This week marks the unofficial beginning of the Democratic primary race for the 2020 Presidential nomination. On Wednesday and Thursday, fully 20 candidates will vie for attention from the voting public in two debates featuring 10 candidates on each night, largely chosen at random. It has become a kind of parlor game to predict how the candidates will do.

So, let’s take a break from the unrelenting angst of the news cycle—where stories range from deeply disconcerting (Iran) to agonizingly heartbreaking (our southern border)—and have some fun. (For sheer survival, an occasional break is necessary!)

As a self-confessed political junkie, rather than fight the tide, I thought I’d join the game and offer my own predictions as to what we might expect this week. Some of these predictions might seem as no-brainers (although Rick Perry’s “Oops Moment” during the Presidential debate in 2011 reminds us that nothing is entirely predictable); others might suggest surprises. At any rate, you will be able to quickly judge the value of my political instincts, and in next week’s post we can hold a reckoning! You can even play along at home! And the good thing about this exercise–since I have no predictive power or any substantive political influence, and since it is so early in the campaign–the stakes couldn’t be lower. It’s all just good fun.

On Wednesday night, look for the following: Elizabeth Warren will continue her momentum of recent weeks, and may even offer a new “plan for that” in response to whatever the moderators and her co-candidates throw at her. She will emerge as the clear winner on the first night.

Far from as certain is who will also benefit from this inaugural debate. Watch for Cory Booker to rise to this occasion. If he can maintain his credo to speak truth to power and couple it with the grace under fire he showed in the recent controversy prompted by Joe Biden’s remarks about race, look for him to rise in stature among the American electorate.

Beto O’Rourke will inject passion into his performance; Jay Inslee will score points on climate change since the debate is in Miami, a slowly sinking city. The sleeper of the night: watch for Bill de Blasio. The New York City mayor knows about street brawls and will surprise many once he is out from under the glare of the thankless New York media.

On Thursday night, although they may suck up most of the air time and subsequent political commentary, expect Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to dual to a draw. Neither will convince the other (or the general audience) that their respective formulas for the future can be carried to term by shop-worn messengers whose time is past. Rather, the interest will be in second tier candidates. Look for electricity from Kamala Harris, lifting her higher in the polls and watch as unflappable Pete Buttigieg shakes off current events in South Bend—or, at least, holds them at bay—and survives to continue his Presidential quest.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the two nights might be Andrew Yang—whose cogent articulation of the problems facing this country could cause many to take a second look (or, perhaps, a first look). The media will discover him and provide much needed momentum.

Enjoy the debates. The true-life stakes couldn’t be higher, but in our private parlor game, it will be fascinating and fun to see how things turn out.

Until next week…

3 thoughts on “Debate Expectations

  1. I, too, am looking forward to the debates. Though it may be somewhat superficial, here’s what I’m lookin for: The Person who can and will defeat Trump.

    That’s what is needed. I’d like to think that this is the year to elect a woman president. But more important than gender or race, we must have a new president.

    So I’ll be looking for someone who inspires confidence and is articulate enough to stand tall and overshadow Trump. If that’s a woman or a minority person, fine. At one point I thought that the winning difference might be name recognition and readiness for the tasks at hand. I assumed that the name Biden might carry that magic. Now I’m not so sure.

    Surely there are several in this large list of Democratic candidates. Good ideas, a welcoming style, and a good name may be the key. I look forward to the debates.

  2. With the benefit of having watched the first debate, I must say that I was very impressed with Elizabeth Warren. However, I’m really surprised by how well Bill de Blasio acquitted himself. In general, I was surprised by how little any of the candidates criticized Trump.

  3. I have become quite a political junkie, myself (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) and I’m looking forward to Round 2 of the debates tonight!

    Here’s my take on last night…

    I think Julián Castro was the biggest winner in the sense that I think he will see the best leap forward of any of last night’s pool. I also think Cory Booker was a front runner and strategically positioned himself to get a lot of air time, without being an obnoxious interrupter. I think Elizabeth Warren held strong and didn’t do anything to diminish her standing, but didn’t tell us much we don’t already know. I do wish she had jumped in a little bit in the second half, but I think it’s okay that she was playing it safe at this stage. I’m still waiting to hear more of her plan for ending gun violence before throwing the full weight of my support behind her. She put her toe in the water there last night, but Booker and Castro are currently stronger on that particular issue for people like me.

    I think Beto suffered the greatest loss, as he has been a giant balloon that has been slowly losing air since his splashy announcement. I like Beto’s passion when he’s “on the stump” but he’s completely incapable of answering a question directly. I think he will continue to lose momentum and be replaced by Booker or Castro. I also think Inslee “lost” last night. He was in the perfect place to build momentum around his climate stance but he’s just not engaging enough.

    Tulsi Gabbard had a good night, too, in that she differentiated herself with her military experience. De Blasio came out fighting, just as you predicted, and definitely got noticed, but not sure if it was in a fully positive way.

    I think everyone else just faded into background noise.

    Tonight I’m interested to see how the dynamics change with so many “front runners” on the stage together. I kind of think Biden and Bernie will cancel each other out, leaving Harris and Buttigieg room to gain momentum. I’m hoping to see Gillibrand break out through the noise a bit the way Castro did last night.

    But now for the real question… what is everybody eating at their Debate Watch Parties? I need ideas! 😉

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