of Paradoxical Results” has been added to Prelude to Iowa. The caucuses are set to start any minute, I’m going to start paying attention to the news coverage.

8:00 pm: Turnout sounds high, possibly 15% over last year? That would be good news for Sanders.

8:03 pm: Biden group looks tiny in Iowa City. Entrance polls indicate a 4 way race, Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg.

8:16 pm: Nicole Wallace just claimed that traditionally Democrats are married to substance over elect-ability. That seems wrong. Lots of candidates look strong in Des Moines. MSNBC is promising full first and final alignment results.

8:33 pm: In Debuque, Warren and Klobuchar missed viability at least on the first alignment. Buttigeig is ahead of everybody there.

8:50 pm: Klobuchar will probably beat expectations. Based on the buzz the surprise might be bigger than I thought.

There’s a woman on the tv now making a strong case for Warren.

Record turnout on a number of different places. Oldest group is looking smaller while the youngest group is getting bigger. All good news for Sanders.


The difference between the under 30 and over 65 groups is stunning.

9:18 pm: There seems to be a lot of Amy/Pete synergy.

9:23 pm: Pete looks like he’s a lot of people’s #2. Could that be enough to push him to the top?

9:31 pm: Pete and Amy kill it in Clive, IA. Biden and Warren still viable. Bernie didn’t make viability there.

9:50 pm: There’s very little data being released. In Cedar Falls only Sanders, Warren and Buttgeig are viable. The formula for assigning delegates appears to be really complicated.

This lack of data is getting kind of tedious. I wonder if they’re worried about the different narratives the three different sets of numbers will tell.

11:20 pm: Finally something is happening. Klobuchar took the stage. This is smart. If no one else does, it will get tons of airplay.

11:30 pm: The secretary from Iowa Precinct 1-1 could not get his smart phone app to work and has been on hold to the “hotline” for over two hours.

12:19 pm: It’s a shame that Elizabeth Warren’s speech was tape delayed; it’s probably the strongest one of the night.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any results tonight. That’s not a good look for the Iowa Caucus; there’s already talk about whether on not there will even be a Caucus in four years. If the nomination comes down to delegates from Iowa, we’ll all be up to our asses in conspiracy theories.

It could be doubly delayed, Biden’s lawyer sent the Iowa Democratic Party a letter wanting to see the results before they are released. That’s not a good look for the Biden campaign, although without any data what-so-ever it may tell us all we need to know about how he did tonight.

Pete: “Iowa you have shocked the nation!” That made me laugh really hard. He’s the last major candidate to speak I think, and they all did okay, but Warren still wins.

Good night!

Image Credits:

  • Featured Image: Citizensharp [Public domain]

Adventures in Punditry

I like trying things I haven’t done before. A few years ago I got my one and only speeding ticket and I attended the court date. I’d never been to court before and it was interesting.

About two weeks ago, Steve Coleman, who was a Vice-President at Elmira College, invited me to be a guest on his local public affairs program. Steve’s been doing this sort of thing for years as a self-styled “Ph. D. of Politics.” Coleman and Company is now a weekly half-hour webcast that appears on Sunday evenings on MyTwinTiers.com, the website for the local WETM-18 news. Steve puts together an interesting show and it’s worth checking out.

And this isn’t just something new, this is something I’ve always wanted to try. I’m a politics junkie and I’ve been watching things like the McLaughlin Group or Face the Nation or The Rachel Maddow Show for years. I’ve done my share of groaning at the teevee and doing arm chair punditry inside my own brain (“Eleanor! Pat’s just trying to wind you up! Don’t take the bait!!”). I always thought it looked like fun.

If you’re at all curious, the process was straightforward. Steve e-mailed his plan for the show to us on Sunday with an update on Tuesday so we’d know what to expect: presidential politics, impeachment, Iran and then our own chance to sound off on something.

Over-Preparation

I probably over prepared. Then Joanne and I showed up at the studio about a half hour before we were set to tape on Thursday. We got to meet Denis Kingsley, the other guest, who is a real gentleman. Seeing the inside of the studio reminded me of my trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The tour took us through Mission Control and standing in these spaces is utterly unlike what you’d expect.

