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…