By Al Giordano
Tonight’s debate begins at 8 p.m. ET on CNN. If you don’t have cable TV you have multiple options to watch it: Cnn.com will drop the firewall tonight and tomorrow so people can watch for free. It can also be watched on the CNN app for Android or iOS devices, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast and Android TV, again with no need to authenticate a cable description on these nights. Many streaming services like Sling, Hulu, Roku, YouTube, Playstation and DirectTV also offer CNN streaming but those are paid services.
Or you can simply watch it here, and enjoy the running commentary!
Here’s the link for CNN’s Live Stream (alas, there doesn’t seem to be a way to embed it): https://www.cnn.com/specials/live-video-0
5:15 p.m. ET: Will We See an Emboldened Beto O’Rourke Tonight?
I wrote extensively yesterday about the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders dynamics for tonight. Before the debate starts in less than three hours I want to give some extra consideration to three next-tier candidates: Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, each of whom is looking for a breakout moment on tonight’s stage.
Beto O’Rourke had a very bad first debate and right after Julian Castro had pummeled him over a detail of immigration policy I wondered aloud if it would really hurt him. Well, it did in terms of fundraising and momentum, and helped Castro in fundraising. But a new poll out of Texas brings very good news for Beto. Apparently he’s unscathed in his home state of Texas.
According to the University of Texas Tyler Center for Opinion Research its July 24th to 27th survey of 1,414 Texan adults shows the following preferences for president among those who say they’ll vote in the Democratic primary: O’Rourke 38 percent, Biden 19 percent, Sanders 13 percent, Warren 9 percent, and Harris 8 percent. Texan Julian Castro despite his good performance in the last debate is stuck at 2.4 percent.
What does that data tell us? It reminds us that social media is not the electorate and O’Rourke is still well positioned to get the lion’s share of the 262 delegates from the Lone Star state. That is going to embolden him going into tonight’s debate and allow him a better shot at getting his mojo back. As I’ve said many times, he is uniquely talented among these candidates and capable of carving out a breakthrough moment for himself. I don’t know what that could be but he’s crafty and skilled.
It also polled head to head match-ups of the entire Texas electorate of each Democratic candidate versus Donald Trump. Beto O’Rourke’s numbers were through the roof. O’Rourke beats Trump by almost 12 points, with 48.8 percent to just 37.6 percent for Trump. Warren – the gal from Oklahoma – does the next best against Trump in Texas with 40.7 percent to Trump’s 38.2 percent. Kamala Harris has the next best numbers garnering 39.8 percent to 38.5 percent for Trump. Bernie Sanders also narrowly edges out Trump: 39.2 percent to 37.3 percent.
Who doesn’t get better results in this poll than Trump? Mr. “Electable” Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Trump beats Biden narrowly: 37.1 percent to 36.9 percent, and Trump defeats Buttigieg handily: 38.6 percent to 33 percent.
Among which voters does Beto O’Rourke do so much better against Trump than other Democrats. The data here is clear: It’s among Independent voters. Beto gets 60.4 percent of them! Trump only gets 11.9 percent (so there’s still almost 30 percent of them up for grabs, too. Warren and Harris also do very well with Independents in Texas: 56.7 percent and 55.9 percent respectively and Trump still hovering around 11 percent. Interestingly Buttigieg does the next best among Indies with 49.9 percent to just 10 percent for Trump. It’s among Democrats where 40 percent of the Texans don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. That’s a solvable problem.
The real disaster in these cross-tabs is for Biden and Sanders: both are doing terribly among Independent voters that are predisposed to support other potential Democratic nominees. Only 26.9 percent of Indies support Biden and only 29.5 percent would back Sanders vs Trump. Neither can blame lack of name recognition on it. That data piece is especially devastating for Sanders because he won among Independents in the Democratic primaries in 2016 but he’s used goods to them now. Voters want a fresh face. This is a real thing that will drive the contest going forward.
So Beto’s going to take the stage tonight feeling vindicated from the last debate’s setbacks and raring to go. I look forward to seeing it. I root for him just like I root for various of the others.
Also interesting, the survey asks if O’Rourke and Castro should run for US Senate against GOP Senator John Cornyn in 2020. Among Texan Democrats 73 percent want O’Rourke to run against Cornyn while only 25 percent want him to drop out of the presidential race. Regarding Castro, 56 percent want him to challenge Cornyn but only 21 percent want him to drop out of the presidential race. Each has a Plan B ready to go with a receptive Texan base. They want their Texan candidates to stay in the national race but would embrace them if they came home to rock and roll.
This poll makes the case not just for Beto O’Rourke to stay in the presidential race until Texas votes on Super Tuesday (in which case at minimum he could walk into a potentially brokered convention with a significant bargaining power) but also they make the case for O’Rourke as a vice presidential nominee who could not just put Texas in play but appeal to Independent voters nationwide.
