Both Nights of the Democratic Debates are Important


As readers may have heard, the first real debates of the 2020 Presidential election season are due this Wednesday and Thursday, June 26 and 27.  (We don’t count President Trump’s rapid policy and position reversals as real Republican “debates.”  “Surreal,” perhaps.)  We’ll see 20 of the 24 or so Democratic candidates debate, ten per night.

Yes, donkeys can race!  And sure, we’ll take this down if the nice-seeming folks at Grand Voyage Italy object — but surely their tours to Alba can use a little free publicity!

The draw assigning candidates to nights, many people have noted, was weird in that way that truly random ones often are.  Warren is the only front-runner on Night One, meaning that she has both a spotlight on her fact and a target on her back.  We’ll get a good sense of how she wards off attacks.  Night Two, by contrast, has Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, and Harris, who (except maybe Harris) have been generally considered to constitute the party’s current top tier.

So why isn’t Night One a dud?  Because nominees sometimes come from other than the front-runners — Jimmy Carter and Trump being the prime examples.  Five candidates from Night One — Beto, Klobuchar, Booker, Castro, and Gabbard would probably be considered in the second tier right now, along with only Gillibrand on Night Two.  Other longshots, like Swalwell, Inslee, and Yang, are possible but unlikely — but Swalwell would have the best chance to shine of the three because he’s

Let’s take a look at somewhat similar pairs of the candidates, one from each night, ranked in rough order of the strength of the one in the first debate, and see how they stack up against each other:

Warren & Sanders Top-Tier Financial Reformers
Beto & Buttigieg Handsom Young Blarney Men
Klobuchar & Biden Senate Establishment
Booker & Harris Senators from the Talented Tenth
Castro & Gillibrand Identity Pols
Gabbard & Inslee Single Issue (non-Cal)
Swalwell & Yang Single Issue (Cal)
DeBlasio & Bennet   Under-performers
Delaney & Hickenlooper Anti-Social(ists)
Ryan & Williamson       Party Fringe

  1. Among the top-tier financial reformers, Warren and Sanders are pretty much equal right now.
  2. Among the young Irish-related smooth-takers, Buttigieg (Mayor of Notre Dame’s South Bend has just a slight edge over Beto (aka “O’Rourke”), who has faltered.
  3. Among centrist Senate types, Biden clearly has an edge over Klobuchar, but if he squanders it — and he well might — she’s likely to fill this role.
  4. Among the bright and presentable African American Senators, Harris has an edge on Booker, but hasn’t caught fire.
  5. Among this pair emphasizing their identity (Latino and women, if you’re not keeping track), Castro probably has a slight edge on and Gillibrand (who faces more competition in her category).
  6. Among this pair of candidates pushing prominent single-issue, Gabbard (anti-war) seems to lead over Inslee (climate change).
  7. Among this pair of Silicon Valley candidates mostly pushing single issues, Swalwell (digital national security) has the better over Yang (guaranteed annual income) among all but 4Chan peeps and perps.
  8. Among people performing way worse than their current office would suggest, NYC Mayor DeBlasio is about even with Colorado Senator Bennet.
  9. Among people who are trying to get a Cabinet position by slamming democratic socialism, Delaney trails Hickenlooper by a margin that doesn’t matter.
  10. Among fringies within the party, longtime pro-gun anti-abortion (now flip-flopped on both) populist Ryan is about even with Oprah-connected “New Age spiritual guru” Williamson, and I suppose each has a puncher’s chance.

In other words, while pairing #1 is tied and #2-4 do favor Night Two, pairings #5-7 favor Night One candidates — who will have much more time and air to connect, and one of whom is likely to be seen as the person who moved into a higher tier.  So you’re watching the runners/racers jostling for position in the middle of the pack when you watch Night One — and with the split among top candidates on Night Two the first night may actually be more influential on the race.

Moving on from the list, let’s consider who didn’t make it.

Left out to Wither:

Steve Bullock (Reformist Trump-State Montana Governor)
Mike Gravel (Fiery Lefty Former Alaska Senator, Age 88)
Wayne Messam (Liberal Black Athlete & Florida Mayor)
Seth Moulton (National Security-oriented Mass. Congressman)

Here’s a little bit on the Frozen-Out Four before we move on;

  • Bullock (better accomplishments than Hickenlooper) should’ve made this debate, but was busy governing.
  • Moulton (foreign policy more centrist than Gabbard) could make the next one.
  • Messam (more liberal than Booker) could take Black votes in the South.
  • Gravel (considered unserious) won’t even get protest votes unless Sanders drops out.

Bullock seems to be making more hay from being left out than he’d have made if he were in.  I think he’ll be at least Tier Three if not Two soon.  But if you want to know who’ll be there with him, you’ll need to watch both nights!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)