The debate shows the desperation of everyone except Bernie


Any other candidate is going somewhere very soon. For all but one, or at most two, of these candidates, that somewhere has broken down. In a sense, the meeting at St. Anselm College in Manchester, broadcast nationally by ABC News, had only one question: it was a race between Sanders and BLANK.

The other six on stage had very effective moments; all six also walked out of the debate with questions about their sustainability still looming.

Two candidates in particular, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar, gave performances that conveyed ascendancy.

In Buttigieg’s case, this was facilitated by his effective bond with Sanders in the Iowa caucuses and polls indicating good prospects for another good performance in New Hampshire on February 11. He was often quick and bossy, with one glaring exception. The question he most needed to be strong on, his own racial justice record, was where he was weak and where that weakness was rubbed off by other candidates.

In Klobuchar’s case, she delivered what may have been her most effective debate exit to date. People often assume tricks from politicians. But she seemed sincere enough in her irritation at Buttigieg, cursing him about his inexperience and what she described as his flippant dismissal from the people who get things done in Washington in his desire to present himself as a “new guy.” come cool “. She also made a passionate appeal for racial justice, the key to which she says is stopping Republicans’ efforts to dilute the African-American vote through gerrymandering and voter purges.

The question for her, of course, is how much time is left to credibly claim to be the primary alternative to Sanders.

Buttigieg and Klobuchar both need the same thing to happen: another weak turning point on Tuesday from former Vice President Joe Biden, raising doubts about him before he can arrive in the only precocious state he is in. behaves well: South Carolina, which votes on February 2. 29.

Biden had a strong performance, by the often discursive standards of his debate outings. But his strategic vulnerability was highlighted by his own confession in the opening minutes of the debate. “I took a hit in Iowa, and I’m probably going to take a hit here,” he said. “Bernie won [New Hampshire] 20 points last time, ”referring to Sanders’ victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Repeating the arguments made in Iowa by his strategists, he said he sees the first four states to vote, including Nevada, as the opening phase of the contest and people will look at those contests cumulatively.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, based on some polls and her status as a representative of Massachusetts, on the New Hampshire border and a place where many residents work, claims to be doing well in the state. But she has to do very well – either the first or a close second – for her candidacy to be viable much longer.

She had a few moments during the debate – but, alas, only a few – that reminded her of why she once seemed to be on top of the race before the air started to leak last fall. Asked about the future of US forces in Afghanistan, she said troops must return home and cited the time she spent listening to generals from her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “At the end of the day, no one sees a solution to this war,” Warren said. “No one can describe what victory looks like. All they can describe is endless war.

Additionally, she was one of the candidates who formed Buttigieg when ABC’s Linsey Davis asked her why black residents of South Bend during his tenure were “more than four times more likely” than white residents to be arrested. for possession of marijuana. When giving a generic and somewhat hesitant answer about drugs and incarceration in general, instead of specifically addressing his own role, Davis asked Warren, “Is that a substantial response from Mayor Buttigieg?”

“No,” Warren replied. “You have to admit the facts, and it’s important to admit the facts about how race has permeated our justice system. She called for an overhaul of the laws to make them more “race sensitive.”

Apart from a few moments, Warren was often silent and seemed to recoil on stage.

If anything, billionaire Tom Steyer, whose viability is tenuous and in need of a big surprise soon, has held the scene more prominently. He displayed a strength and ease that has often eluded him, arguing that the differences between the candidates were insignificant and that more discussion was needed within the party on how to beat Trump and take the lead. full control of Congress. Invited by the moderators, he said he was worried about Sanders’ socialism and Buttigieg’s inexperience.

Cumulatively, however, it was remarkable how cordial the evening was. My colleague Charlie Mahtesian said that by the standards of previous election cycles the debate was “a pillow fight”. With time running out for all the contestants other than Sanders, it looks like there are plenty of reasons for contestants to peel back their rivals. New Hampshire, unlike Iowa, did not necessarily punish candidates for making sharp contrasts. Presumably, Mahtesian noted, the candidates calculate that Democratic voters are not eager to hear this in a year dominated by what they see as an existential threat to Trump’s American values.

Andrew Yang also set the scene for the debate, which was sponsored by Apple News and featured cameos from WMUR reporters in New Hampshire. As usual, the Unlinked Yang was articulate and entertaining when he spoke, which was not often, and as usual he persisted in pushing forward his proposal to tackle social inequalities by giving every adult a universal basic income of $ 1,000 per month. It’s noteworthy how long Yang lasted on debate stages and national conversation, long after contestants with more traditional resumes dropped out. But this latest debate and Iowa’s weak results raise questions about how long he will be able to stay on stage.

For people who have watched every Democratic debate over the past seven months, the evening couldn’t help but highlight how long this contest has lasted – and how much time is missing.

For Sanders, and perhaps also for Warren, the hope is that 2020 is about the power of ideology; they have spent decades honing and preaching ideas that have gone from the fringes of Democratic thought to the core.

For Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, they hope 2020 is mostly about biography – and especially life stories that contrast most vividly and attractively with Trump. They offer different varieties of biographical appeal: the length and often valiant struggles of Biden’s 48-year career, the dazzling youth and intelligence of Buttigieg, the diligence of Klobuchar’s more conventional rise.

The biography is also the essence of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s appeal. He wasn’t on stage and won’t be on the New Hampshire ballot, but with his hundreds of millions of TV commercials, he’s hopeful that on Super Tuesday he can grab the non-Sanders mantle.

Everyone is well aware that the place at the top is rapidly diminishing.

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