We took our places and started the taping; taped, incidentally, “before a live studio audience” thanks to Joanne.

I probably should have cut Eleanor some slack. A lot of the stuff I’d thought about beforehand got left on the table because it was nowhere in my brain to be found when I needed it. I think my biggest missed opportunity was after Denis asserted that Elizabeth Warren would be unelectable if she got the nomination. I should have pointed out that the person the democrats really wanted to run against in 1980 was Ronald Reagan; they thought he’d be easy to beat. And no one seemed to honestly believe that Donald Trump could get the Republican nomination much less win the presidency in 2016. Some folks remained in denial until the electoral college actually voted. That, too, is why we have elections.

But this was a lovely experience. It was great fun and I really have to thank Steve for the opportunity. Unlike traffic court, I’d happily do this again.

So now I’m a bona fide “political analyst and commentator.” Coleman and Company featuring yours truly in the role of “company” will be available Sunday the 22nd between 4:30 and 5:00 pm here.

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

Democratic Debate Round 2.2 Live

Nice. That’s a better title.

I’m getting ready early tonight, last night I thought the debate started at 9 EDT, but it had started when I went to get set up. Luckily introducing the candidates, and all the other preliminaries took an exceedingly long time.

My plan tonight is the same as last night. In the first debate I tried to report everything that was said, but I think that’s redundant. It also reminded me of a few times in college when I got so involved in taking notes that I wasn’t actually processing what was going on. So, tonight impressions only for the most part, although if someone says something particularly interesting or particularly nutty I’ll let you know.

We’ll see the following candidates on stage: Former Vice-President Joe Biden, California Senator Kamala Harris, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, New York Mayor Bill deBlasio, Former Cabinet Secretary Julián Castro, Congress Member Tulsi Gabbard, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Need a cheat sheet? Me too. Well, a bit, a bit.

The moderators, like last night, will be Dana Bash, Jake Tapper and Don Lemon.

T minus six minutes.

8:00

I missed this bit last night, but this intro feels enough like professional wrestling that I can actually hear my skin crawl.

Lots of preliminaries again. The end time for the debate has been amended to 10:40 btw. I hope our attention span holds out.

We had two progressives at the center of the debate last night in Warren and Sanders. Do we get the same split tonight? If so, who caries the progressive banner?

8:15

Newsflash Senator Bennet loves America. “Kids belong in classrooms not cages” is better.

Jay Insley is so stiff he makes Al Gore look like Mick Jagger.

Everybody is hitting their talking points. Gabbard’s service, Yang’s UBI etc.

What’s going on with all the shouting? Booker actually had to stop talking. Evidently they were chanting “Fire Pantaleo.” According to MSNBC this is “referring to the officer at center of the Eric Garner case in New York City, where de Blasio is mayor.”

Harris wants to phase in Medicare for all over 10 years. The long implementation was a huge problem for the ACA.

8:30

Harris v. Biden on health care. Advantage Harris.

Gillibrand is sounding pretty progressive on health care. Also she had a story. She clearly watched last night’s debate.

Gabbard uses the “we don’t have a health care system we have a sick care system.” But I like her point about who should be writing the bill.

They called time on Biden and he actually stopped talking. Weird.

I think Bennet’s formulation on “taking away health care and taxing the middle class is disingenuous. Inslee’s better on the mental health angle.

8:45

We just got to see a hint of the Joe Biden who kicked Paul Ryan’s ass in 2012. “Malarkey!”

More yelling from the crowd. Interrupting Biden this time. Now Castro’s trying for a “confront Biden” moment. Biden’s response is pretty good; aiming at Trump.

9:00

Now Booker is piling on Biden too, but Biden’s getting combative. That could be good for him.

Literally everyone is piling on Biden now. Rapid fire.

If last night’s debate was moderates vs. progressives, this one is definitely everybody vs. Biden. That’s risky: it’ll guarantee him the most exposure and he’s sounding better and more combative to me. And just as I write that we get word salad.

Booker’s on fire. Ezra Klein: “Booker does not have a poker face.”

Castro’s taking a shot at de Blasio on the Pantaleo thing. And Gillibrand: “He should be fired, he should be fired now.”

