Democratic Debates, Night 1

Round one of the Democratic debates ended without any bloodshed or a TKO. With the exception of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, all the candidates started off visibly nervous. Amy Klobuchar being the most noticeable but eventually settled in. 

The moderators all held their own, although Chuck Todd looked like he wanted to rip someone’s head off during the audio glitch that started the second hour. At the end of the day, it went kind of the way I thought it would. To be honest, I only really watched tonight because I think tomorrow night is where the real action is.

Here’s how I thought each candidate did (listed alphabetically):

Cory Booker – seemed a little clunky at first but came alive quickly. He didn’t wow me with anything and stayed in his lanes, politically. Yes, he’s articulate and smart but he just doesn’t fire me up. His voice wants to fire me up, but nothing he says actually does.

Julian Castro – this guy was pretty impressive. You always hear that word “electable” bandied about and I don’t think Castro is electable . . . but I do think he could very easily be one of the most powerful and successful politicians in Washington. Why do I say that? He’s smart, he’s strong but I can’t see any sensitivity in him. Imagine a Democratic Mitch McConnell from Mexico (and yes, I know Castro isn’t a Senator). 

Bill de Blasio – never underestimate this guy. I like de Blasio and always have. People thought I was insane when I said he would win the NYC mayor’s race. I think had he announced earlier and been at this a little longer he’d be in a stronger position. But he didn’t. He also does have the NYC thing and that either works for someone or it works against them, there is no in between. He’s got the goods and he’s accomplished a lot, but he can be alienating (again, the NYC thing). But, never underestimate this guy. 

John Delney – a bit pushy and a little whiny. Also, he is way too middle of the road for me. He said nothing but bragged about what he accomplished in the private sector. He’s your proto-typical white collar “LOOK AT ME!!” type of guy. The guy in meetings who repeats what others say and will brag about how much time he spent on his PowerPoint presentation and refer to it as a “deck”. . . also likely to use the phrase “I need a vacation from my vacation” after returning to work from a vacation. Unimpressive and not a leader.

Tulsi Gabbard – I had no clue who she was going in to this debate and actually liked her. The Selena Meyer comparison aside, I thought she made a couple of good points. I’m not entirely sure what she ultimately had to say though. But THANK GOD she took Tim Ryan to task for his misinformation about who attacked us on 9/11. 

Jay Inslee – got the best line of the night. When asked who the biggest geopolitical threat was to the United States, he didn’t miss a beat and said “Donald Trump”. So, big ups on that one. Outside of that, he was way out of his element on that stage. He’s not wrong about climate but this election is about much more than just that.

Amy Klobuchar – the one I thought might be best suited to make a run at Elizabeth Warren. She seemed off her game tonight. Out of the gate she seemed terrified but did eventually settle in. By the time of the closing statements was the confident Senator I’ve seen before. I still think she’s too middle of the road and, if I’m honest, I don’t believe her. Not that she’s lying, I just think she’s a politician. 

Beto O’Rourke – I don’t get this guys appeal. I really don’t. He seems kind of goofy and fun, like someone you’d want to smoke a joint with but outside of that, I just don’t see it. He’s just such a non-issue. If I had to use a word it would be vacuous. 

Tim Ryan – yea, I don’t think we’ll be seeing this guy again. He tried hard but boy did he screw up on the Afghanistan question that Gabbard took him to school on and then he just seemed to want to play it too safe. He wanted to appeal to the blue collars but also the conservatives. Nothing rang true about this guy and he tried way too hard. 

Elizabeth Warren – well, I’ve not been shy about where I stand. Objectively speaking, I will say she was the only one who answered the question that was asked and didn’t provide some type of canned response. Her passion seemed real and she sounded believable. Subjectively, she’s the real deal. Even NYTimes columnist Nicholas Kristof ate some crow and walked back his criticism of her today.  

This was far from a make or break night for most of these candidates. Even the ones who performed poorly, or were off their game, will still be fine. I think the two most likely to drop out are Tim Ryan and Jay Inslee. John Delaney will stick around because it’s his personality type, but he should probably close up shop too.

I will say this about the debate, it was only the three women who behaved respectfully. And by that I mean they didn’t talk over one another or try to interrupt each other and stayed within the allotted time. I cannot say the same bout the men. 

We’re into ranking these days, so I’ll rank my top five, in no particular order:

Bill de Blasio
Julian Casto
Cory Booker
Elizabeth Warren
Tulsi Gabbard