Second Debate – Night 2 – Reaction

Wow, Biden actually won a debate. It wasn’t a decisive knockout. It wasn’t a landslide. He still had worrying moments (i.e. Joe30030). But not only was he better prepared this time, he was much less rusty, and actually was on the offensive.

Biden, as the frontrunner, was the focus of attacks by Harris, Booker, Castro, Inslee, Gillibrand and de Blasio, but he handled it reasonably well. In one instance, when Gillibrand launched a much telegraphed attack on him for an op-ed he wrote in the late 70’s or early 80’s, he not only repelled the criticism well but also made Gillibrand look like the fool she was for making it, and then when Harris tried to rescue Gillibrand, it boomeranged on her as well.

Harris was also the target of the underdogs. Tulsi Gabbard eviscerated her on her AG record and Harris did not respond well. She will not gain any ground after this debate.

Julian Castro deserves to be in the next debate. He and Booker are the best of the also rans. He forcefully and convincingly argued for impeaching Trump. He also gets points for referring to Sen. Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch.” That wins me over.

This was the last debate for Andrew Yang, Bill de Blasio, Michael Bennet, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jay Inslee. Last night was the last debate for Steve Bullock, Amy Klobuchar, Steve Bullock, Tim Ryan, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney and Marianne Williamson.

The next debate should only feature Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke.

John Harris at Politico: “Biden was not that bad. . . and not that good”: “Yes: Joe Biden for the most part was crisper, more engaged and engaging, in Detroit on Wednesday night than he had been in Miami a month ago. No: He did not summon a performance so commanding as to demand people view an old man in new light.

“If Biden is the essential variable in the Democratic presidential race — none of the nearly two dozen other candidates can rise much further unless or until Biden is perceived to be in a dying fall — then the most reasonable reaction to the latest two-day pair of long and crowded debates is: So what?

“That is not so much dismissive comment as authentic question. Biden’s two debate outings this summer suggest that a politician who has been at this game for decades operates within a predictable and fairly narrow range — at his best, not half-bad; at his worst, pretty bad for a supposed front-runner.”

Josh Marshall: “On balance I thought [Biden] had a pretty good debate. He was much more focused and aggressive than he was in the first debate. He got hit from all sides but he hit back and often effectively. […] Biden basically didn’t engage on the debates on health care, immigration and other issues as they’ve existed in much of this campaign – debates which have focused on candidates trying to outdo each other on Medicare for All or decriminalizing border crossings. He detailed his position on both issues but he was focused on a general election audience and a general election campaign.

Harris seemed to lose the thread early in the debate and seemed unprepared and at some level pissed to see so many candidates attacking her at once from so many different directions. She closed well. But it was a generally so-so or weak performance for her.

I was again impressed by Cory Booker. He’s consistently really good in these debates – not only finesse and image but in substance and policy detail. He was just a lot more together than almost anyone else on stage. So far, it simply hasn’t gotten him anywhere in public support.”

Dan Balz: “By the end of the evening, the candidates had done as much to make a case against one another as against the president, without offering much in the way of an aspirational message or connecting directly with the voters they will need to win the presidential election.”

John Harris: “Put a bunch of Democrats on the stage and they can’t help but go off the rails: They compete with each other to win the favor of liberal activists, and saddle themselves with unrealistic positions that could leave a nominee vulnerable in the general election.”

“That was a prevailing Washington media and political class narrative after the first round of Democratic debates in Miami a month ago. But as Democratic contenders gather on the stage again this week, a competing analysis is gaining power: Going a bit off the rails may be an entirely reasonable track to victory.”

Said pollster Stan Greenberg: “Candidates who look like they are cautious, modulating, have their foot on the brake, are missing the moment.”

“The moment, according to Greenberg’s polling and focus-group work, has left voters of all stripes clamoring for disruption. Cultural and ideological currents in society—more profound than any given day’s Trump uproars—are giving progressives a better opportunity than they have had in decades to play offense.”

“So far, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, the answer is no. Views of the Democratic Party, in fact, haven’t really budged in more than four years. The share of Americans calling the Democrats ‘too extreme,’ which stood at 41% in November 2014, now stands at an identical 41%, with only minimal fluctuation in the interim.”

Jason Steinhauer: “Technically, electability simply means an ability (or the perceived ability) of a candidate to win the general election — that is, to earn a majority of the electoral college votes.”

“But at its heart, ‘electability’ is a strategy employed by the party that prioritizes party victory over any one particular candidate or an ideological agenda. Certain candidates may appeal to particular factions of a party, but not all can deliver enough states to win the White House. An electability strategy assesses the realities of the electoral map, and attempts to put forth a candidate who can deliver the right mix of states and votes that will best assure victory for the party.”

“This strategy empowers the party structure, of course, and disadvantages those who may seek to upend it. But it has succeeded in putting forth successful candidates during contentious elections. In fact, Abraham Lincoln — arguably the most significant president in our nation’s history — won his party’s nomination and ultimately the White House on the back of his ‘electability.’”

James Hohmann: “Warren was aggressive about forcing her way into the fray, and she was rewarded with more speaking time than anyone else. Her background as a onetime Oklahoma state champion high school debater shone through repeatedly. She was most disciplined about sticking to her script and delivered well-rehearsed lines in a way that didn’t make them sound canned. She also did a better job than the others onstage of telling anecdotes to humanize policy debates.”

“She espouses essentially the same ideas as Sanders but makes them sound less radical. For this reason, Warren remains an existential threat to his candidacy. Sanders advisers are loath to acknowledge this reality, even privately.”