Biden looked weak invoking Obama to hide behind. And not we’re getting a rerun of the busing thing.

Harsh words from Gabbard on Harris. Biden gets a breather.

9:30

Interesting that Inslee tied progress on race to the filibuster. He’s not wrong.

Enough with the inspirational stories, but Gillibrand was pretty good on the Green New Deal.

9:45

Booker’s doing a bit better tonight.

10:00

Seems to me there’s a lot of agreement on trade and American competitiveness. Pretty good moment for Biden with deBlasio.

Now Gillibrand is going after Biden on some old quote. Harris is going after Biden on the Hyde Amendment. I want more details on both of those discussions.

Chris Hayes: “Biden is correct that everyone on stage in congress has voted for a bill with the Hyde Amendment.”

Castro made an interesting point on impeachment. If the Democrats don’t impeach Trump, he’ll claim exoneration in the campaign. If the Senate acquits, it’s in McConnell’s lap.

Gabbard’s really going after the warmongers and Yang makes a good argument starting with automation and (of course) ending with UBI. Good closing statements for both of them.

Harris is strong and aimed straight at Trump, but she doesn’t understand the 3am metaphor. I thought Biden’s closing statement was strong also.

Analysis:

If last night’s debate was moderates vs progressives, this one was everybody against Biden. He did better than the first debate and possibly as well as he could have done given that he was almost a universal target. He was more combative, but he wasn’t always at the top of his game. He did better toward the end of the debate after most of the fireworks were over.

Booker did better. Harris was shakier. Gabbard and Yang were good. deBlasio was the strongest progressive voice on the stage.

Did anybody win? Maybe Biden, mainly by beating expectations. The pundits are questioning whether Biden could go up against Trump. I think he’s better one-on-one. Maybe Booker by breaking out of the pack. Maybe Sanders or Warren because no one tonight made it up to their level.

I don’t think this group was as strong as the group last night. The bottom line is the same. I haven’t changed my mind really on anyone although once again there’s one or two who are for sure off my list for the primaries and I may be unable to support in the general.

Democratic Debate Round 2, Night 1

This is night one of the second Democratic debate; I’m trying this differently. I’m not going to try to record what everyone says, but to focus on impressions. Updates as possible.

The candidates on stage tonight are Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Author Marianne Williamson, Former Congressman John Delaney, Congressman Tim Ryan, Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Former Representative Beto O’Rourke, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigeig, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders.

I was too busy laughing at Williamson riffing on the Declaration of Independence to hear what she said. Tim Ryan’s “America is Great (Pause)” was almost as distracting. I’ll have to look these answers up later.

Warren comes out swinging, as does Sanders. Not surprising. They’re the street fighters.

Everyone sounded okay in their opening statements.

Right off, Sanders and Delaney are in deep on on Health Care. I think Delaney is making a straw man argument. Later Bullock piled on.

Sanders and Warren may be cooperating.

Buttigeig makes the essential point. The middle class will pay the same or less either in taxes or premiums. Warren went there too, but not as effectively.

Sanders: “Jake your question is a Republican talking point.”

I like Buttigeig’s formulation; the Republicans will call democrats socialists no matter what. They should focus on getting the policy right.

I need to look into Delaney’s two tier claim.

8:45

The issue of whether or not to decriminalize crossing the border misses the bigger issue and is too easy to misrepresent. This also sounds like a Republican talking point to me.

Meanwhile, if you’re position is that health care is a human right (and Bernie got this as I was typing this), of course it must apply to everyone.

The one minute limit really does not work. Everyone who tries to build an argument gets cut off.

9:00

Williamson takes the gun control issue and pushes it to the much larger issue of public financing of elections, which is interesting.

I think Tim Ryan is either dim or disingenuous.

O’Rourke is nuts if he thinks Texas will be a swing state.

I don’t think Scott Brown was all that popular when Warren beat him.

Delaney mentioned using technology to get carbon out of the atmosphere. I think we have the technology and we may also be able to remove carbon from seawater. I’ve often wondered why we haven’t implemented this idea.

9:30

On climate change the candidates seem to be agreeing very combatively.

Williamson goes to a bigger issue again from Flint, Michigan and the crowd really seems to like it.

