Predictions, Hopes, and Fears for the October Debate

Credit to Phil Roeder

It’s time for another Democratic Debate, and I’m already feeling the dread sinking in again.

A month ago, the third debate caused a lot of controversy due to its strict yet vague requirements that narrowed the crowd of candidates down to ten.

Certain candidates, like Representative Tulsi Gabbard, were kept out of the debate. Meanwhile, politicians with less rabid support, like Senator Amy Klobuchar, were invited to take the stage with the likes of Bernie Sanders. This time, Tulsi and billionaire Tom Steyer made the cut by earning 2% in four “qualifying polls”.

At first, I was delighted. I thought that this meant that the debate will be split up into two nights, with six candidates on each stage. I assumed that this would help make discussion and debate less… terrible.

Boy, was I wrong!

Instead, there will now be 12 smiling politicians up there, fighting for their chance to gain 15 minutes of fame. This is my opinion of what each candidate will do, what they should do, and whether or not they even have a shot at the Democratic Nomination.

Let’s start with the lucky ones!

Tulsi Gabbard

The biggest casualty of the third debate, Tulsi Gabbard is not exactly in the good graces of the mainstream media. MSNBC and CNN have a Clintonian, neo liberal perspective on foreign policy. There will always be a focus on who the bad guy is, and when exactly the United States must intervene with regime change. A few years ago they were cheerleaders for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This sensationalist attitude gives them plenty of ratings, so its understandable from a capitalistic standpoint to do what they do.

Now they feel it’s time to beat the war drums for Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. Tulsi has made it clear that she is against “counterproductive regime change wars” over and over again. The media establishment responds by calling her a Putin puppet and an Assad apologist. While I have many disagreements with her policy stances (ambivalence on torture… really?) this is where I and most Americans stand on the issue of interventionism.

Like the last two debates she participated in, I suspect Tulsi will bring this up. She also has a reputation for destroying politicians’ whole careers. Tim Ryan looked like a damned idiot fighting with her on foreign policy. Kamala Harris got blown back when Tulsi hammered her on that disastrous criminal justice record.

Kamala’s supporters have now fled to new pastures. So who will Tulsi destroy next? My bet is that she tries to go after Senator Elizabeth Warren, evidenced by her recent shot at the senator. She criticized Elizabeth’s foreign policy, claiming that she hasn’t seen much.

Fair enough, but I don’t know if attacking Warren will be as effective as last time. For one, she will likely get even less time than she usually gets as a result of this 12-person stage nonsense. Elizabeth Warren is also better at handling debates than Kamala Harris or Tim Ryan.

She doesn’t usually interject with cringe jokes or make stupid statements. And when she was attacked by Joe Biden or John Delaney, she did a good job in deflating criticism while also appearing cool and collected. Tulsi’s success as a candidate depends on her ability to spar with the top contenders.

If she even attends, that is!

Tom Steyer

Billionaire Tom Steyer is a great avatar for what money will buy in this country. Tom kick started his campaign by raising an email list of angry Democrats that wanted to impeach Donald Trump. He ended that initiative, and used his new contact list to spread the word about his run for president.

By spending a crap ton of money, Tom managed to do well enough in the polls of early states to snag a seat for October.

His big deal is that he is a rich guy who wants to pay higher taxes, he wants to take climate change seriously, and he is an “outsider activist”. If he wants to stand out up there on the stage, Tom is going to need to turn his attention on the top tier choices while also not alienating the party’s progressive base.

If I were his advisor, I would ask him to go after Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, or Kamala Harris. Why? Simply put, these are high profile targets that have a hard time defending their records. Attacking Bernie or Elizabeth will only prompt them to highlight his billionaire status. Confronting the small fries will yield no positive results either.

Given the bias of the mainstream media, I expect more questions will be sent his way.

Now it’s time to turn to the Cusp Candidates. These are politicians that made it to the September debate, but have little shot at making it to the November debate unless they really step it up!

Julian Castro

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro has been hanging on for dear life. And that is surprising to me, given all of the relatively decent moments he has had on the debates so far. He notably demolished Beto O’Rourke on the issue of immigration. He also had some great points to make against Joe Biden.

He has a good stage presence and a clear speaking voice. Julian is young, yet has plenty of executive experience to his name. He has all the superficial qualities that media pundits and consultants would assume are instant winners for a nominating process.

However, he’s been stuck between one and two percent since the start of his candidacy. This is due to a combination of factors: lack of media coverage, an over saturation of presidential candidates, and an overall desire to have a non establishment choice by a significant portion of the party. He would have fared better in 2008 or 2012, when he was the prophesied “rising star”.

In order to even make it to the next debate, I suspect other candidates would have to drop out. Honestly, at this point, not much can save him. He’s already tried being aggressive. He’s tried the Obama impersonation too.

