The Debate Begins at 8 p.m. ET on CBS TV, Online & via Apps
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By Al Giordano
We’ll start up the live commentary as the debate begins at 8 p.m. ET.
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7:42 p.m. ET: CBS News just announced that it will be taking an “insta-poll” of debate watching Democratic voters nationwide to measure their impressions, so we should have some data tonight or tomorrow on available on whether and how it moved voter preferences.
7:57 p.m. ET: Buzzfeed’s Henry Gomez has reported that the Pete Buttigieg sent out a donor memo lowering expectations for Super Tuesday’s contests next week. It says: “Our goal is to minimize Sanders’ margins on Super Tuesday and rack up delegates in the March 10 and March 17 contests, which are much more favorable to us.”
On the one hand, it demonstrates self-awareness on the part of the Buttigieg camp. On the other, it signals to supporters who live in states and areas where Buttigieg is not likely to reach 15 percent threshold next Tuesday that they can consider voting strategically for whatever candidate locally has the best shot to “minimize Sanders’ margins there.” But if that’s the intent, it’s an interesting approach.
8:05 p.m. ET: Sanders, responding to the first question, mentions Bloomberg. That gives Bloomberg right to first response.
8:06 p.m. ET: Bloomberg: “Russia is helping you get elected so you will lose to Trump.”
8:07 p.m. ET: Warren: “Progressive ideas are popular ideas… but I think I’d make a better president than (Bernie Sanders).” In fighting Wall Street, “I dug in, I built the coalitions.” She’s hitting his ineffectiveness. “I did the work and then Bernie’s team trashed me for it… Progressives have one shot and we need to spend it with a leader who gets things done.”
8:09 p.m. ET: Buttigieg: “Imagine spending 2020 with Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump.” Tags Sanders as a “chaos” generator. His and Warren just gave examples of the “sideways attack” mentioned in today’s newsletter that works better to dismantle Sanders’ support than frontal attacks so far has.
8:10 p.m. ET: If there is any frontal attack that might be hurting Sanders in South Carolina, it’s Biden’s letting people know that Sanders wanted to primary Obama in 2012. He’s got ads blanketing the airwaves saying the same.
8:14 p.m. ET: Biden: “I’ve worked like the devil for years” to earn the support “of the African-American community… I’m here to earn it.” And, Tip O’Neill style, he asks for its votes.
8:17 p.m. ET: It’s not right that others have spoken multiple times and Amy Klobuchar hasn’t yet gotten a question. Expect her to come in hot.
8:19 p.m. ET: Warren: “Who funded Lindsey Graham’s campaign? It was Mayor Bloomberg. And Lindsey’s not the only right wing senator Mayor Bloomberg has supported,” adding that Bloomberg donated to her first GOP opponent, “and I won anyway.” Big crowd response.
8:20 p.m. ET: Bloomberg responds by mentioning 9/11, of 19 years ago. Watch out for Biden’s 2008 commentary on Rudy Giuliani’s campaign statements only being “a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
8:24 p.m. ET: Bloomberg responds to Warren: “With this senator, enough is never enough.” That’s going to end up on a bumpersticker much like Mitch McConnell’s “nevertheless, she persisted.”
8:28 p.m. ET: Sanders losing his cool is exactly what the rest of the field needs to provoke tonight. More of that, please. It’s a very bad look on his part.
8:29 p.m. ET: Gayle King is really good at this!
8:30 p.m. ET: Buttigieg gets probably the biggest applause line of the night by saying “the presidency isn’t the only office” that matters. Biden then outdoes him.
8:34 p.m. ET: Klobuchar: “If we spend the next four months tearing this party apart, Donald Trump will spend the next four years tearing this country apart.” Zing!
8:36 p.m. ET: Bloomberg and Sanders are both hurting themselves right now. Who will the first pundit be to label it a “murder-suicide pact?”
8:40 p.m. ET: Here are the numbers for which candidates have been getting the most words in as of 8:27 p.m. ET:
8:44 p.m. ET: Joe Biden is having a good debate on the night he needs one while others have had a mixed night so far. If there is a time and place Biden needs to do that, it’s tonight in SC.
8:51 p.m. ET: Following up on that last point, in South Carolina, Biden is the frontrunner! And he’s flying under radar. Nobody lays a glove on him. This is very good for Biden on Saturday. Not clear to me yet if anyone has moved the Super Tuesday voter meter, other than Biden who will do that simply by winning SC.