This reminds me of the last first debate. It’s pretty civil.

9:45

Williamson’s coming out hard for reparations, referencing “40 acres and a mule.” The crowd likes that too.

Commercial Break. It must be time for closing arguments.

Nope on to the economy. I guess we’re running over.

Warren and Sanders still seem to have a non-aggression pact, but everyone seems to agree on tariffs.

10:00

Warren and Delaney just got pretty technical on tax policy.

There’s too much arguing around the margins. For example, whether to meet with Kim Jung Un or not is so far from a fundamental issue it’s ridiculous.

Buttigeig got a lot of applause for his answer on vision and everybody seems to want to weigh in. CNN scheduled three hours for the debate, but the debate was going to only be two hours. What will we do if the pundits don’t tell us what to think (sarcasm)?

Commercial break. Holy crap! Did I just hear the Sid Vicious version of My Way?!?

Closing statements, finally. My attention span is getting tested.

O’Rourke really seems to think he made Texas a swing state. That’s dangerously naive.

Analysis

This reminds me of the first night from round one. It was largely civil and there was a lot of agreement between the candidates. A lot of the discussion was around the margins but there were some clear lines of difference. Props to Williamson for making arguments that hit much bigger issues than most of the rest of the field. I liked her better this time, but I still think she’s out of her league.

It was good to see Sanders and Warren almost collaborating. I think that was good strategy.

I didn’t see a lot of reasons to change my mind about any of the candidates. I still like the same candidates and I’m still lukewarm about most of them. There are a couple I’m now sure I won’t support for the nomination under any circumstance and I’m unsure I could support those candidates in the general.

The First 2020 Democratic Debate Night 2

Well, here we go again; although today, I’m setting up some of this in advance and trying to get the hang of this live blogging thing. If the format is consistent with last night, the moderators for the first round will be Savannah Guthrie from the Today Show, Lester Holt, anchor of The NBC Nightly News and Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart.

Tonight’s line up includes the following candidates: Former Vice-President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor of South Bend Indiana Pete Buttigieg, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Best Selling Author Marianne Williamson, Representative Eric Swalwell, Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. The qualifying candidates were randomly assigned to the two nights and only one of the five leading candidates appeared last night, namely Elizabeth Warren. Biden, Sanders, Harris and Buttigieg are all in tonight’s debate. It may be as cordial as last night’s gathering, but I’d expect to see more fireworks. We’ll see.

I’ll be back at 9:00 this evening.

8:58 pm. I’m back and here we go.

Lambchop (Chris Hayes) says Trump is president, so anyone could be president. All bets are off.

The first question if for Sanders: will taxes go up for the Middle Class in a Sanders Administration? Sanders: People will be paying less for health care, we have to eliminate student debt. More in taxes and less in health care.

For Biden, you said nothing will fundamentally change. Biden the Middle Class built America. We have to return dignity to the middle class. We need to eliminate the Trump Tax Cuts.

Harris: Where were the questions about paying for proposals when we passed the Trump Tax cuts? It sounds like she’s proposing universal basic income for poorer Americans. That’s news I think.

Hickenlooper: I’ve done big progressive things.

Will nominating a socialist re-elect Trump? Sanders: I’m 10 points ahead of Trump and we need to expose him for the fraud he is.

Gillibrand: We want healthy capitalism, not corrupted capitalism.

Bennett: Against Medicare for all. Add a public option to the ACA.

Buttigieg: I believe in free college for needy Americans but not for the children of millionaires. We need it to be affordable not to go to college.

Swalwell jumped in out of turn.

Yang: A value added tax could pay for Universal Basic Income.

Swalwell: We must be a nation where technology creates more jobs than it destroys. Direct shot at Biden. Pass the torch.

Biden: We need to invest more in education. Free community college. Freeze student debt interest for people making less than $25,000.

Saunders: We need someone willing to take on Wall Street etc.

Harris got a lot of applause for some pretty basic stuff.

Gillibrand: We need to transition to single payer.

Buttigieg: I would start with “Medicare for all who want it.” It will outcompete the Corporate sector. Medicare kept our family out of Bankruptcy.

Biden: Fastest way to universal health care is building on the ACA.

