I missed all but the last ten minutes of the first Democratic Presidential debate, as I was out and about. All I saw was a bunch of self-promotion, and some heated moments as the Dems attacked each other. Well, that’s to be expected. Weigh in below with your opinion, though it’s early days. Who did well and who didn’t?
CNN’s analysis is here, with their list of winners and losers. Of course making lists like this is largely for entertainment value, but for what it’s worth:
* Julián Castro: The former San Antonio mayor had been running below the radar — WAY below the radar — until Wednesday night. That is likely to change after his performance, in which he was able to carve out a remarkable amount of speaking time for a candidate polling somewhere between 0% and 1%. (An hour into the debate, Castro had spoken as much as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is in the midteens in national polling, according to a count kept by The Washington Post. Hugely helpful!) Castro’s battering of Beto O’Rourke on immigration was hard to watch (especially if you were related to O’Rourke), but a clear win for Castro.
* Elizabeth Warren: Yes, she got more questions than anyone else. And, yes, she didn’t directly answer all of them. But Warren — especially in the early parts of the debate, when the most people were watching — was the straw that stirs the drink in the debate. (She did disappear somewhat in the second hour.) The debate began on home turf for her — talking about economic inequality. And Warren’s hand-raising when all of the candidates were asked whether they supported abolishing private insurance (only Bill de Blasio joined her) was a strong message to liberals watching that she was proud of who she was and what she believed. Warren came into the debate with the momentum in the race. Nothing she did on Wednesday night will stop that momentum.* Cory Booker: The senator from New Jersey won’t be the big star coming out of Wednesday’s debate — my guess is that Castro will be that person — but he found a way to inject himself into most of the conversations during the night — even those where he wasn’t directly asked. Booker had the most talking time of any of the 10 candidates; talking the most isn’t always a sign of victory, but when you are someone like Booker who is just trying to get his name out there, it’s a pretty good measure. One caveat: For all of that talking, is there a memorable line from Booker coming out of this debate? I don’t think so.
* Beto O’Rourke: Hard to watch. Badly out of his depth from a policy perspective. Too rehearsed in his answers. The idea of him starting his first answer of the debate by speaking Spanish might have seemed like a good idea in his debate prep room but it played as pandering and overly planned in the moment. If one of O’Rourke’s goals coming into this debate was to show he was more than a good-looking but sort of empty vessel, it, um, didn’t work.* NBC’s sound people: It’s never a good thing when there are hot mics when there shouldn’t be. It’s even worse when the tech people can’t fix that problem quickly and you have to go to an unplanned break. And it’s disastrously bad when the President of the United States takes to Twitter to say this: “.@NBCNews and @MSNBC should be ashamed of themselves for having such a horrible technical breakdown in the middle of the debate. Truly unprofessional and only worthy of a FAKE NEWS Organization, which they are!”