The first of a pair of Democratic debates kicked off last night in Florida to much media commotion and analysis.
The debates featured ten of the top twenty Democratic primary candidates, and topics covered included taxes and the economy, jobs, health care, gun violence, immigration and climate change. There were a few heated exchanges between candidates but no bombshell moments. It was more a chance to see differences in policy between them and to get to know them, especially those who have not previously been on the national stage.
For what it’s worth, here is my takeaway. The three winners of the evening were Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Julian Castro. Warren was her typically forceful, feisty, informed self and articulated her positions well. Her demeanor was intense and focused and effective. Booker also did a good job of clearly expressing his values and reasoning on a number of issues. His demeanor was earnest and passionate and authentic. Castro was probably the biggest surprise. He was well versed on the subjects, communicated well, and carried himself with a confidence and gravitas and maturity that I had not noticed before–in contrast to some of the other candidates. Amy Klobuchar did a respectable job answering questions but seemed a little flustered and off her game at times. Beto O’Rourke also did a respectable job, but he seemed to be trying just a little too hard. Jay Inslee said some great things about climate, and was seemingly thoughtful and sincere, but was also overshadowed by some of the others. I agree with Inslee that climate change is the most important issue facing us, followed by defeating Trump. Likewise, Bill de Blasio made some great points but he couldn’t keep from interrupting others, which wasn’t a good look. Tulsi Gabbard had a solid demeanor and a great personal story, but kept going back to it to avoid having to answer other questions thoroughly or fully. John Delaney struggled to hold the spotlight despite making some good points. And Tim Ryan was probably the least effective and least compelling of the bunch, seeming at times to be parroting Republican talking points.
All of the candidates went after Trump at some point, but the debate was much less about Trump than it was about policy differences.
The debate hosts spent too much of their time talking, especially Chuck Todd, whose employment with a major cable news channel remains mystifying. Many important subjects were touched upon but much of the discussion was superficial, especially on the topic of climate change, which came late in the evening and was barely covered.
The second set of ten candidates debate tonight at nine. Let’s hope the moderators learn from last night’s debate and do a better job tonight. Tune in, keep resisting, and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”