Last night, seven candidates took the stage in New Hampshire to joust before next Tuesday’s primary (where hopefully the votes will be counted quickly and accurately, unlike in Iowa). Showing my usual streak of political masochism, I watched the entire debate; after tossing and turning in the night, here’s my take on how the candidates performed.
Joe Biden: Biden seems to be fading fast. He came in fourth in Iowa and is slipping in the New Hampshire polls. In this debate, he came across as angry but unfocused. He has a “Get off my lawn!” vibe. Biden’s never done well as a candidate for the presidency (see 1988 and plagiarism), and this time is no different.
Mayor Pete: Buttigieg talks a lot but says very little. To me, he panders to the audience while simultaneously being disingenuous. (I was waiting for someone to ask, “Where’s the beef?” when he stopped gabbing.) For a politician, these are marketable skills, but Democrats are going to need a lot more than this to defeat Trump.
Amy Klobuchar: She had a very good night. Especially strong was her closing statement. But another way of putting this is that she was well coached and well prepared. Perhaps she’ll pull moderate votes from Mayor Pete, which would only be a good thing.
Bernie Sanders: Always passionate, always on message, Bernie had a solid night. But Bernie’s personal warmth doesn’t translate well in these debates.
Tom Steyer: Steyer had a good night as well, positioning himself for future contests in Nevada and South Carolina. I’m warming to Steyer because I think he’ll take votes from Mike Bloomberg.
Elizabeth Warren: The more you listen to Warren, the more you realize “I have a plan for that” is not a compelling answer. Warren has a habit of starting her replies with, “So, look …” She proceeds to lecture the audience with a “smartest person in the room” vibe. Lord knows we need competence in the White House, but I don’t think she’s connecting well enough with voters.
Andrew Yang: It was great to see Yang back on stage, since he tackles questions from a different angle than his rivals. Still, he didn’t get much time to speak, and it’s hard to see him staying in the race for much longer.
Who wasn’t on the stage?
Mike Bloomberg: The $60 billion dollar man, Bloomberg is testing whether the presidency can be bought. You’ve heard of the golden rule, as in he who has the money makes the rules, so who knows?
Tulsi Gabbard: Tulsi is staking everything on New Hampshire, where she’s held more town halls than any other candidate. Will her ground game pay dividends? Due to the high number of registered independents in NH, she has a chance to make an impression.
As usual, questions from the mainstream media, in this case ABC News, were framed to put progressives on the defensive. Of course, no questions were asked about runaway military budgets, the widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else, stagnant wages and personal bankruptcies, gun deaths and mass shootings, or climate change. Even racial issues were ignored until the last third of the debate. As ever, consent was manufactured by keeping topics and answers within narrow boundaries approved by the establishment. And so it goes …