What's Tony Thinking

The Democrat’s Debates: My Take


I did quick responses to each debate for Post Alley (postalley.com) I am re-running them here as a blog. Each night four of us watched together from out here in Wallowa County in northeastern Oregon, so I had the benefit of group conversation and shared perceptions.

Round 1: Who Won? Who’s Done?

An unscientific poll of the foursome that watched the first round of the Democrat’s “Debates” where I was revealed substantial agreement.

The winner? Cory Booker. Focused, impassioned and looking right at the viewer.

The loser? Beto O’Rourke. Not that he did terribly, but even with his opening in Spanish, Beto seemed less a rising star than a guy trying too hard and in over his head.

Who’s out after Round One? Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbart, Jay Inslee, John Delany and Beto. Each one had good moments. Inslee’s best was when he went off his climate change script in answering the question about the greatest threat facing America. “Donald Trump.”

But these five came in less well-known and didn’t manage to claim much more. Whether they actually withdraw or continue their quixotic quests remains to be seen.

Still in after last night? Bill De Blasio, Julian Castro, Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

Warren started strong, but seemed to fade. During the long section on immigration she was completely silent. She has a hard time actually smiling, though she tried hard. Given the fact that she was the front runner among these ten, she might actually have “lost” last night’s debate by not pulling away.

Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro both grew stronger as the evening went on. Klobuchar had some of the best one liners — “all suds, no beer,” and “making foreign policy in a bathrobe at 5:00 a.m. on Twitter.” Castro projected both passion and gravity.

Bill De Blasio, deploying the large white guy’s strategy of interrupting, did pretty well at getting some time from out on the far wing of stage left. He was compelling enough to keep his candidacy going.

Booker’s stock rose the most. From a near center stage spot he was often in camera even when not speaking. He was passionate as he repeatedly referenced his own neighborhood and community to good effect.

Who Won? Who’s Done?: Round Two of the Democrat Debates

“This is more difficult than last night.” That was the sentiment among my viewing foursome for round two of the Democratic “Debates.”


Overall, the field was a stronger one on Thursday than it had been on Wednesday. And it included the front runner: Joe Biden. Maybe two “front-runners,” Bernie and Biden.

But one thing was true both nights: the front-runners got called on way more often. Bernie — 15 times, to John Yang’s 5. Which leads you to wonder if the marginal going-in were foreordained to be marginalized and discounted?

Marianne Williamson, Ophrah’s anointed, was game and forceful in her 7 speaking moments, but 7 is a lot less than Joe Biden’s 13 or Bernie’s 15.

Round Two’s winner? Our house was divided between Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete. Both did well. Harris went on attack, on front runner, Biden, which appealed to some viewers and not to others.

Biden was a frequent target of attack from various candidates. By and large he was prepared and came back forcefully. He’s eager to defend the Obama/ Biden legacy and his experience.

Colorado’s two-some, Hickenlooper and Bennet, both had good moments but probably not enough to drive any post-debate surge. The same for Yang and California Congressman Eric Swalwell.

Kristin Gillebrand positioned herself as the women’s advocate. But it was Harris who came across as capable of going after Trump on the public platform.

Buttigieg had a number of good moments and good one-liners, including his indictment of Trump’s conservative Christian supporters on the family separation/ immigration issues. “The have lost all claim to the use of religious language.”

From out on the far stage-right California congressman, Eric Swawell, made his presence known, going after Biden on the “pass-the-torch” theme. But it was not likely enough to keep him alive.

So, it’s a tie: Harris and Buttigieg, with those who want to see someone who can take down Trump in public debate leaning to Harris. “She can prosecute the case against Trump,” concluded one lawyer in our midst.

Biden and Sanders remain, though Sanders is so predictable in both affect and content that he tends to wear on you. Biden emphasized that he has gotten things done and can get things done again. He actually knows the political system, and probably better than his former boss, Obama. Whether that’s a plus or minus remains to be seen.

Probably out are Hickenlooper, Gillebrand and Bennet. Out because they were never in are Yang, Williamson, Swawell.

So, barring unexpected twists and turns, we go forward with Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren. De Blasio a remaining outlier. Future fund-raising and Iowa will winnow the field further.

One big take-away, perhaps because it has gone un-remarked and unnoticed: we don’t any longer seem to be saying, “Can a woman be President?” (But we may be asking, “Can a gay man be President?”)

Another take-away: both debates began with a strong statement from the Democrat’s left wing: Warren on Wednesday, Sanders on Thursday. But on balance that was not where the candidates, or the Party, seems to stand.

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