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By Al Giordano
Here we go! Finally, all the major candidates on one debate stage. Let’s see about embedding the debate live stream here…
Did that work? Yes, it did. We’re ready! Stay tuned once the debate begins for live commentary and analysis…
8:05 p.m. Julian Castro makes an electability pitch.
8:06 p.m. Amy Klobuchar contrasts her laid back style with Trump’s loud and pushy governance.
8:07 p.m. Strong words from Beto O’Rourke. El Paso shooter was “inspired to kill by our president.”
8:08 p.m. Cory Booker talking about Newark sounds a bit like Mike Dukakis in 1988 talking about “the Massachusetts miracle.”
8:10 p.m. Andrew Yang holds a kind of lottery, offering $1,000 a month to ten families if they enter his contest. Everybody else is raising eyebrows over it. (I thought Yang’s pledge to “do something never done” tonight would be more in the line of, say, vaping some marijuana! Then again, when deciding to give away all that money, maybe he did!)
8:12 p.m. Kamala Harris looks at the camera: “President Trump, we all know you’re watching.” Then she lectures him like a boss. It’s a good look.
8:13 p.m. Bernie Sanders waves his finger. Drink! Then recites hits from his 2016 stump speech.
8:15 p.m. Elizabeth Warren is the first to introduce her story, link it to Houston and Texas, and then tie it to the situation of American families today. Good use of time.
8:17 p.m. Joe Biden brings up the moon shot in Houston and vows to find a cure for cancer. “There’s enormous opportunity once we get rid of Donald Trump.”
8:19 p.m. One of our subscribers commenting backstage writes of today’s debate preview newsletter: “Al, great newsletter! Learned a lot as always. Something I’d like to see you write about is whose supporters go to which candidate when their candidate is no longer viable.”
Thanks for the question (and the compliment)! There’s a link in our morning newsfeed on page one to ranked voting poll results that shows where different candidates supporters go as lower tier ones drop off. The results are really interesting. Here’s the link:
8:24 p.m. Here is an example of Biden getting flustered when he tries to multitask and how the format favors Warren when multitasking has to happen. Joe can handle himself debating one candidate, but two at a time seems a bit much for him, especially when one of them is Warren.
8:26 p.m. Klobuchar: “While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill.” Oh, snap!
8:28 p.m. Wow, Buttigieg is gunning for the Biden lane along with Klobuchar!
8:30 p.m. When I listen to Sanders bark about the correctness of Medicare for All it sounds like an unattractive policy. When I listen to Warren speak in real people terms about it, it sounds great! Again, it’s more how a leader sets the tone than policy minutia that motivates voters.
8:33 p.m. Biden to Sanders: “For a socialist you’ve got a lot more faith in corporate America than I do.” (The one-liners all around are better tonight.)
8:35 p.m. Castro to Biden: “I also worked for President Obama, as you know, and your plan still leaves ten million people uninsured… Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave millions without care… I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not.”
8:38 p.m. Comment backstage from one of our logged-in subscribers: “Harris’ performance so far tonight shows how seriously she looked at her performance in the last debate and how willing she is to change her approach. Being smart about using feedback and making corrections is a character trait I want to see in a leader.”
8:40 p.m. Cory Booker: “We’ve got one shot to defeat Donald Trump as president and we don’t get it by degrading each other.”
8:42 p.m. After O’Rourke speaks of white supremacy and foundational racism in American history including a ringing call for reparations, Castro – who stung him at the June debate – commends him on his response to the El Paso shooting. The Texans are playing nice with each other now!
8:48 p.m. Harris’ response about her prosecutorial career is pitch perfect and spot on. Frankly, the question was ridiculous and showed the questioner doesn’t understand the job of a prosecutor. Now she’s doing it again with the same line of questioning aimed at Klobuchar. Learn about law enforcement, reporters! Sheesh.
8:50 p.m. Speaking of Klobuchar, I heard from a subscriber in Minnesota who is a grassroots party organizer and leader who said there is a feeling among her cohort that if Warren or Harris become president Klobuchar likely gets tapped for a cabinet post, perhaps attorney general or another. That would create a vacancy in statewide Minnesota Democratic politics. You’ll never guess who people there are talking about for filling that vacancy, should it happen! Or maybe you can!
8:54 p.m. I’m glad Booker is pushing Biden and the rest of the field on criminal justice and drug law reform. He’s been at it a long time, knows the issue and has the receipts to exercise this kind of moral leadership. The others simply need to follow his lead on this one.
