28 June 2019

The second debate night

Pretty much everyone agrees that the big story of the night was the emergence of Kamala Harris.  Like Warren the day before, she greatly enhanced her perceived electability -- by being so devastatingly effective debating Biden, she reassured voters that she would be effective against Trump as well, at least in debates.  Again, we'll need to wait a few days for real polling data to become available (online snap polls are meaningless), but I'm guessing she'll get a boost in support.

I think Biden, by contrast, damaged his perceived electability.  His response was irritable, evasive, and completely lacking in empathy, and he stumbled into yet another error by saying he agreed with busing being decided at the local level but objected to it being imposed at the federal level -- a de facto endorsement of the segregationist "states' rights" stance of that time.  (His actual position on busing in the seventies was more negative than he implied in the debate.)  His campaign's post-debate comment on the exchange was just as tone-deaf and clueless.  If he couldn't handle Harris any better than this, it raises doubts about his ability to handle Trump.

(For analysis of the debate overall, see here.)

I feel vindicated in my assessment last week that Biden's choice of segregationists as examples of the virtue of being able to work with people one "disagrees with" was a serious blunder.  Given the length of his career, there were doubtless many other people he could have used as examples, but he chose a monstrous figure like Eastland who virtually personified a system of oppression that kept millions of Americans subjugated on the basis of skin color.  He still doesn't seem to realize why this choice was a mistake or to grasp that it potentially alienates millions of black voters (and other people aware of the history of racism in the US) whose votes he will need in both the primary and the general.  And he's continued to dig in deeper each time he's challenged on it.  At the very least, it raises a concern about what further self-damaging blunders he's likely to make in the sixteen months between now and the election.

In short, the debates demolished the electability argument for Biden.  Harris, Warren, and perhaps others now look more capable of defeating Trump.  Buttigieg also made a good impression.  As on Wednesday, none of the minor candidates really distinguished themselves.  Assuming these impressions are confirmed by polling, those among them who could plausibly do so need to start thinking about running for Senate instead (Marianne Williamson can perhaps try for ambassador to Pluto).  Sanders is still in the running with substantial support, and Biden remains a heavyweight and could recover if he gets a grip on his problems and changes course.  There could still be some future stand-out moment from one of the minor candidates, but their performances so far give no reason to expect one.  The nominee will almost certainly be either Harris, Warren, Buttigieg, Sanders, or Biden.

By the way, the audience for Wednesday's debate was 15.3 million, while that for Thursday's was 18.1 million (source).  These are impressively-large numbers for a primary debate, but still small compared to the total potential electorate -- 130 million people voted in 2016, and the number of Americans qualified to vote is over 200 million.  So, again, most voters will get their impressions via news coverage and videos of the highlights -- which means it may take some time for the effects of the candidates' performances to show up in polling data.


Blogger Nan said...

I have a whole new outlook towards Harris after the debate! And I agree that Pete (easier than his last name) was definitely notable. I was never that enthused with Biden or Sanders. IMO, both are too old and no matter what their "platform" is, they're still entrenched in "politics." Warren probably has a better chance over Kamala and Pete, but I'd really like to see some younger folk lead this nation.

28 June, 2019 15:51  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I think Warren and Harris should be the front runners. Buttigieg and Castro should stick around as Vice Presidential candidates. Uncle Joe and Sanders should go fish.
Nothing would cause me more joy than watch Cheeto get destroyed in public by either Kamala or Liz.

28 June, 2019 19:35  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Yeah. Pretty much my take on both debates. One thought: Can anyone imagine Harris's reaction during a Trump/Harris debate if Trump started stalking her on stage as he did with Clinton?

Trump's ridiculous and pitiful response to Putin's claim that liberal democracy is obsolete was stupifyingly idiotic: "If you look at what's happening in Los Angeles, San Francisco [cities] run by a group of liberal people..."

Trump doesn't even know what liberal democracy means and he's the leader of a liberal democracy!

29 June, 2019 06:20  
Blogger Mary said...

Agree with you and both commenters...Harris or Warren!

29 June, 2019 07:12  
Blogger Les Carpenter said...

And add in Buttigieg who was IMO impressive as well.

29 June, 2019 10:54  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

I suspect very few people know just how malignant Senator Eastland was. I am sorry to resort to quoting things like this, but it is vitally important that Democrats know exactly who they are supporting and what they are willing to accept. Here is a remark by Eastland:

“In every stage of the bus boycott we have been oppressed and degraded because of black, slimy, juicy, unbearably stinky niggers. African flesh eaters...All whites are created equal with certain rights, among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of dead niggers.”

You don't get any more racist than that, and you don't get any more degraded than to be proud of having allied yourself with this person.

29 June, 2019 11:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Nan: I think Harris brought herself to a lot of people's attention. That's what debates are for -- to give the best candidates an opportunity to stand out. She and Warren gained the most from the debates.

Sixpence: That would be fun to watch!

Shaw: We've learned from Hillary's experience that pretending to ignore his behavior isn't the best way. I imagine Harris will have a killer response ready if he starts doing that.

Mary: Maybe we can have Warren/Harris for 2020 and 2024 and then Harris for the next two?

Rational: He does make a very favorable impression, but I think he has a similar problem to Bernie -- great appeal to a certain part of the base, but difficulty growing beyond that. Neither of them seem to be able to connect with minorities, which is a real problem.

Green: Thanks for the quote. It's disgusting, but necessary to remember the stark reality of what the issue is here. As my earlier post said, Eastland was not the kind of person one merely "has disagreements" with.

30 June, 2019 01:50  
Blogger RO said...

You give a great view of what happened that night, and only time will tell who will be left standing. Hugs, RO

02 July, 2019 01:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks -- I'm glad you found it useful.

02 July, 2019 17:29  

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