Quantcast
Connect with us

There were zero winners and lots of losers at the Democratic presidential primary debate

Published

on

- Commentary

Well, that’s was a complete disaster.

Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate was the last time the candidates would meet on stage together before the potentially pivotal South Carolina primary, and largely because of absolutely dreadful moderation, the whole event was essentially pointless.

I often write up my analysis of debate nights by explaining my subjective perspective about who came out stronger after the debate and who left weaker — winners and losers. But by the midpoint of the debate on Tuesday night, that format looked less and less appropriate. The muddled, confused, and slapdash nature of the event made the candidates all look like they were struggling to get a word in edgewise. They talked over each other. The questions would insubstantial and amateurish (ironically, one of the best questions came from Twitter.) There was no cohesion to the discussion and no internal logic behind which candidate got to speak. And while there were jabs and counterattacks between some of the candidates, the moderators were usually unable to pull the discussions in a meaningful direction.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had some success in getting speaking time through force of will, but the result was such an uneven mishmash of topics and attacks that it’s hard to imagine that she came out ahead.

On a list of losers, the moderators, led by CBS News’ Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, surely come out first. They were the subject of endless scrutiny on social media, including for others in media who know the struggles of the presidential debate format.

“Debates are hard. TV news rivalries are hardcore,” said CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter. “That said, debate pros at other TV networks are exchanging messages calling this a ‘disaster,’ a ‘nightmare’ and worse.”

Errol Louis, a local TV news host in New York City, pointed out that the moderators completely failed to manage the candidates when they talked over each other:

ADVERTISEMENT

The amount of crosstalk resulted in a lot of completely useless airtime. Sometimes it wasn’t even clear who was speaking or who was supposed to be speaking.

And then there was the completely vacuous questioning. King, for instance, let former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg claim falsely that he stopped the city’s abusive policy of stop-and-frisk — in fact, a judge stopped it and Bloomberg fought the ruling, but you’d never know from King’s response. Later, after this lie, she asked Bloomberg a purely factual question — whether life expectancy improved in the city during his terms — instead of presenting the facts about his record and asking him to defend them. And the moderators seemed completely caught off guard when Warren brought up one of the most dramatic accusations of mistreatment of women that Bloomberg had faced, that he allegedly told a female employee to “kill” the fetus when she got pregnant. By being unaware of this information, the moderators made it seem like Warren was leveling an extreme charge against the former mayor, rather than accurately reporting news reports that Bloomberg disputes.

ADVERTISEMENT

At the end of the debate, the moderators wasted a bunch of time asking candidates to list a misconception about them and their personal mottos. These kinds of gimmicks always leave primary candidates in a tough bind: Do they stick to the rules and answer the question as straightforwardly as possible? Or do they use the speaking time to launch into their stump speeches? The candidates took different approaches with varying levels of success, but overall the segment was just a huge missed opportunity to discuss substantial issues that impact the country.

Faiz Shakir, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, expressed his frustration with the debate as well:

ADVERTISEMENT

Because it was so poorly moderated, the viewers — myself included — must be listed on the “losers” side of the ledger as well. No one looking for substantial debate about policy issues, the upcoming election, or even for the kinds of passionate exchanges about candidates’ histories that we saw at the previous debate was likely to come away satisfied or enlightened.

ADVERTISEMENT

And then there was the audience in the debate theater itself, which booed and cheered at the oddest times. The audience, or at least some vocal portion of it, seemed passionately in favor of Bloomberg, despite his lackluster performance.

Of course, no candidate running from behind comes away from such a dismal debate as a winner. These high-profile stages offer a rare opportunity to make a splash in a campaign that is usually drowned out by the daily outrages of the Trump White House. But failing to give candidates a decent platform to make their marks is no advantage.

Even Sanders, the frontrunner of the primary, can’t really be said to come out ahead. Going into South Carolina, he certainly has the wind at his back from his successes in the first three competitions. But he faces his biggest challenge yet in the primary on Saturday, because former Vice President Joe Biden has long been positioned for a strong showing in South Carolina. Recent polls show Biden still with a narrow lead. If Sanders could snatch victory from his chief rival in the state, it would go along way to bolstering his campaign and raising the chances that he could wrap up the nomination sooner rather than later. But if Biden gets a win in South Carolina, it could put a real drag on Sanders’ campaign. And there’s no reason to believe that Tuesday’s debate gave Sanders any additional edge that he is looking for.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Trump gambling his presidency on a voting group that may no longer exist

Published

on

President Donald Trump is betting that his law-and-order scare tactics will energize white suburban voters -- but that demographic may no longer exist as it once did.

The president remains popular in rural areas, and he won over suburban voters by 4 percent in 2016, and Trump and his Republican allies are betting he can turn out non-college educated whites who may be disgusted by police violence but don't support protests, reported Politico.

“There’s a lot of concern about the way the Minneapolis police acted,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, a seven-term Republican from the northern Virginia suburbs. “But whenever you start looting — and now the stuff’s spread out to Leesburg, it’s in Manassas … the politics takes a different turn.”

Continue Reading

2020 Election

‘One racist down. Hundreds in office to go’: Applause as Steve King is ousted in Iowa primary

Published

on

"Goodbye, Rep. Steve King. You are certainly not the only white supremacist in federal government, but you were among the most prominent," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

While acknowledging that the important work of ridding Congress of racist lawmakers is far from finished, progressives celebrated the ouster of white supremacist Rep. Steve King in Iowa's Republican primary Tuesday as a significant victory and a step in the right direction.

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

Amid pandemic, White House race becomes digital dogfight

Published

on

The 2020 US presidential race is becoming a digital-first campaign as the coronavirus pandemic cuts candidates off from traditional organizing and in-person events.

On the surface, President Donald Trump has the edge over Democrat Joe Biden because of the incumbent's extensive digital infrastructure and large social media following.

But Biden has been stepping up his digital presence and is getting a boost from a handful of outside organizations seeking to counter Trump's messaging on social platforms.

Both sides agree that digital will play a critical role in the 2020 White House race as social media have taken the place of rallies and door-to-door campaigning.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image