The O’Rourke campaign sent this memo out today announcing it will show off its candidate’s appeal to Independents tomorrow riding off the debate:
Following night one of the Democratic presidential debates in Detroit, Beto will travel to Macomb County, Michigan on Wednesday to join local voters for lunch and a discussion about the issues impacting their communities.
For two decades, Macomb has been one of the nation’s most reliably independent counties. Voters delivered wins for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, while President Trump won Macomb County by 12 percentage points in 2016. Beto’s trip to Macomb County underscores his commitment to building a movement that includes all of us－regardless of who we voted for in the previous election－to take on some of the greatest challenges our nation has ever faced.
If you’re a Beto O’Rourke supporter, or one who generally wishes him well, this should be very exciting. He wasn’t hurt by the first debate in Texas where it could have hurt him worst. And he’s still in the game. Don’t be surprised if he’s on fire tonight.
7:08 p.m. ET: That version of America the Beautiful the chorus is singing right now on CNN is one of the best arrangements I’ve ever heard of it!
7:30 p.m. ET: Is Pete Buttigieg a Potential Target for Amy Klobuchar Tonight?
A recent Buzzfeed story, Mayor Pete is Silicon Valley’s Hottest New Startup, shows a potentially dangerous undertow for Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy going forward. Here’s a key excerpt:
Springing from the milieu that produced Facebook (he was its 287th user), Buttigieg seems to have retained his starry-eyed view of tech’s potential to change the world. As mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he sought investment from technology firms and gushed about the potential for tech to change residents’ lives. An alum of McKinsey & Company with an optimistic mien and unquestioned brainpower, Buttigieg comes across like an idealized version of how the tech industry sees itself. So it’s not surprising that he happily hosted Mark Zuckerberg’s definitely-not-a-presidential-trial-balloon tour in South Bend in 2017, months after the Cambridge Analytica scandal had broken.
But since then, technology’s Big Four have faced wrath from lawmakers on both sides. For years, their public gestures of social progressivism, combined with quiet but voluminous donations to lawmakers and think tanks, buoyed their images and helped them grow unchecked.
Not only does this make Mayor Pete vulnerable to a tough attack over whether he can stand up to cyber-hacking of US elections, a major issue this coming year, but it creates a suspicious cloud around whether as president he would act on online privacy and bullying issues that are increasingly irritating the populace.
This could indeed be a fruitful line of attack by Beto O’Rourke. After all, Buttigieg’s rise in the polls is no small part of what stalled O’Rourke’s initial momentum.
But there’s another candidate on stage tonight that is very tech savvy and already loaded up on policy proposals to get Silicon Valley under control and that’s Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Earlier this year, Klobuchar layed out her platform. It was reported by Vox in this story: Amy Klobuchar Enters 2020 Race Ready to Take on Big Tech: The Issue Sets Her Apart in a Field Focused on Progressive Ideals. Here are some quotes from it:
“We need to put some digital rules into law when it comes to people’s privacy. For too long the big tech companies have been telling you ‘Don’t worry! We’ve got your back!’ while your identities are being stolen and your data is mined,” she said during her launch on Sunday. “Our laws need to be as sophisticated as the people who are breaking them.”
She’s scrutinized Facebook, Google, and Twitter as they’ve been forced to explain their policies on privacy and political advertising. She wants to make it harder for big companies to buy or merge with smaller companies. And while other Democrats have worked on these issues, too — including Sens. Kamala Harris (CA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Cory Booker (NJ) — Klobuchar has introduced or co-sponsored nearly twice as many bills on these subjects in the past few years than any other Democrat currently in the race (or likely to get in).
Conversations with more than a dozen members of Congress, current and former agency officials, tech industry insiders, and antitrust experts showed that she’s considered an expert in tech policy and a pragmatist by even her political and policy adversaries.
If anyone – a candidate or a moderator – questions Buttigieg on his Silicon Valley funding they may start the fight but Klobuchar is well armed to finish it. She’s knows her stuff on tech like nobody else on that stage. And she’s a former prosecutor, like Kamala Harris, so any cross-examination could prove to be the breakout moment of the night. If you’re Amy Klobuchar, fighting Buttigieg for the role of the “Midwest candidate” here’s your big shot at becoming the true Great Lakes candidate, right here in Michigan.
7:40 p.m. ET: DNC Chair Tom Perez is speaking. He’d be a more exciting candidate than most of the people on that stage tonight!
7:42 p.m. ET: He’s still going! Draft Perez!
