by Jeffrey A. Rendall
How many of these people will survive to the next debate?
The question echoed through my mind as I watched the seven remaining (there are a couple more hangers-on but they’ll never be seen again) Democrat presidential candidates debate for the eighth time (at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, hosted by ABC News, WMUR, and Apple News and moderated by George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, Linsey Davis and WMUR-TV political director Adam Sexton) on Friday night.
The participants were national polling frontrunner Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, billionaire Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. It was the same group from last month plus the addition of Yang, the lone minority face on stage.
Lots had changed since the last time these ambitious pols met in Iowa last month. The national polls hadn’t shifted all that much but the fallout from last week’s Iowa caucuses still hasn’t quite reached the ground yet. Tuesday night is the New Hampshire primary and all signs indicate the avowed socialist Sanders will win rather easily.
Which is why I wondered how many of these candidates will still be around for Nevada. It was also curious seeing Steyer and Yang on stage since neither saw much success in Iowa and are basically predestined to fail in New Hampshire, too. Perhaps the disgraced Democrat powers-that-be felt they couldn’t go another nationally televised evening with just white faces in attendance, or didn’t want to signal that the race is basically down to four viable contenders (depending on how you count them).
The largest question going into the debate was whether Biden could find a way to turn things around, which is strange considering he still occupies the center lectern on stage. If reality were the guide, he’d be standing on the wings with Steyer and Yang. So would Amy Klobuchar.
Biden gave it his best shot, turning in a better performance than in recent months — fewer brain freezes (except when he was talking about Bernie and gun manufacturers) and a little more urgency in his presentation — but you can’t help but think his time has come and gone. His answer on healthcare was a simple rehashing of what he’s already said over and over — that his plan is more affordable than Sanders’ and he fought like heck to pass Obamacare, etc. He also attempted to pass his experience on Iraq as something to be proud of. Joe’s argument could be summed up as thus: “I’m older than Butt-i-gieg and he should pipe down and let me talk.”
Joe gave a rambling response on the judges question and proudly said, “I’m the reason why Robert Bork was not on the Supreme Court.” Then he admitted flat out that he’d have an abortion litmus test for potential nominees. This reason alone disqualifies him for president.
Steyer was considerably more animated than in previous debates, probably because he realizes he has absolutely nothing to lose and he won’t be invited to the next iteration. He attacked Biden directly about an hour into the program on the situation in the Middle East, eliciting a rather terse response from the very defensive Biden. Why the heck would Steyer be attacking Biden? Wouldn’t he be better off going after the lefties (Sanders and Warren), both of whom make repeated attempts to steal his signature issue (climate change)?
Then Bernie got involved, saying he voted against Iraq, etc. Sanders then quickly pivoted to “climate change,” where he said America must lead, including with nations like China and India. “We must fight our common enemy, which is climate change.” Yes, I’m sure the leadership of the Asian countries sees it exactly the same way, that they need to put the brakes on their economies in order to combat the western world’s science-based bugaboo. Sound realistic? Not.
Somewhat surprisingly, “Pocahontas” Warren was practically invisible in this debate. Maybe the moderators were ignoring her. Or perhaps everyone’s used to her screechy whining. Enough already. Hearing her talk about “gun violence” was truly painful. “We have to be willing to build a future that works, not for gun manufacturers, but one that protects our children.” Huh? What the heck does that mean? Can you imagine this woman as president? What would her State of the Union Address sound like? How long would it last?
“We need race conscious laws in employment and education.” Was “Pocahontas” serious? Don’t we need less race awareness? Where has affirmative action gotten us?
Amy Klobuchar tried to shiver her way through another debate, taking the middle ground between the so-called “moderates” and the devoted lefties. It didn’t work. It looks like she’s worn that maroon-ish suit several times before, too. If she were serious about breaking out of the Democrat pack, shouldn’t she invest in a new wardrobe? There’s absolutely nothing new to add there. But again, this is her last hurrah, unless she’s like John Kasich in 2016 and just hangs around until all the others fall away.
It doesn’t take a genius to see Amy’s vying for the Democrat number two. But there’s just not enough there to cling to.
Andrew Yang comes across as the one Democrat candidate with any semblance of a connection to reality, which suggests the reason why he hasn’t caught on. Once again Yang mentioned that Trump wasn’t the lone problem for Democrats, that they need to offer real solutions for people rather than impeachment and lockstep opposition. The New Hampshire Democrat audience didn’t seem to take to the message, however. Yang is a breath of fresh air for Democrats, a glimpse into what the party used to be about. But he won’t be around in a couple weeks. More’s the pity.
Tom “Howdy Doody” Steyer wasn’t about to leave the race without some sort of goodbye performance, showing much more animation than he’d exhibited in previous performances. But even after spending upwards of a hundred million bucks on TV ads, people just didn’t care about what he had to say. “Climate change” doesn’t get enough people enthused — and they have Bernie Sanders to carry their water in any case.
Steyer said he’s for slavery reparations, too. Maybe he should put his money where his mouth is and sign over his fortune to some race-based leftist group. What a hero!
As would be expected, impeachment wasn’t widely discussed on Friday night. The matter is over for everyone but Biden, and it’s the last thing he wants to talk about. As long as the media focuses on son Hunter and his own role in Ukraine, it’s a guaranteed loser for him. The Democrat senators seem relieved that the matter is over. Enough said.
The Democrats seemed particularly animated talking about racism and voter suppression. Be prepared for waves of race appeals this summer and fall. President Trump’s speech the other night prominently featured several minorities and the issues they care about (such as illegal immigration and school choice). Democrats are running scared that their coalitions are eroding. How are they going to motivate people?
Realistically speaking, the only chance Democrats have to beat Trump is to nominate Bernie Sanders since he’s the only one who elicits any kind of excitement from the party grassroots. Are liberals going to come out in sufficient numbers to beat Trump if the Democrat apparatus nominates Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar? And Buttigieg is like a “boutique” candidate, appealing to a slice of the electorate but completely unattractive to most people who demand real substance and gravitas from their candidates.
Let’s face it. Buttigieg got into this thinking he could establish name recognition and lay the foundation for some sort of political future. Hailing from GOP-controlled Indiana, Pete knows he’s never going to get elected statewide.
The one Democrat everyone wanted to hear from – Nancy Pelosi – wasn’t anywhere near the New Hampshire debate. All of the candidates appear intimidated by the long shadow cast by the increasingly popular President Trump. And the possible addition of Michael Bloomberg won’t really change the dynamic all that much since he’s not exactly a fiery personality. Having the former NYC mayor involved will only increase the sleepy nature of these forums.
One of the reasons why Trump succeeded is because he’s worth watching. There’s an entertainment factor in all his appearances. All these Democrat candidates have is anger. And that’s not enough.
“We have not said one word tonight about race,” said Tom Steyer, before launching into a diatribe about diversity. Being a wingnut isn’t entertaining.
New Hampshire Democrats head to the polls in a few days and they’ll need to decide between the emerging party socialistic trend — as embodied by Bernie Sanders — and the establishment status quo (Joe Biden?). Pete Buttigieg is a possible alternative to Biden, but he didn’t inspire much confidence on Friday night. It’s certainly not an easy political dilemma for Granite State voters.
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Photo “Democratic Debate” by ABC News.