8:55 p.m. Now that it’s been established that the debate audience doesn’t want to see attacks between their candidates, Elizabeth Warren is just sitting back sipping mint juleps on the porch, it seems! She doesn’t need to do anything else. If nothing tonight changes the dynamics of the race – and in the first hour I haven’t seen anything that has – Warren wins.
8:57 p.m. Wow, everybody declaring love for Beto now that they don’t perceive him as a threat!
8:59 p.m. Bernie’s been quiet too. I think he’s on his smartphone applying for one of those Yang grants!
9 p.m. They go to Beto again. C’mon, man. Say one of those George Carlin seven words you can’t say on TV, Beto!
9:13 p.m. Biden now telling Jorge Ramos “I was only vice president,” as a way of distancing himself from Obama administration policies is against message and now Julian Castro is killing him over it.
9:16 p.m. Warren: “A path to citizenship for our Dreamers, but also for their grandmothers.” And look at how she works the moderators to purchase more speaking time. A pro at debating.
9:18 p.m. Andrew Yang tying his personal family story with immigration policy is the first moment in three debates in which he comes off as likable. More of that please and less of the gimmicks.
9:38 p.m. Kamala Harris’ laugh is the best.
9:43 p.m. All in all this is a two hour commercial for Democrats. Everybody is coming off as head and shoulders above Donald Trump. Even Bernie hasn’t been as annoying as usual! And nobody has had a fatal gaffe (although Biden dancing on both sides of the Obama legacy opens a thread of further inquiry on him going forward).
9:45 p.m. The thing about both Warren and Harris is that, at least to me, they are the easiest to imagine as president, exercising executive power. Their styles are different but both wear command well and reassure that they know how to steer the ship of state.
9:49 p.m. The other consequence of everybody looking good is that the name-recognition edge of Biden and Sanders gets further eroded. There is less influence going forward to the “only one can win” arguments their camps keep pitching. It’s clear most of these people on stage have the right stuff to do it.
9:55 p.m. Bernie calls Venezuela’s Maduro a “vicious tyrant.” Let’s see the cosplay socialists over at Jacobin mag spin that one! You know they will.
9:57 p.m. Castro’s Central American ‘Marshall Plan’ makes perfect sense. A breath of fresh air.
10:10 p.m. Here is Warren again breaking policy down to the level where it hits real people. Doesn’t just call for full child care but also “for every baby.” And the use of the word “baby” instead of “child” is also and example of her real-people-speak.
10:17 p.m. Biden saying he’ll go over his time limit because “that’s what the rest of them do” isn’t backed up by the data. Here is Nate Silver’s word count so far over at 538. Biden’s been using up more oxygen than anyone else already!
C’mon Joe. You might use the word “malarkey” if a rival did that!
10:23 p.m. So, does anyone have any bold predictions on whether or how this debate might move the meter in terms of polling support for specific candidates?
10:27 p.m. Q. Biden, what is your most serious professional setback? A. I’ve never had one. (Hecklers start yelling about something unintelligible.)
Did anybody hear what they were shouting about?
10:30 p.m. Warren isn’t answering the question either. I don’t blame them. Like Jackson Browne sang, “Don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them.” Still, it will be interesting if someone actually does answer the question.
10:34 p.m. Kamala is killing the answer to this question. “Don’t let anybody tell you who you are. You tell them who you are.” She is keeping herself in the game.
10:35 p.m. Buttigieg is making his play for VP now! Setting himself up as the anti-Pence. That’s smart. “Part of how you can win is to know what’s worth more than winning.” Like getting the VP nod?
10:38 p.m. Cory Booker gives an honest answer to the question about setbacks, god bless him.
10:43 p.m. Klobuchar is right when she says changing the tone of the country is even more important than changing the policies. That is Obama 101.
10:49 p.m. I thought the debate accomplished an overall good for the eventual Democratic nominee in that everyone on stage was formidable and attractive. Finally we didn’t have fringe candidates or boring career pols gumming up the message like in previous debates. But I don’t think it radically changed the dynamics going forward, with the possible exception of whether Harris stabilizing will take votes from either Biden or from Warren in upcoming polls. Another question I have is: how many watched this debate compared to previous ones? And also: how will poll numbers among people who saw the debate differ from the overall numbers? But I don’t think the shift will be drastic. We’ll open up the straw poll tomorrow to get the wisdom of the crowd here and once we have actual data I’ll pump out a newsletter with the post-debate analysis.
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