Sanders: Every other major country has figured out Universal Health care. We can too. The insurance companies are focused on profits. He dodged the question here.

  • Williamson: We won’t beat Trump just with plans. We don’t have health care in America, we have sickness care.

    Bennet: The ACA is the quickest way to universal care. A public option would be Medicare for all for those who have it.

    Sanders: Medicare is the most popular medical system.

    Harris and Swalwell are talking over each other.

    9:31 pm

    Would your health care plan cover undocumented people? Every hand up.

    Buttigieg: The country is healthier when everyone is healthier. Then he segued to immigration.

    Biden: Jail insurance executives who lied about opioids.

    Lots more talking over each other and more digs at other candidates tonight. These guys may see the stakes being higher. Does it help Warren that she was able to float above the crowd last night?

    Harris: On day one I will reinstate DACA and their parents. Will release children from cages. She has a boisterous group of supporters in the audience. Trump’s policies are contrary to American values.

    More digs at Trump tonight I think.

    Hickenlooper likens Trump’s family separation policy to kidnapping. ICE has to see their mission differently.

    Williamson uses the term child abuse. These are crimes. Trump is attacking a basic American principle.

    Gillibrand: Trump is tearing apart who we are. Lots of specifics on immigration. Don’t transfer funds to for profit prisons.

    Buttigieg: The GOP cloaked itself in Christianity we must call out hypocrisy. Big applause.

    Biden: the Obama administration lessened the number of refugees; Trump got rid of the policy. Deport illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. Keep refugees safe until they can get a hearing.

    Saunders: Day 1, reverse every damn executive order Trump has made in this region.

    Swalwell: Immigrants can contribute to America.

    Harris: I was tracking deportation as AG of CA and disagreed with the Obama administration.

    How would you stand up to China? Bennet: Mobilize nations to oppose their trade policy. Raging against the wall.

    Yang: Russia has been laughing their asses off for the last two years. The tariffs are not productive.

    Buttigieg: China is using technology to perfect authoritarianism. It’s a big threat we must address.

    After the commercial break, we have MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd as moderators. Meanwhile, there’s a Charles Manson movie coming.

    10:00 pm, Round 2:

    The first question to Mayor Pete: We took many steps to prevent the police shooting in South Bend. We must make it work. Everyone should feel the same way when approached by a police officer.

    Williamson: We need slavery reparations.

    Harris: This issue still isn’t being discussed honestly. It was hurtful when Biden said favorable things about segregationists. This cannot just be a philosophical discussion among democrats.

    Biden: I did not praise racists. I was a public defender. As VP we worked with these issues in a major way. I ran because of civil rights and those must include the LGBT community. I didn’t oppose busing, I opposed busing ordered by the Department of Education.

    Sanders: We encourage diversity; that’s what America is about. How come, today, the middle class is making no more than they did 40 years ago? We need someone to stand up to the powerful special interests.

    Bennet: Gridlock will not magically disappear as long as Mitch McConnell is there. The Democrats must win the senate. We also need to oppose gerrymandering.

    Biden: You can’t always have bipartisanship. Sometimes you have to beat them.

    Gillibrand keeps hitting on corruption. The GOP had to pass the tax cuts to pay back their donors.

    What if Roe v Wade is struck down during your presidency?

    Sanders: I will nominate no judges that will overturn Roe.

    Gillibrand: Reproductive rights are under assault. I have been the fiercest advocate for reproductive rights.

    Harris: Trump supports Science Fiction over Science Fact. Not wild about the metaphor.

    Buttigieg: We need to begin adapting to Climate Change and have definitive action to slow it. Climate change is happening everywhere. With soil management, the Midwest can be a part of the solution.

    Hickenlooper: I’m a scientist, I share the sense of urgency. Socialism isn’t the solution.

    Biden: We can control carbon emissions without congress. We should be an exporter of the green economy and build the infrastructure for electric cars.

    Sanders: The POTUS must lead the world away from fossil fuels.
  • Williamson: Evoking JFK, not sure what her point is. What is your first issue?
  • Swalwell: Gun Violence.
  • Bennet: climate change.
  • Gillibrand: family bill of rights.
  • Harris: working families tax cuts.
  • Sanders: political revolution.
  • Biden: Defeat Donald Trump.
  • Buttigieg: fix democracy.
  • Yang: UBI.
  • Hickenlooper; Climate change.
  • Williamson: something about the prime minister of New Zealand.

