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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes – Vegas Debate Edition

At The Daily Beast, Justin Baragona saw it this way: “Moments after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was absolutely savaged by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in his first Democratic presidential primary debate on Wednesday night, CNN political commentator Van Jones didn’t pull back any punches in his description of the billionaire’s performance….“Listen, this was a disaster for Bloomberg,” Jones exclaimed during CNN’s post-debate coverage. “Bloomberg went in as the Titanic — billion-dollar-machine Titanic. Titanic, meet iceberg Elizabeth Warren.”…Jones went on to say that despite the stop-and-frisk issue, which Warren also hit Bloomberg on at the debate, a lot of African-American voters were “placing great hope” and “trying to move over” to the ex-mayor but he showed “he just wasn’t ready.”…“He was tone-deaf on issue after issue, and the reason why — he’s not been in those living rooms, he hasn’t been doing those town halls,” the former Obama adviser noted.”

Julia Manchester observes at The Hill: “Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg swiped at progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in his opening comments at Wednesday’s Democratic debate, saying primary voters don’t want the contest to come down to “one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.”…“Most Americans don’t see where they fit if they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money should be the root of all power,” the former South Bend, Ind., mayor said at the forum, hosted by NBC News, in Las Vegas. …”Let’s put forward someone who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in an industrial, midwestern city. Let’s put forth someone who is actually a Democrat,” he continued.”

At Politico, John F. Harris notes one of Mayor Buttigieg’s more impressive responses: “We’ve got to wake up as a party,” Buttigieg implored. “We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage. And most Americans don’t see where they fit if they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power.”

But The Guardian’s Arwa Mahdawi was less impressed: “Pete Buttigieg’s performance was also noteworthy. The mayor may be able to read Norwegian but he can’t seem to read a room. Buttigieg’s constant attacks on Amy Klobuchar made him look like a mansplaining bully…“Mayo Pete” has been gliding through this election but I wouldn’t be surprised if more people start to find his patronizing demeanour a little hard to stomach.”

“Holy moly — what a debate for the Massachusetts senator. From the jump, Warren seemed to understand that she desperately needed a spark in the race. And she came out fighting — mostly against Bloomberg. “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” Warren said moments into the debate. “A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.” But that wasn’t even the most savage hit Warren scored on Bloomberg! That came later, when she absolutely destroyed his equivocation on whether he would release women who had worked for his company from non-disclosure agreements they had signed. It was a takedown — aided by Bloomberg’s inability to mitigate the damage — that you rarely see at this level of politics. If debates matter, Warren should overperform her current polls in Nevada.” – from Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics.

Also at The Guardian, Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Cullen also credits Warren with a great debate performance, and notes thart she “said Pete Buttigieg’s healthcare plans boiled down to a Power Point presentation and that Amy Klobuchar’s could fit on a postage stamp [actually, she said “post-it note”]. Mike Bloomberg was awful. Klobuchar was on the defensive. And the elephant in the room, Bernie Sanders, was able to point out that Medicare for All will actually save $450bn – and universal healthcare is what put him at the front of the pack in the first place. He did not appear to lose stride. Warren saw Klobuchar’s breakthrough in the New Hampshire debate. She spared no one, and savaged Bloomberg. Everyone was throwing punches but nobody hit as hard as Warren. With Super Tuesday less than two weeks away, this raucous debate was a clincher, and Warren might have saved her struggling campaign with direct appeals to minority women so important in the Nevada caususes. Joe Biden, not so much.”

If you were wondering what the protesters were screaming when Biden began responding, Time Magazine’s Madeline Carlisle reports: “As former Vice President Joe Biden prepared his closing statement at the Nevada Democratic primary debate on Wednesday night, protesters began to yell “You deported 3 million people.”…The crowed booed as protested continued to yell, and Biden began speaking again once they left the room…The undetermined number of protesters seem to be referring to to Biden’s role in the Obama administration, which deported over 3 million people…The immigrant rights organization the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, took credit for the protest on social media…“BREAKING: We are interrupting @JoeBiden at the #DemDebate chanting #DontLookAway and #NoKidsInCages. We need a Democratic candidate to adopt the #MigrantJusticePlatform and commit themselves to improve the lives of migrants and refugees!” they tweeted.”

Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight saw a good night for Biden: “Biden had a good debate. Like an actual good debate, not just a relatively OK one compared to his many mediocre showings this cycle. He came into tonight needing a good performance that could produce positive headlines, and he might have done that. Thing is, I wonder if Warren’s strong showing will get the “comeback” treatment more so than Biden’s. She was involved in a number of potentially viral moments, going after Bloomberg as well as other candidates, that might have resonated more. So Biden probably did what he needed to, and now it’s just a question of how things are portrayed going forward…I liked Nathaniel’s take that Bloomberg may be making Biden look more liberal to viewers. Bloomberg is doing the dirty work of attacking Sanders from the right, so Biden doesn’t need to fill that role, which may be freeing for him. For the most part, Biden has continued to look quite sharp tonight. He fumbled a bit on the question about climate change policies, but he was arguably smart later when he didn’t take the bait when Lester Holt asked him what he thought about “socialist candidates.” Instead, he talked about his background as “the poorest man in Congress” and the fact that he thought taxes should be higher on people like Bloomberg and that, in his classic way of saying it, “the middle class is getting killed.”

As for the immediate impact of the debate, James Pindell writes at The Boston Globe: “One weird thing about this NBC/MSNBC/Nevada Independent debate was it took place after four days of early voting had already ended, which meant that an estimated 70,000 people had already participated in the state’s Democratic caucuses. For context, in 2016, when there was no early voting, an estimated 84,000 people caucused, so a candidate doing well or flopping won’t impact a huge chunk of voters…A second weird thing about this debate: Bloomberg isn’t even on a ballot for another two weeks.” The question arises, will similar attacks against Bloomberg seem stale in his next debate?

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes – Vegas Debate Edition

  1. Candace on

    It may have been a bit overkill at times but I think Warren’s debate performance may help reduce the number of candidates in this. It could help her too.
    I really like Elizabeth Warren’s innovative problem solving abilities, brain power and overall decency – but if she, Sanders or Buttigieg are chosen to run against Trump, like others have said, I think there’s a higher chance of losing the House and forget the Senate. There’s also the situation of a Warren or Sanders presidency costing Democrats a Senate seat

    I’m most concerned though about whats going to happen on the ground in this country when its one D candidate vs Trump – whether he wins or loses. If the winner turns out to be controversial like those three are that will make it much easier for Trump and the GOP to turn their supporters against her/him and those who didn’t vote for him.

    “Trump Is Going to Cheat’
    How should Democrats fight against a president who has no moral or legal compass?


    I think Biden is uniquely qualified personally and professionally to have the best chance of leading us out of either win or lose situation. His intelligence, experience and decency is a very compelling and necessary alternative to what Trump is and has given us. Additionally those strengths will be crucial for getting through what will very likely be an assortment of crisis’ next year.
    (a new president Pete would be a disaster)
    Add to that we currently have an affordability crisis, homelessness opioid addiction problems, environmental disasters, mass shootings and now this virus coming.
    The way Biden connects with people going through difficult times is needed right now.
    I would still like Elizabeth Warren in there somehow though. A combination of the two would be good. Some kind of transporter accident possibly?? ??


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