Either way, I have no doubt that Julian will go after Joe Biden again.

Amy Klobuchar

There isn’t much to say about Senator Amy Klobuchar. Buoyed by a consistent 2–3% for the entirety of the primary so far, Amy has little place to go. She isn’t willing to get aggressive. Her plans alone are mediocre and ineffectual.

She killed a duck, threw office supplies at staffers, and ate salad with a comb.

Something tells me that half of her support must come from terrified aides. Regardless, I have little hope that Amy will stray from giving a flat, boring debate performance that no one will remember later.

Cory Booker

Senator Cory Booker, like Julian Castro, would be doing much better if there were less candidates in the race. Moderators tend to give him A LOT of questions, and he’s always prepared to answer them. Maybe a little too prepared.

Despite getting a good amount of speaking time during each debate, Cory hasn’t risen much over the last few months. Perhaps its that face he makes all the time. Perhaps its the over rehearsed lines. Or maybe voters are savvy enough to recognize his corporate leanings. Cory is playing the role of a less effective Obama or Harris, essentially.

The next debate will have to be his best one yet. You may notice that this is true of most of the contenders here.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke is finally starting to make his presidential campaign about something besides himself. The new focus on gun reform has given him praise from mainstream media outlets and primary rivals alike.

Unfortunately, it may be a case of too little, too late. Beto has an enormous hole to climb out of, support-wise. Outside of Texas, there doesn’t seem to be much room for the guy.

If I were him, I would turn towards the upcoming Senate race in Texas… but he seems to have too big of an ego to stop pretending that he has a shot. Lately, Beto attacked Mayor Pete Buttigieg over the gun issue, and it wouldn’t shock me if he continues this strategy in the next debate.

Which is fair enough, I would do the same. After all, Pete basically replaced him as the young moderate.

But, as I said, it may not be enough. Maybe he should curse more or stand on more tables.

Andrew Yang

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is having a slow but steady climb, and its funny how so few people have noticed. In fact, I was tempted to include him with the top tier.

However, as of now, Andrew hasn’t yet been confirmed for the NEXT next debate in November. And that is my criteria for the top candidates in the race.

His outsider/sorta libertarian status will likely continue to boost Andrew through the following months. Universal Basic Income is an interesting idea that was laughed at by Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, and I would hope that in this upcoming debate, Andrew should challenge them on what exactly is ridiculous about his proposal.

My main issue with it is that the ultimate goal is to phase out the welfare state. I would prefer a UBI that works alongside Medicaid, SNAP, and other helpful programs.

For Andrew to really make his mark, as I’ve suggested before, he needs to engage with the goofy, insincere politicians up on that stage. He should also loosen up his performance a bit… he comes off as a tad too “PowerPoint Presentation”, if you get what I mean. I know, its not a policy criticism, but performance unfortunately matters a lot in politics.

Last, we come to the Top Five. These guys have already qualified for the next debate, so having a breakout moment is not necessary. However, it would be incredibly helpful for their respective campaigns. In addition, one wrong move could possibly sink them forever.

Pete Buttigieg

To be perfectly honest, I underestimated how well Mayor Pete Buttigieg would do. I figured that he would join the likes of John Hickenlooper and Jay Inslee, dropping out after a couple debates.

As it turns out, Mayor Pete seems to have plenty of connections with wealthy donors, and that love has trickled down to the media as well. For a couple months, he was the rising star. Before Kamala was the rising star. And now Elizabeth. In fact, when you look at demographics, the same cohort that loved Hillary Clinton in 2016 (white, well off, post graduate liberals) have moved from Pete to Kamala to Elizabeth over the cycle so far.

Which really tells you something about how little policy or ideology matters to this sect of the Democratic Party. Notice how I haven’t said much about Pete himself, and that’s because there isn’t much to say.

He’s a white, well off, post graduate who is vaguely liberal on a variety of issues. Pete has a decent enough presentation, even if he reminds me of the kid from MAD magazine.

However, his whole candidacy hinges on the idea of him being young and smart… and that’s about it. Being wedged between fourth and fifth place isn’t bad in a field of 20, but if he wants to take back some of that support he lost, Pete should probably get aggressive on a rival that shares his base.

Chances are, his advisors told him to stay above the fray. Again.

And I will be bored by him.

Kamala Harris

Senator Kamala Harris is probably feeling desperate right about now. After a great showing in debate #1 crushing Joe Biden, she got blindsided by a takedown, courtesy of Tulsi Gabbard. Her support drifted to Elizabeth Warren, and by the third debate, Kamala thought she could endear everyone by giving coached one liners and dad jokes. That was obvious a dumb move, but I suppose when you live in presidential primary bubble, you lose touch with reality.

