Friday, December 20, 2019

Another Debate

Last night, the PBS News Hour and Politico hosted yet another Democratic presidential primary debate, the final such debate of 2019. (There will be another debate - appropriately in Iowa - in January shortly before the first actual votes are cast at the Iowa caucuses.) To qualify for this round, candidates had to reach 4% in four early-state or national polls or 6% in two early-state polls between mid-October and mid-December. The seven who qualified for this debate were Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.

The smaller number of candidates on stage certainly improved the experience - probably for the candidates and certainly for the audience. Soon enough the voters will tell us if those who have survived so far are the ones who should have survived. Certainly the quality of both the questions asked and the candidates' answers were on balance better than in previous debates. Probably the candidates themselves have gotten better, hence their generally better answers. (Notably, Biden seemed much better on stage than in the previous debates.)

Predictably, PBS JudyWoodruff's first question concerned impeachment, but then she and the other questioners moved on to other subjects - none of that earlier nonsense of spending the first half hour or more on health care!

Actually the impeachment question was a good one - why so many don't agree with impeachment and what candidates can say or do to persuade them otherwise. Mayor Pete spoke eloquently about not surrendering to cynicism and helplessness that may accompany a predetermined Senate outcome. Andrew Yang highlighted the need to obsess less about impeachment and start solving the problems that got him elected in the first place.

Tim Alberta asked about climate in a concrete way - whether the government should subsidize relocations from endangered places like Miami and Davenport, Iowa. He also challenged Biden on whether he would sacrifice the oil and gas growth previous presidents have benefited from.

When Alberta quoted a silly-sounding statement recently from Obama that sounded completely mired int he quagmire of identity politics, Sanders sensibly moved back to real issues, like who has power and how to create an economy that works for all.

Amy Klobuchar had a good night, making her case against her fellow midwestern, moderate rival with modest experience, Pete Buttigieg, while he went after her with his attack on Washington experience.

Finally, Judy Woodruff's Christmas question about whose forgiveness one might ask or want to give a gift to illustrated what happens when candidates get asked a question they probably weren't completely prepared for!

Iowa is some six weeks away. Soon actual voters will start to have their say.

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