    Swalwell: Keep you pistols, rifles and shotguns. Forced of buyback all assault weapons.

    Sanders: We have a gun crisis. We need comprehensive gun legislation including standard things.

    Harris: Give Congress 100 days to Bill or executive orders.

    Buttigieg: every part of my life informs my position. If more guns made us safer, we’d be safe. There are weapons with no place on the street. Ever.

    Biden: I’ve passed gun legislation. No guns should be sold except smart guns.

    What are important steps toward reversing the legacy of Trump? Bennet: we have to restore democracy and our relations with other countries.

    None of these guys can give short answers. Okay, Harris did.

    Biden: I was responsible for getting 150,000 combat troops out of Iraq. The use of force resolution should have been aimed at terriorists. That’s exactly what Bob Graham said at the time.

    Sanders: War with Iran would be worse than war with Iraq. I will make sure it doesn’t happen. It might be too late by then.

    Closing statements now.

    Williamson sounds like a self-help book.

    I think Hickenlooper is out of step with the party.

    Yang: Trickle up economy.

    Lots of platitudes.

    Buttigieg is pretty good.

    Saunders is on his greatest hits but strong and combative.

    Biden is aimed straight at Trump.

    Analysis:

    I think this group was stronger on average than last night with the exceptions of Williamson and Swalwell. This was combative. Hickenlooper was fixed on being anti-socialist and a couple of people were focused on the pass the torch message. Harris may have had the moment of the night hitting Biden hard on race. I thought he came back well but the pundits disagree. Strong performance by Buttigieg, but there’s no clear winner tonight the way I think Warren won last night. I think she will benefit from having had less competition last night.

    This primary season will have problems if the number of candidates doesn’t get smaller; if you have 24 candidates someone could theoretically win with 5%. This could get winnowed down 5 or 6 really strong candidates. The rules of the Democratic Party assign votes proportionally . I can easily see this ending in a brokered convention.

    Speaking of Bob Graham, there he was in the audience, saying hello to Biden.

References:

Live Blogging the First Democratic Debate

8:55

This is starting in a few minutes, I’m going to try to live blog here. I’ll add things as soon as I write them. I’ll try to follow comments on the post if anyone makes any.

In no particular order, tonight’s participants are: Cory Booker, Bill deBlasio, Beto O’Rourke, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Jay Inslee, Tim Ryan and John Delaney. Ten more will debate tomorrow night.

9:03

The first question goes to Elizabeth Warren. The economy isn’t working for those at the bottom. We need structural change.

Klobushar: No on free college, but free community college.

O’Rourke: Calls out Gerrymandering. Won’t commit to a 70% marginal tax rate.

Warren: There’s too much consolidation in industry. That’s bad for the economy and bad for innovation.

9:11

Castro: Calls for passing the ERA and for Equal Pay legislation.

Gabbard is touting her military background.

All of them are about making the economy for everyone.

De Blasio: This is the party of working party; it needs to be strong and progressive.

Delaney: Touts his background as a entrepreneur.

Insley: Proud of standing up for Unions.

I’m missing a lot. This is rapid fire. No time for commentary. Reminds me of taking notes in Complex Analysis.

Ryan: We’re loosing industry in Youngstown, OH. The working class hasn’t gotten a raise since 1980.

Warren: There will be a worldwide need for green technology. We need to develop it in the US and manufacture it here.

Only Warren and DeBlasio in favor of replacing private health insurance.

Klobushar: Trump’s claims about Pharmaceuticals are “All foam and no beer.” That may be the sound bite of the night.

Warren: Health Care is a basic Human Right and I will fight for basic Human Rights. With Sanders on Medicare for all.

O’Rourke: Backing away from Medicare for all. Medicare for folks who don’t have private insurance.

Gabbard: Need to look at the bigger picture. Medicare for all is the way to go and corporations will recognize the savings. Everyone must be covered.

Booker: Health care affects many other things; eg: Education.

Warren: Insurance companies sucked 23 Billion out of the health care system.