7:58 p.m. ET: Deb Haaland’s endorsement of Warren today was what Biden might call a “BFD,” as it helps put to rest the early negatives that claimed Warren was problematic for indigenous peoples. Well, she’s got the backing of the highest elected Native American in the country now:
8:05 p.m. ET: Yo, lefties! Elizabeth is wearing red and black! And so is Amy! Why won’t Bernie embrace our colors? Look at that centrist suit he’s got on! He looks like a banker!
8:06 p.m. ET: Even Beto has a red tie on.
8:14 p.m. ET: Steve Bullock has a little of Bill Clinton in him. Interesting.
8:15 p.m. ET: Marianne Williamson’s somewhat British accent talking about the American Revolution for independence from Britain is classic Marianne Williamson.
8:16 p.m. ET: John Delaney is like the awkward uncle version of Steve Bullock, whose intro was quite good I thought.
8:20 p.m. ET: The distance between John Hickenlooper’s amateur league pitch and Amy Klobuchar’s major league one is very wide.
8:23 p.m. ET: Oooooh, Elizabeth throwing shade on Bernie’s behavior in 2016 and he won’t even notice. Nicely done.
8:24 p.m. ET: That’s right Bernie, go right after Obamacare with your opening line. In Detroit. Don’t ever change, Bernie.
8:26 p.m. ET: Delaney is thrilled because his name was in the question and therefore he’ll get a rebuttal.
8:28 p.m. ET: The wagging finger shows itself. Drink!
8:29 p.m. ET: Elizabeth Warren is just leagues above both of these guys as a communicator.
8:30 p.m. ET: The boys are talking policy wonk-speak and Elizabeth is telling a story about Ady. And it’s driving Jake Tapper crazy. Because he doesn’t know how to tell a story and he’s a frickin’ journalist.
8:34 p.m. ET: The #DemDebate hastag on Twitter is all Warren all the time. She’s winning the Twitter primary tonight. Delaney and Bullock are getting dragged. Almost nobody is even mentioning Sanders. He’s fading away like one of those polaroid shots in Back to the Future.
8:35 p.m. ET: Tapper tries to get Amy to fight with Elizabeth. She parries and hits Bernie instead. Zing!
8:36 p.m. ET: Bernie is wagging his finger at Amy. And recycling Warren’s material on “Republican talking point.” And is an old man yelling at clouds. And now Elizabeth brings it back to reality. This debate is already a game changer.
8:39 p.m. ET: If you ask anybody right now “which of these ten do you want in your corner in a fight” I think the answer will be almost unanimous. Amirite?
7:40 p.m. ET: Buttigieg had a great moment there.
8:49 p.m. ET: Warren talking about immigration and border policy cuts through the bullshit for the umpteenth time tonight. Cutting through the bullshit is kind of becoming her brand.
8:52 p.m. ET: Bullock reveals he doesn’t really understand or hasn’t bothered to look in to the details of immigration policy. He needs to sit down.
8:54 p.m. ET: Tim Ryan can take a seat, too. Shameful these guys’ rhetoric about immigrants.
8:56 p.m. ET: Marianne Williamson talking about health care semantics when asked about immigration is the whitest thing yet tonight.
9:07 p.m. ET: The gun discussion drew very little contrast. I was critical of the NBC moderators but the CNN crew is so far worse. Why don’t they have Anderson Cooper, Van Jones and Gloria Berger up there instead of these tone deaf windbags?
9:17 p.m. ET: After ten minutes of noise, Elizabeth gets to do an “electability” pitch and once again “cuts through the bullshit” is the new “persisted” and “I have a plan.”
9:22 p.m. ET: Klobuchar is taking swathes of the center lane out from under the others looking to pick up what many think Biden will spill. I won’t be surprised if she gets a tick up in polls at Biden and Buttigieg’s expense after tonight.
9:33 p.m. ET: Beto so far is the most coherent on climate change and how to beat it. Like Amy and Elizabeth he talks like a real person.
9:48 p.m. ET: That’s the second time Sanders looked toward Warren’s direction and said, in a tone of someone feeling aggrieved, “I also have a plan.” I enjoyed that so much. Somebody has free rent in his head! It’s kind of a poker tell that he finally for the first time tonight realized that someone else is drinking his milkshake.
9:58 p.m. ET: This is my only critique of Warren. She’s already won the debate so she doesn’t need to be so aggressive in trying to speak. That said, it worked for her to get the last word in, but that was luck. And luck does play a role!
10:05 p.m. ET: Gotta hand it to Delaney. He’s somehow carved out more talking time than some of the candidates in higher tiers than him just by being more aggressive and he’s got some skills at that even though they make him seem annoying. We won’t likely see him in the next debate so I guess this is his swan song.
10:12 p.m. ET: As one without a college degree, like many citizens, Klobuchar’s words on how the “forgive all college debt” proposal helps too many already with wealth and privilege speaks to me. I think it speaks to every other American without a degree and without amendment hands Trump a campaign issue.