Van Jones: “Sanders re-established himself as trying to lead the revolution. When Elizabeth Warren is trying to lead the country. She is trying to be president of the United States.”

A new Economist/YouGov survey finds 48% of respondents said they would vote for Democrat for Congress next year, while 37% would vote for a Republican and 11% were not sure.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has raised more than $1 million for his presidential bid since he sparred with several moderate contenders during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, The Hill reports. The $1.1 million fundraising haul was bolstered by more than 70,000 donations.

The Kentucky Democratic Party launched a “Moscow Mitch” online store, making use of a nickname used to describe Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for blocking an election security bill.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

18 comments on “Second Debate – Night 2 – Reaction

  1. Jack Polidori

    You should have read Frank Bruni in the NYT this morning before pontificating. Just for the sake of sobriety.
    And why exactly should Beto be in the next food fight before Gov. Jay Inslee? I guess you live too fat from WA state to understand what accomplishment looks like in a closely-contested (partisan) state.
    12 debates are the death of us as Democrats.
    Last point – I love Stan Greenberg. But his point is true only when applied to the Dem base. Not necessarily the general election suite of voters needed to produce a Democratic win.

    • Hyperbolic Dem

      I live in Washington State now and Inslee is no prize. You’d have to combine Inslee, Hickenlooper, Bennet, Delaney, and Gillibrand to make a complete candidate. However, Beto is a waste of an expensive haircut. He’s a huge disappointment.

    • That supposed Frank Bruni has a more legitimate take on anything that DD does. Dubious proposition. Just because the Times hires somebody doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.

  2. Hyperbolic Dem

    Wait, the strategy of the candidates who aren’t in first place is to attack Obama in order to hit Biden? Jesus! We are truly screwed.

  3. meatball

    Have you even ever had a girlfriend?

  4. The debate format is beyond awful. The moderators were awful. CNN should be banned from hosting debates.

    I think Booker did really well. Harris was off her game. She didn’t seem ready for front-runner status. Castro was solid. I have no idea what de Blasio’s was doing. Trying to land a punch? Jay Inslee and Bennet did okay, probably not enough to make it to the next debate. Gillibrand had high and low moments. Tulsi Gabbard makes me shudder and while Andrew Yang is done, he does make some excellent points. Tech is about to wipe out millions of jobs in retail/fast food. Lastly, Joe Biden made me very nervous last night. He seemed extremely shaky and kept stumbling over words. I get that he was under constant attack, but he cannot bring a performance like that to a debate with Trump.

    Note to xyz: You can either behave like an adult, or I will continue to remove your comments.

    • Can’t handle the truth, that’s OK. Go back to an average of 0-2 comments/post then. See ya.

      • That statement supposes that what you speak is the truth, when as far as I can remember none of your predictions has actually come to pass. Conservatives all suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    • cassandram

      I thought Booker did very well last night. I’ve been watching Democrats wring their hands about how much these candidates are going after each other and it’s as though no one has ever seen a primary before. Biden was on the defense all night and one thing that came across is while he was attacking the Harris M4A plan, his own plan got very little airing. Yang might be the Most Improved. I don’t get how the so-called moderates (looking at you Bennett) are not working harder at making themselves the alternative to Biden rather than just attacking the progressives.

      And I think Greenberg has a fine point — there is NO DOUBT that much of the American electorate is just angry with their government right now. This isn’t new and the GRIFTUS was able to capture some of that (with a specifically white nationalist message, but still) in 2016. Elizabeth Warren is so far the only candidate making a coherent and explicit case for Big Vision/Change = Government that works for regular people. She’s doing little triangulating and is the best explainer in the bunch. The key to Big Change vs Reset to 2016 really is convincing “moderate” Dems that they really can ask for a government that works in your interests.

  5. Sorry, meatball. Your reply to xyz didn’t show up because I yanked his comment.

  6. DE Native

    Biden did much better this time. I still think Elizabeth Warren would be the better candidate once she pivots for moderates after the primary. We need this field to thin out fast.

  7. I saw few Presidents on stage on night two of the debates. But, over both nights, I saw one helluva new Cabinet and Administration. Let’s start with President: My view, Warren or Biden. V.P.- Castro. Homeland Security-Buttigieg, Commerce-Yang, Education-Bennet, HUD-Booker, Interior, Bullock, Defense-Gabbard, AG-Harris, Treasury-Delaney, Budget-de Blasio, EPA- Inslee, Health-Gillibrand, Communication Dir.- Williamson, Consumer Affairs- Sanders, Chief of Staff-Hickenlooper, White House Press-Swalwell. Beto need to be back in Texas as a new Senator.

    • Though O’Rourke would be great too at Immigration and Customs.

    • Stan: I agree with you totally on this. Whenever I see them together I think of Lincoln’s “team of rivals.” Though I wouldn’t put Delaney on there for anything. He’s a weasel.

  8. Wondering

    Biden was shaky IMO and made me cringe at times. Booker and Castro did well. Probably won’t make the cut but Yang caught my attention he didn’t speak much but what he said was good. Never have been a fan of Harris. Looking forward to a smaller field of candidates in the debates.

  9. Biden did not answer a single question put to him. He gave combative answers, sure, but if you go read the transcript you’ll see they were just typical polito-babble.

    I’m sure he can beat Trump, but he’s going to make a terrible president from a Democratic standpoint. Dude is all about his own ego.

  10. cassandram

    Joe Biden Is the Product of a Democratic Party That Was Terrified of Ronald Reagan

    A typically astute take from Charlie Pierce. I will point out, however, that these tough on crime efforts were widely popular (and still are in some places) but the biggest difference now seems to be that folks want the punishment to end when you are done with your time.

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