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POWER RANKINGS: Dem Debates, Round 2
We are now 185 days away from the first Dem Primary votes being cast in the Iowa caucus, and 25 candidates remain in the hunt for the nomination. Twenty of them were on the stage in Detroit, Michigan this week at the second Democratic debates.
The debate was held in Detroit for at least three reasons:
It is located 68 miles southeast of Flint, where governmental irresponsibility caused a humanitarian crisis in 2014,
Michigan, anticipated to be a blue state, ended up going for Trump in 2016.
With that backdrop, the candidates were broken into two groups of 10, allowing for the 20 candidate maximum set by the Democratic National Committee, provided that many candidates hit one of two thresholds - polling and/or donors. As it turns out, Mike Gravel was the only candidate to hit one of the thresholds and not make the stage.
Those that did were given ample opportunity to affirm their beliefs and differentiate themselves, with some candidates faring better than others.
NIGHT ONE POWER RANKINGS
Elizabeth Warren - Warren delivered the line of the night in a stout performance. Her knockout blow on John Delaney established a hierarchy that was evident the entire evening. Warren justified her voluminous policies while engendering emotion, and was poised and strong. She also formed a unified front with Bernie Sanders, who is considered her main rival, at least policy-wise.
Bernie Sanders - Sanders stays on his message, and derives power through focused emotion. Consistent to his core, Sanders continued to rail against corporations, health insurance providers, and big business, while providing an eye-opening anecdote about crossing the Canadian border with American diabetics to receive significantly cheaper insulin. Also, he wrote the damn bill.
Pete Buttigieg - “Vision” was the Buttigieg message of the night. Citing his age as an advantage, referencing his military experience in Afghanistan as a differentiator between him and Trump, and calling out Republicans in Congress for not speaking out against the president’s racism, Buttigieg was prepared and focused the entire evening.
Beto O’Rourke - Beto rebounded from an uneven performance during the first debates to provide a stinging rebuke to the NRA, a strong approach to healing the racial divide, and s sense of climate change urgency.
Marianne Williamson - Her “40 acres and mule” justification for $500 billion in reparations as well as her description of Trump’s “dark, psychic force of collectivized hatred” resonated, as she was the unlikely winner on both #GoogleTrends and Twitter followers gained over the course of the debate.
Amy Klobuchar - Klobuchar’s focus on her own background as a consistent winner in the midwest ensured a slight ‘arrow pointing up’ feeling for the night. She outperformed the other moderates on the stage, though without a signature moment.
Steve Bullock - Bullock’s debut was fine. He came out swinging at Trump, and referred to the fact that he was the “only one of the 37 candidates to actually win a red state (Montana,” which is a solid point. He also proved to be a counterweight to more left-leaning candidates with his stances on border crossings, health care for undocumented immigrants and “Medicare for All.”
John Hickenlooper - No major missteps, but not memorable. Naysaying tariffs, calling Sanders’ policies too extreme for the White House, and providing a public option instead of Medicare for All may be pragmatic, but they fell flat.
John Delaney - Poor John Delaney. Though his policies are grounded, based in reality, and honed from years of real-world business experience, this night will be remembered for one moment, and that was the Elizabeth Warren knockout.
Tim Ryan - Ryan was the only candidate without his hand over his heart during the national anthem; he teed up Sanders’ most memorable line of the night; then he denied undocumented immigrants healthcare. In short, not a great night for Ryan.
NIGHT TWO POWER RANKINGS
Julián Castro - Intentioned, articulate, & prepared, Castro once again stood out on a contentious debate stage. He also delivered the line of the night, "It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past, and one of us hasn't."
Cory Booker - Booker stood tall and delivered. Focusing on race, crime, and attacking Biden’s record - as well as defending his own - viewers saw the best of Booker. If he can’t capitalize after this performance, then his ceiling is real.
Kamala Harris - Harris came out swinging, perhaps in an attempt to capitalize on her masterful first-debate performance. She stood on her record and defended her policies, notably on healthcare. She was also consistently under attack from Tulsi Gabbard.
Andrew Yang - With a referendum on climate change, universal basic income, attacks on President Trump
Kirsten Gillibrand - She’s going to Clorox the Oval Office, and she showed spunk with an improved performance. She forcefully called for the NYPD officer that arrested (and killed) Eric Holder to be fired. It will be difficult for her to escape the white woman of privilege appearance, though.
Joe Biden - Joe was more prepared than his first debate, but, alarmingly, stumbled on some of his words and abandoned thoughts mid-sentence. The 30330 gaffe was particularly difficult to watch.
Jay Inslee - Sporting a new look, he was measured and charming, and when the topic was climate, he was a huge winner. Otherwise, he did not cover too much ground and was not necessarily a dynamic speaker.
Bill de Blasio - Opposed to the first night when he was a surprise star, he seemed to fumble his rehearsed lines and take the fight to where it had already been, instead of staking new ground. He was mostly background to the evening’s fireworks.
Tulsi Gabbard - Gabbard was in attack mode the entire night, and despite an interesting and unique stance on American foreign involvement, She was too aggressive, however, and it seemed grating on not just the candidates on stage, but reflective of her being the only candidate not trending on twitter.
Michael Bennet - Bennet seems like a good man with a fair and just heart, but much like John Delaney, is just out of step with the party in 2020. He does not have the pizzazz or personality to last much longer in the race, despite some very sound and thoughtful stances.
WHICH CANDIDATES MISSED OUT?
Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton
Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer
Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak
Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel
July 25 (The Social Media Issue) July 18 (The Fundraising Issue) July 11 July 4 (The Ancestry Issue) June 27 June 20 (The Debate Issue) June 13 June 6 May 30 May 23 May 16 May 9 May 2 April 25 April 18 April 11 April 7 March 31 March 24 March 17 March 10