So, I watched two hours of the debate last night. I haven’t watched any of the previous ones, but decided that with only 10 on stage it would be manageable. But who decided to make it 3 hours!? I trend toward political junkiness but even I had had enough.
I came away with lots of questions: Why is Andrew Yang still on the stage? Who exactly is supporting him. He gave precisely one good answer on immigration. How did Bernie Sanders get to be so old? He never really looked old in 2016, but three years does make a difference. And Biden is, well, Biden. Still with the tangled syntax and rambling answers. Do I really want to elect another old white guy to succeed the old white guy currently in office? Is Elizabeth Warren too wonky? Sometimes her answers, while likely factual, make my eyes glaze over. (I have to point out here that I worked on her first Senate campaign when I still lived in Massachusetts, but I had the same feelings about her then.) Maybe she is better suited to the Senate.
The two candidates I liked were Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. The New York Times only gave them each around 6 out of 10. (Warren was the highest at 7.5.) FiveThirtyEight rated them average with most of the others – 3 out of 4 – but they also had Harris slipping in support along with Bernie. But debate performance is mostly in the eye of the beholder.
So why do I like Harris and Booker? I think the racial politics right now means we need a black/minority candidate to take on Trump. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think he wouldn’t know what to do against a Harris or Booker: a smart articulate qualified person who wouldn’t wilt under his racial attacks. I would pair Harris with Pete Buttigieg or Booker with Amy Klobuchar. West or east coast with the center. My single goal is to beat Trump. I know the polling shows that other candidates can do better in beating him, but it is early days yet and Booker and Harris have decent numbers. Vox had a story the other day with numbers:
These were the latest numbers in Texas from Latino Decisions, North Star Opinion Research, and the University of Houston:
- Joe Biden 47 percent, Donald Trump 43 percent
- Bernie Sanders 48 percent, Donald Trump 42 percent
- Elizabeth Warren 44 percent, Donald Trump 42 percent
- Kamala Harris 45 percent, Donald Trump 44 percent
- Cory Booker 43 percent, Donald Trump 41 percent
- Julián Castro 44 percent, Donald Trump 41 percent
The real story is in the second half of the column, with Donald Trump stuck between 41 and 44 percent in Texas. Head-to-head polling from the Washington Post and ABC News, fresh off the presses, tells a similar story at the national level among registered voters:
- Joe Biden 55 percent, Donald Trump 40 percent
- Bernie Sanders 52 percent, Donald Trump 43 percent
- Elizabeth Warren 51 percent, Donald Trump 44 percent
- Kamala Harris 50 percent, Donald Trump 43 percent
- Pete Buttigieg 47 percent, Donald Trump 43 percent
Once again, the president doesn’t breach even 45 percent against any of his potential Democratic opponents.
So let’s not fall into the Bernie-Biden-Warren trap too soon. We are having debates, but we need to see the ground games of the candidates. February and the Iowa Caucuses will come soon enough. For now I will take Harris’ advice, “believe in what can be, unburdened by what has been”.