If you missed last night’s first round of the second Democratic presidential debate on CNN, Politico would like to assure you that you didn’t miss much. Calling it “a boring mess,” David Siders and Christopher Cadelago belatedly come to the conclusion that discussing policy “in 30-second snippets” leaves little room for substantive discussion. The only fireworks came from “a no-name ex-congressman,” who might have had the most success — thanks to a generous public beating from two of the front-runners:
John Delaney, the former Maryland congressman who two years ago became the first one to launch his presidential campaign, didn’t need to nudge his way into the second debate — conflict-starved moderators pretty much did it for him.
With Warren and Sanders playing nice, Delaney emerged as their top moderate foil, jabbing at their ideology and progressive plans as unrealistic and too costly while citing Ronald Reagan’s position on taxes. …
As the night wore on, he slipped down the list to seventh in speaking time, but that was after he’d starred in the only real viral moment as the guy on the receiving end of a spirited decking from Warren. Turning to him, a seemingly exasperated Warren waved her hands and said she can’t fathom why anyone would go through the trouble of running for president “just to talk about what we can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”
Delaney, who is worth an estimated $65 million, got to be the rich guy who Warren thinks should pay more in taxes. All of the attention helped push him into the most-Googled name at one point during the middle of the debate.
Delaney also mixed it up with Sanders on the democratic socialist’s health care plan. Delaney had called single-payer “bad policy,” after deriding it as political suicide that will help Donald Trump get reelected.
Sanders didn’t need many words to slap back at Delaney. But as Sanders shot back “you’re wrong,” Delaney flashed a big Cheshire cat smile.
He couldn’t have scripted a better night.
Not that it will matter, at least in terms of this election. Delaney has as much chance of winning the nomination as Marianne Williamson, who made headlines for her defense of reparations. That’s two fringe candidates going in opposite political directions to go nowhere at all.
CNN’s moderators did try to do a better job in allocation of time to the candidates — but only after taking up the first 15 minutes with self-promotion. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake gave credit to the moderators but wondered what the heck the network was thinking:
What CNN’s moderators gave, the format took away. CNN spent about 20 minutes at the start on candidate introductions, a commercial break and then (canned) opening statements. And then they held to a very rigid time limit on rebuttals, often cutting substantive responses short. The first debate, put on by MSNBC, was better about getting right to it. Maybe spend less time on the buildup and allow a little more response time.
Politico has a fun mash-up of the clock scolding, too:
The DNC should have learned a lesson about the format from the 2016 Republican primaries. Ten-on-ten creates a mess and incentivizes stunt interruptions and trollery, as I wrote a few weeks ago. They would have been better off organizing two-on-twos or one-on-ones and going through identical question progressions. That would have allowed the candidates to act with more responsibility as they would already be guaranteed camera time without getting ten people trying to talk over one another.
Anyway, CNN and the DNC will come back with the same format tonight. Don’t expect different results from the same old, same old. And don’t think that those not named Biden or Harris didn’t notice how Delaney succeeded in his self-promotion either.