It made a big distinction having only 7 prospects on the dispute stage tonight. Practically everybody got time to weigh in on practically every subject, and there was less downtime while the debate unexpectedly appeared to stop dead so we could hear from the folks who had no organisation being there. That said, here are my very first impressions of how everybody did:
Amy Klobuchar appeared like the huge winner, relatively speaking. She got plenty of speaking time, she was clearer than normal in her answers, and she did the best job by far of selling a moderate vision without straight attacking Warren or Sanders.
Pete Buttigieg was the huge loser. I idea he sounded more politician-y and practiced tonight than normal, and his newfound combativeness didn’t play well. Throughout his squabble over fundraising with Warren and his squabble with Klobuchar over experience, I idea he came out on the losing end both times.
Joe Biden had a great night. For one thing, the tone of this debate was louder and more aggressive than past arguments, and by contrast Biden sounded like a cool drink of water whenever he spoke. That’s a great appearance for him. He also did well when he got a little more animated, as he did when talking about migration and Afghanistan.
Bernie Sanders was . . . Bernie Sanders. Even after you account for the truth that I’ve never ever been a big fan of his, he just sounded like he had absolutely nothing new to state. In dispute after debate, all we hear is that he’s somehow going to lead a transformation and then all our progressive dreams will come true. Meh.
Elizabeth Warren had some good answers and some bad ones. I’m uncertain about whether it was smart to just say “They’re wrong!” when she was asked about financial experts who said her two-percent wealth tax would be bad for the economy. On the one hand, yay! She’s most likely right. On the other hand, don’t you have to at least pretend to take the professionals seriously? This is a Democratic debate, after all, not a Republican one.
On the favorable side, “billionaires in red wine caves” is most likely to be the meme of the night.
Andrew Yang revealed some great flashes of humor, and I admire the guts of anybody who’s ready to state “thorium nuclear reactor” on a public stage. But he’s still never ever going to be president of the United States.
Tom Steyer didn’t matter prior to the dispute, and he still doesn’t matter.