8:54 p.m. ET: Warren gets it that public schoolteachers vote in Democratic primaries. “My secretary of education will be someone who has taught in public schools.”
8:59 p.m. ET: Bloomberg attempts a self-deprecating joke about last week’s bad debate for him and he falls flat with the audience. It wasn’t just a “dad joke.” It was a granddad joke!
9:03 p.m. ET: I’ll be interested to see the post-debate numbers. In the first hour, Warren clearly won the “get a word in on every topic” primary tonight. But without a particularly newsworthy soundbite or moment as part of it I’m not seeing how it yet moves the needle for her upward. It does please her already convinced voters – and importantly, donors – though.
9:07 p.m. ET: Bernie talking about his having passed legislation is an understandable response to others hitting him on being ineffective, but it takes him off his message. He doesn’t wear “frontrunner” well because it robs him of his insurgency. And I don’t think he is even self-aware enough to know this right now, but his advisors are screaming at the TV, “GET BACK ON MESSAGE!”
9:12 p.m. ET: Bloomberg is so clueless on the marijuana question. “Expunging the records” is about mostly sellers, not users. There go more of his college-educated voters, and that’s good for Warren.
9:14 p.m. ET: Finally we have someone on stage who shows they can manage an unruly congress! Gayle King for President!
9:18 p.m. ET: Buttigieg has rebounded in speaking time:
(On that previous point I should mention that Klobuchar came from farther behind in the words-spoken primary to get into the top tier tonight.)
9:25 p.m. ET: Warren is taking some Twitter heat for the suggestion she is not targeting Sanders enough. The data (these graphs come from 538) shows the opposite:
9:30 p.m. ET: Three-quarters into this thing, Rakich is calling it (he was early to call the last one for Warren and turned out to be right). He says Biden and Warren are the ones who advanced themselves tonight. I feel pretty certain that Biden has. I’d like to see the post-debate data to see if that’s the case with Warren – except for the important factor that Bloomberg continues to do badly especially with college educated voters and that helps Warren, so maybe that’s factored into Rakich’s view.
9:33 p.m. ET: Bernie is not in much shape in SC this week to try and hide behind Barack Obama. He’s going to get singed for that by a Chicago surrogate tomorrow, is my guess.
9:35 p.m. ET: Buttigieg gets one of the big soundbites of the night, about Trump being nostalgic for the ’50s and Sanders nostalgic for the ’60s. That’ll leave a mark because it’s true.
9:36 p.m. ET: Pete is dismantling Bernie here!
9:45 p.m. ET: I hate wading into the third-rail of Israel-Palestine policy and rarely do it. I do think Warren hit on a point the others who spoke don’t seem to get: The embassy of any country goes to the capital of that country as decided by that country. “It is not ours to do” is the exact right answer on that.
9:48 p.m. ET: Biden is scoring points tonight by sticking to the debate rules and then reminding everybody that he is doing so (at least better than the others). That tells, not just says, “presidential.” I think Joe has won this debate barring any faux pas in the final minutes.
9:53 p.m. ET: The Sanders partisans are on social media saying that Bernie getting booed a lot is proof of a conspiracy that Biden filled the debate audience with plants. Um, no. It’s because South Carolina Democrats are mostly black people!
9:58 p.m. ET: I’ll call it. Biden is going to win the South Carolina primary.
1o:01 p.m. ET: While Biden winning SC, if my impressions tonight prove correct, he also wins more votes three days later on Super Tuesday, especially among voters that Bloomberg and Steyer had hoped for. In terms of the debate’s impact on Super Tuesday that’s a big one, but Bloomberg and Sanders having just terrible debates, and Warren holding her own, also help her. Mayor Pete probably held on to his existing support tonight, but that’s not that big a cohort in South Carolina or in much of Super Tuesday. Amy Klobuchar did well – she always does – but did she move the meter? I doubt it. Voters are going to start winnowing the field in the next week. The biggest loser tonight? The “Bernie is inevitable” punditry.
10:09 p.m. ET: I switched over to CNN after the debate. Van Jones, who has carried water for Sanders after every other debate so far, is slamming Sanders for his answers about foreign left-wing states, saying he knew the question was coming and wasn’t ready for it. And then reinforces Buttigieg’s nostalgia argument. If Bernie’s lost Van Jones tonight, wow.
10:37 p.m. ET: Well, I guess I called this one earlier in this thread!
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