9:30

Castro: “I don’t believe in reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice.”

Warren’s getting a lot of attention, but this is unwieldy with even 10 candidates.

Booker and O’Rourke: Hold pharmaceutical companies liable for their role in the opioid crisis.

Castro: We need a Marshall Plan for certain Latin American countries so that they can find safety and employment at home. Many specifics (section 1325). He’s clearly up on this.

DeBlasio: That photo is not America. “The immigrants didn’t do that to you, corporations did that to you.”

9:40

Many ideas on immigration from many participants.

O’Rourke and Castro are talking over each other.

Klobushar: Waxes philosophically on the importance of immigrants.

Ryan: We need to send doctors to care for the immigrant children in detention.

Booker: Stand against for-profit prisons. Again with the “We can’t sacrifice our values.”

Inslee: “We would welcome refugees into Washington state.

Only Booker wouldn’t sign back onto the 2015 Iran Deal. Thinks he could do better.

Klobuchar: Iran Deal was good but imperfect. Trump has given leverage to China and Russia.

Gabbard: Trump and his cabinet have led us to the brink of war. War with Iran would turn into a regional conflict. There would have to be a response to an attack on American troops.

10:00

Now we have Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd as moderators. And technical difficulties. Florida Man fails to stop feedback.

10:05

Again starting with Warren. Is there a role for the federal government for getting guns off the streets?

Warren: Keeping children safe is our responsibility as adults. Universal Background Checks. Actually do research and see what works. Bring data to bare and treat it as a national health emergency. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Ryan: We need trauma care in every school.

O’Rourke: Gun Owners and non gun owners agree the debate should be led by young people.

Klobuchar: These proposals don’t hurt hunters. The Parkland students have moved the debate.

Booker: You should need a license to own a gun. We need bold actions.

If McConnell is still Senate Majority Leader, will he let the next president seat Supreme Court Justices?

Warren: We are a democracy and the will of the people matters. Congress has made things work for the elites. We need to energize people to hold congress accountable.

Inslee: We have to take the filibuster away from Mitch McConnell. I will make climate change the number one priority.

O’Rourke: We need to bring everyone into the decision making on climate change. Lots of specifics.

Castro: As mayor, made SanAntonio’s power plant more green.

Ryan: The Democratic Party has lost all connection to the working class in the mid-west. It must be a working class, blue color party.

Delaney: Put a price on carbon. Carbon pricing works.

Gabbard: Strong statement for LGBTQ rights. There are still those facing discrimination.

Booker: We need a president who will protect LGBTQ Americans.

Klobuchar: We must make sure everyone can vote.

Castro: We also need criminal justice reform. All groups need to be treated the same by law enforcement.

O’Rourke: We need to live our values in Foreign Policy.

DeBlasio: Even in humanitarian crises we should not commit troops without congressional approval.

Ryan: We must remain engaged in places where there are humanitarian crises.

Gabbard: That is not acceptable. We need to have strong reasons to commit troops.

Ryan is not evoking 9/11. The audience didn’t like the exchange.

10:41

O’Rourke: We need to address the potential crimes delineated in the Meuller report. We need to undertake impeachment and indictment after Trump leaves office.

Delaney: No one is above the law and Trump should not be about the law. But this is not the issue the voters care the most about.

10:50 Closing statements now.

Analysis:

This was an interesting debate. I think all the candidates put in pretty strong performances and all of them seemed like credible potential presidents. Nothing really earthshaking; there were lots of policy specifics and the whole thing stayed cordial. And they stayed positive; there were some digs at President Trump, but mostly they presented their policies and solutions.

There was a lot of agreement among the candidates such as that climate change is an existential threat and health care is a human right. There was also a lot of talk about making the economy work for everyone and not just those at the top. That could be a move back toward being the party of FDR rather than the party of Bill Clinton. Then again this is a primary debate; they might be playing to the crowd.

I think Elizabeth Warren may have had the strongest performance, but I like specifics and that’s where she excelled.

Still, there was little to change my mind about most of these candidates. I’m still dubious about some and favorably disposed towards some of the others.

More tomorrow. Same Bat Time. Same Bat Channel.

Photo Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images