The 2020 Democratic debate cycle has, well, there’s no other way to put it, it’s sucked. Several of these in, and the biggest moment was Kamala Harris calling out Joe Biden on busing. It resonated so well that she’s been out of the race for two months. Maybe the next most memorable thing was Pete Buttigieg’s wine cave. He was so harmed by this exchange that he (unless you ask Bernie) won Iowa.
Every few weeks, I convince myself that this will be the debate with fireworks. The one they play clips of every four years in perpetuity. And then 20 to 30 minutes in start thinking I should use my time more wisely. Even the pre-Iowa debate wasn’t a big deal, with the Sanders-Warren non-handshake at the end more significant than anything that happened during. Oh, and it didn’t move many voters in a new direction.
If we don’t get excitement this time, it’s just not possible for this group. Not only do we still lack consensus on who won Iowa, but those same two, Bernie & Buttigieg are now the clear favorites in New Hampshire. Sanders has the advantage. They’re close in some polls, Sanders leads noticeably in others. Bernie won big in 2016. Buttigieg has the momentum. For each, there’s the question of where they will win next if they don’t win here.
That should create energy by itself. Then we have Elizabeth Warren needing to remain relevant. It will take a big debate moment to pull her above third place, but she also needs to make sure not to finish fourth or fifth while Sanders wins. If Amy Klobuchar doesn’t finish ahead of Joe Biden, she’ll be going home. If Biden isn’t a semi-strong third, he’s going to have an awful next week.
Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang have a chance to take advantage of Mike Bloomberg’s absence to draw attention to whatever it is their respective goals are. Neither can win the nomination, but in the permanent campaign we have now, 2024 has already begun. I don’t have any specific advice for either except to do what they do, and hope the others disqualify themselves over time. Again, they’re playing for some future campaign anyway.
But I will tell you what I would tell each of the other five if they asked me. Continue reading “New Hampshire Debate Preview: Fighting for Their Political Lives”