10:14 p.m. ET: Dear lord. This “meet with dictators” canard was settled 12 years ago at the August debate in 2007 when Barack Obama schooled Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden on it! Do people have no historic memory? Another point for Klobuchar.
10:22 p.m. ET: Oh god, Warren’s side eye on Bullock over first use of nuclear weapons was priceless. And she showed hard core foreign policy “war and peace” chops there, something a lot of people haven’t yet seen about her.
10:24 p.m. ET: That wagging finger does have a mind of its own!
10:25 p.m. ET: Somebody in the Warren campaign really needs to have a talk with the candidate and get it through that “you don’t have to speak on every issue raised.” It’s unbecoming of her frontrunner position to be trying to sandwich a word in on every damn issue raised. She was so good at standing back in the last debate. I don’t why it’s different this time.
10:29 p.m. ET: Steve Bullock’s closing statement is sort of like if Terry McAuliffe was from Mayberry RFD.
10:30 p.m. ET: This is I hope the last I have to listen to Williamson in a long time. Bye, Felicia!
10:33 p.m. ET: Delaney. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
10:34 p.m. ET: Ryan: What Delaney snored. (It really is time to trim the debate stage roster.)
10:35 p.m. ET: John Hicken-who is speaking. Thank you for playing, contestant.
10:36 p.m. ET: Klobuchar gunning for the center lane like a sniper!
10:37 p.m. ET: O’Rourke: “Those 38 Electoral College votes in Texas are now in play, and I can win them.” That’s as good an “electability” argument as anyone else is making. Might take a bite out of Biden’s hide.
10:39 p.m. ET: Speaking strictly for me, I just don’t get Mayor Pete, and I try, I really try.
10:41 p.m. ET: Warren talks about Native American reservations. Talk about taking a negative and marketing it into a strength! And guts. “Big structural change.” She’s writing the narrative of this campaign more than anyone on either stage so far.
10:43 p.m. ET: And capping off the night, Bernie leads us all in one of his singles from 2016.
10:45 p.m. ET: All in all, a pretty good debate, in spite of the dial tones who were moderators, and the wing nuts on the far ends of the stage.
11 p.m. ET: A little unwitting slip of news tonight from Bernie Sanders in his post-debate interview. He said he has now gotten “two million donations” averaging “$19 apiece.” (That includes repeat donations from the same donors: it doesn’t mean two million donors.) But here’s the tell. In Q1 he raised $16 million (not including transfers from other accounts). In Q2 he raised $18 million (not including more transfers). That’s $34 million. Two million times $19 = $38 million. So he’s only raised $4 million so far this month not counting tonight and tomorrow’s take. I bet Warren raises slightly more for July.
11:27 p.m. ET: Here are the talking time totals for each candidate tonight. I’m shocked that Delaney and Williamson didn’t get more time because they definitely seemed to get too much time…
11:35 p.m. ET: Anderson Cooper is interviewing Marianne Williamson (I think being Gloria Vanderbilt’s son prepared him for this) right now and I finally realized how Marianne Williamson exists: It’s like Janis Joplin had a child with C3P0. I find her use of African-American Baptist minister vernacular in a faux-British accent (think Star Lord imitating Thor in Endgame) really tiresome. But that’s how she wowed Hollywood and got their money all those years, I guess.
11:53 p.m. ET: Anderson interviewing Beto right now and O’Rourke is returning to his roots: I can win Texas, this poll “if we’re talking about polls” shows it. That’s not chopped liver in terms of the “electability” factor. It’s right at ground zero of what Democratic voters want. And it works as a VP argument too. Anderson announces he’ll interview Elizabeth Warren after the break.
12:02 a.m. ET: Elizabeth Warren is schooling Anderson Cooper – a one-percenter from birth – by praising President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and saying we need to protect it and expand on it. He still doesn’t quite get it but nor does he try to debate her. He knows it’s above his pay grade.
12:09 a.m. ET: Warren now schooling Axelrod. “This is a democracy, David. If the people are for it it’s doable.”
12:10 a.m. ET: Now she’s schooling Van Jones on Constitutional Law. This is the best cable TV I’ve seen in ages.
12:11 a.m. ET: CNN pundits go to school! Not one of them can keep up with her. And they like being schooled. Ladies and gentlemen, if you are watching this, do you see what just happened there?
12:12 a.m. ET: Warren: “David, Obamacare was not supported at the beginning. We have to build support for these things like he did.”
12:15 a.m. ET: Madame President! Best TV I’ve seen ever.
12:17 a.m. ET: “This is what optimism is about. It’s about laying out what we believe, making the case for it, and building a movement for it.” Mic drop.
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