As it stands now, Kamala is even suffering in her home state of California. Like Pete, she should probably take that educated, Hillary-loving base back from Elizabeth Warren.

How? Well, it will be hard, as she would have to really examine why she appealed to voters in the first place. Kamala shone when she turned the conversation with Biden personal, and essentially prosecuted him for his segregationist record. So perhaps she could start there.

She’s got to show that she would be a tougher fighter against Trump.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie has had a rough time in the last month or so. While breaking volunteering and fundraising records, he hasn’t gotten much attention from the media. And being that outlets like CNN are so influential, their blatant disdain of Bernie has not given him much opportunity to get his message out. Which is insane for a guy who has been reliably top tier from the beginning.

In the third debate, Bernie was sidelined from discussing climate change or criminal justice.

Just recently, he had a health scare, leading to a couple of stents being place in his wrist. To be clear, it was a standard procedure that occurs for many people at some point in their lives when they deal with a heart attack.

This was probably due to his crazy rally schedule, planning four events per day.

With time to rest, and a new personal story to share, Bernie should be ready for the October debate. The moderators will likely ask him about the situation, which gives him the chance to really connect with voters in a way he typically doesn’t do. Which is good, as it can show off his softer side.

Here is what might be a preview of what to expect.

However, with 12 candidates up on stage, I wouldn’t be surprised if the hosts ignore him after that. Which means Bernie has to nail it every time he speaks. No sore throat. No peace making.

Bernie shares a base with Joe Biden (working class, multiethnic), due to Joe’s perception of being a down-to-earth guy who is best friends with President Obama.

As such, the Vermont senator absolutely needs to hit Joe on his corporate donors in the same successful way he did to Hillary Clinton a few years ago. Not to mention a few words on trade, wall street, war and bankruptcy laws.

Many think that Bernie needs to go after Elizabeth Warren right now. Maybe a little, for now. He’s pretty much guaranteed a limited time to get his message out, and attempting to convince former Hillary supporters will be harder than non committal Biden people unaware of what’s really going on.

Don’t forget, Joe Biden is STILL technically the front runner.

But for Elizabeth, Bernie should highlight his foreign policy prowess and his leadership throughout the years.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is now the new media darling, which I thought would only happen later down the road when Joe and Kamala drop out. She was unchallenged by the media for three straight debates.

The criticisms she has received have come from fools like John Delaney and John Hickenlooper.

Things are great for her right now, but it’s hard to see what will happen by the time of the Iowa Caucus. After all, its still early.

She could spring up to first place and stay there forever. She could get clobbered by all her rivals now that she’s made herself a target. Kamala or Pete could make a comeback and snatch back their base of white educated voters.

In order for Elizabeth to do well in this debate, she should come prepared for the knives to come out. Her debating style is passionate but non confrontational, often pivoting to her framing of a question or accusation.

Which is fine, I guess… unless a candidate is wise to that strategy and calls her out. I suspect that Elizabeth will be on defense. Unless her rivals are too dumb to come after her.

Which is possible.

Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden is somehow the current front runner. After the terrible showings at all the debates, the incoherent rambling, the lies, Corn Pop, and now his family’s connection to a Trump scandal, it’s hilariously sad that this man is still doing as well as he is.

To be fair, he has been very slowly declining in the polls since he announced. Which tells me that most people being polled aren’t even paying attention to the election right now. They just see a list of names they’ve seen on TV and just pick somebody without thinking about it.

It is both disheartening that Americans aren’t tuning in right now… but it also gives me hope that there are still months to go before voters really start their decision making. What I’m saying is that Joe Biden has a lot of soft support, from the working class specifically.

Those voters could totally go to someone like Bernie Sanders, who shares a base with him. Older African Americans seem to be his most loyal support, which is good new for his prospects in the southern primaries like South Carolina.

Unfortunately for Joe, his best hope is to try to hold on to as much support as possible before Super Tuesday.

So for the debate… well, just work on yourself, Joe. Put on the record player. Hear words. Get into a fight with Corn Pop. Chill with Segregationists.

If you want to know my fantasy of what will go down, here it goes:

Bernie turns his health scare into a positive, making a good case for Medicare For All. He takes turns with Elizabeth, Julian, Cory, and Kamala in attacking Joe Biden. Bernie highlights his record on trade, war, and economics versus Joe. Elizabeth gets surprisingly hit by Kamala, Pete, and Tulsi. Tom Steyer gets one question, and Bernie folds him into a pretzel. Then, Andrew Yang endorses Bernie on the debate stage, drops the Mic, and walks out. Amy and Beto also drop out. Joe Biden plummets as Bernie rises. Elizabeth’s base gets split by Kamala and Pete.

Obviously this won’t happen (not all of it, at least). I’ll let you know my thoughts after the debate, too!

Originally published at on October 11, 2019.

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