What Else Could Possibly Be Said About Those Debates?


Well, a few things of interest, actually.

Looking for Meaning in Every Line

Pretty well everyone has weighed in on the first round of Democratic presidential debates. Sometimes, the analysis felt like the old days of Soviet watching. Remember how analysts would pour over photos of Kremlin officials on top of Lenin’s tomb? They were trying to figure out who was in and who was out, based on where they stood in the review stand. Sometimes it got downright silly.

So, too, on these debates. Some important stuff happened, but it is possible to read too much into these. For one thing, we still have 25 (!) candidates. Second, these were the first two debates – really the one first debate, in two iterations. There will be about a dozen of these before we are done. Third, the elections are still almost a year and a half away. A lot will happen in that amount of time, and not just in politics.

Still, some things seem pretty clear.

  • The candidates are moving pretty rapidly into 3 distinct bands: I – Top tier, II-Want to be/could-be a top tier, III – This is not likely to happen.
  • About half the people in the first two tiers could easily change places/Tiers over the next few months.
  • Predictions that Biden and Sanders were riding largely on being known names seems to be panning out. Both still have leading numbers, especially Biden, but both looked weaker and wounded in this round of debates. It is not at all hard to see where the supporters of both might move to over time.
  • As is often the case, the Democrats have to find the sweet spot. Liberal enough to fire up the base, not so far left as to alienate moderates and independents that could vote for them. The leading case in point is Medicare for All.

    Setting a standard that everyone gets medical coverage makes sense and should be a winning issue for Democrats. Getting there by mandating the end of all private insurance, all at once, would be a gift to the Republicans.

    Such a move would turn the debate from health care to freedom of choice. Not many of the candidates said they would go for such a position, and one of those who did (Harris) has already said she misunderstood the question. That left pretty much Sanders and DeBlasio. Let us hope everyone else is smart enough to follow the more logical course, as articulated very well by Mayor Pete.

  • The roster will get much smaller with the September debates. The July debates have the same criteria as applied in June, but by September, the criteria doubles. It is a reasonable benchmark, but many will not make it and they will begin to fade.


I kept looking at this line up and thought to myself that there was about half a dozen I could feel pretty good about. It is too soon to declare my favorites, but the tiers work for my analysis as well.

  • I see 5 that I could really work for.
  • I see 5 more that have possibilities at a serious level.
  • I see 15 that should start planning what to do next in life.
  • Any number of them would also be fine as VP. About 2/3 of the rest would be excellent cabinet officers.
  • Some of them are not in the House or Senate, and I wish they were running to do that. We need them there and some of them could expect to do well. I am surmising Beto O’Rourke, for example, might be thinking he should have done that.
  • I see 25 that could get my vote and support if they end up as the alternative to Trump.

This first round reminded me these are much better to watch in a group. We did both at a watch party and were glad we did. Nice to share instant analysis, good food and wine with one’s fellow citizens. Ah, patriotism.

Now, on to the July debates.

    Bill Clontz

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2 replies to What Else Could Possibly Be Said About Those Debates?

  1. Why can’t we sit down and draft a “winning” Democratic platform covering all the major issues. With this base-line, we could weight candidates position against our guidelines? This sounds like more than a two beer exercise.

    • That would clarify things. IN a sense, I think the Democrats are moving toward such a framing, but given that there are more than two dozen candidates, I expect there would be precious little agreement at this point as to what constitutes a winning platform or who gets to say it is so. I would bet that in about another quarter or so, we will see the outlines of what becomes the platform.

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