Most of the first hour of last night’s debate consisted of each candidate taking a shit on Michael Bloomberg, and Elizabeth Warren aiming a shit cannon at him. I’ve watched a lot of debates, and I’ve never seen someone own a debate like Warren. She absolutely devastated Bloomberg in the exchange on non-disclosure agreements. When Warren — who was appropriately aggressive in demanding talk time — wasn’t speaking, one of the other candidates chipped in and threw a shot at Bloomberg. She looked strong, she looked smart, she was nimble, and she could beat Trump. A bravura performance.
As anyone could have predicted, Bloomberg was weak for the first hour because he hadn’t been debating on national TV for a year. He also came off, as predicted, like an out-of-touch plutocrat at times. His only moments of strength were when he was making technocratic points on areas of policy that he’s focused on, like climate change. “I am a manager,” the start of his closing pitch, couldn’t motivate a dog to walk across the kitchen floor to pick up a steak. His massive ability to advertise might stitch up some of the damage inflicted on him last night, but his electability argument took a big hit with the legitimate criticisms on stop-and-frisk, the mortgage crisis, and his issues with women. Referring to Warren as “the Senator standing next to me” was a moment where he took a massive hammer and drove home the nail that, despite his protests to the contrary, he has a big problem with women.
Klobuchar wasn’t as good as she was in New Hampshire. She seemed a little shaken in the first hour, and in the second hour, her pure, white-hot hatred for Pete was on full display, and the longest exchange they had didn’t do either of them any favors. However, it was some good TV, and Pete is lucky that she didn’t have a stapler on her podium. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a good moment when the Telemundo moderator asked her about forgetting the President of Mexico’s name, and that moderator had a good follow-up on Latin American policy that wasn’t kind to her, either.
Pete didn’t miss an opportunity to criticize anyone on the stage, to a fault. He often pivoted at the end of a response to criticize someone else. No nit was too small to pick for Pete, and I thought Warren made him look small when she defended Klobuchar for forgetting AMLO’s name after he had gloated over remembering it. He also continues to rely on platitudes. In his defense, as someone who has a message of unity and being an alternative to divisive politics, it’s hard to look good in the Bloomberg pile on that had to happen last night.
Bernie took a few more hits than he did in New Hampshire, but I don’t know if they did any real damage. One of the issues with attacking Sanders is that he’s held the same positions since Jesus was a baby, so when he gets attacked, he has a ready answer. What else is there to say about a completely known quantity? He profited from everyone’s desire to dunk on Bloomberg, because in another debate, they’d be dunking on him. It looked like Jane went to the Burligton Costco and got him a new shirt and tie after reading my assessment that he was dressed like a 1980’s business traveler in the last debate.
Biden was weaker than the last debate. He suffers from the need to pack 10 things into a period of time that can only accommodate 5. I don’t think I’m talking about his stuttering – I’m talking about him starting a sentence, and then driving off to make a point that may or may not be related, then going back to the topic at hand, then going somewhere else. He made a lot of statements about all the foreign leaders he knows, which I think is weak sauce. There were very few “Good Old Joe Biden” moments.
I realize this is sounding a bit like movie criticism, but with the combination of the need of the candidates to tamp down Bloomberg, and the “hey let’s you and you fight” questions from the (mostly, and predictably) awful moderators, it was a pretty fighty and shouty affair. If you haven’t watched it, I can’t really over-emphasize how Warren took over. In the last debate, she was really good at staying on message, and articulating her programs. In this debate, she wasn’t as concerned about staying on message. Instead, she showed us that she was the best lawyer on the stage – she was on message where appropriate, and attacked when necessary. I thought her run down of why she could win rather than every other candidate was well done. She was gracious while Pete was petty. She was confident and composed while Klobuchar seemed a little shaken. She was coherent and focused while Biden rambled. She was a capitalist while Bernie was defending socialism. She was deft while Bloomberg was clumsy. I hope it does her some good, because she deserves it.