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Kamala's Big Night

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The June 26 and 27 Democratic presidential debates served two purposes: to introduce the twenty top-tier candidates and to determine who was best suited to take on Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The results were somewhat unexpected; on both debate nights the winners were women: Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Watching a two two-hour debates, each featuring 20 candidates, is like speed dating. Blink and you'd miss a clever quip or an awkward response. There were chaotic periods and many missed opportunities to explain progressive policies to the voters.

Nonetheless, the net effect was to "cull the herd." The marginal candidates, such as Marianne Williamson, got less attention and when they did get to speak, quickly demonstrated why they had been regarded as long-shots. In my eyes, there were no breakthroughs by the ten candidates who came in polling at less than 2 percent.

On the other hand, there was movement among the ten top-tier candidates: Beto, Booker, Biden, Buttigieg, Castro, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren. The big loser was Beto O'Rourke who seemed flat overall and the clear loser in an immigration tussle with Joaquin Castro. (Castro was the big surprise of the first night.)

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The other loser was former Vice-President Joe Biden. After sailing through the first half of the second debate, Biden was confronted by Harris about his voting record on school busing. When the conversation turned to race relations, Harris turned to Biden and said: "It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me." When Biden struggled to explain his voting record, Harris continued: "Vice President Biden, do you agree today -- do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose bussing in America then? Do you agree?" Biden stammered that he did not oppose bussing, in general, "What I opposed is bussing ordered by the Department of Education." And Harris nailed him: "There was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education... So that's where the federal government must step in."

Two things jumped out from this exchange: the first is that Kamala Harris is a terrific prosecutor and, more than any other Democratic candidate, can be counted on to skewer Donald Trump in a debate. The second is that Biden should have known that this encounter was coming and been better prepared. (After the debate, Biden's team accused Harris of helping Donald Trump.)

It's a long road to the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, but at the moment the Democratic field is led by women: If your perspective is which Democrat is best at taking on Trump, the leader is Senator Harris. If you are inclined to favor the Democrat who has given the most thought to straightening out America, the leader is Senator Elizabeth Warren. (Warren skated through the first debate night as the clear winner: interesting ideas presented concisely -- like the master teacher she is.)

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Before these debates, the national polls showed the ranking of candidates as: 1. Biden, 2. Sanders, 3. Warren, 4. Buttigieg, 5. Harris, and 6. O'Rourke. After these debate, the BB poll shows Harris and Warren tied for first, Biden and Sanders tied for third, and Buttigieg and Booker tied for fifth. That leaves Castro, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, and Beto (at number 10).

I believe Biden will be damaged by his lackluster debate performance; he'll probably lose support among black voters -- this should help Harris in South Carolina. Before the debate, Bernie Sanders was already losing support as progressives switched allegiance to Warren; Sanders did nothing to reverse this trend.

"Mayor Pete" Buttigieg got a good opportunity to show everyone how capable he is. Senator Cory Booker had a solid performance in the June 26 debate. They've forged ahead in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination for vice-president. As has Joaquin Castro who was the surprise of night one. Klobuchar and Gillibrand were solid but don't have enough "star power" to move up in the herd. And Beto is fading.

There's been a debate among Democrats about what they want most from their 2020 presidential candidate: a fighter or an ideas person. Both Harris and Warren are fighters and both have lots of good ideas. It will be fascinating to watch their interaction over the next eight months.

Before the debates, some Democrats favored Biden because they perceived him to be "most electable." Biden was damaged in the June 27th exchange. I bet that more voters now believe that Harris and Warren are as electable as Biden.

By the way: the next round of Democratic candidate debates happens on July 30 and 31.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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molly cruz

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I really don't agree. The two who interest me, absent Bernard Sanders who always strikes a solid note, are Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard; for their brains, their tone, and their lack of ego intervention. I think the whole thing was a bore actually, because, retired, I have the luxury of time most working people don't to pay attention and am familiar with them all from previous appearances, when they could articulate their aims more completely. I think Harris is shrill and self important, and Warren too, overly emotional, for all her financial acumen..

I still feel they'd all be better off if they joined forces and filled every position in the administration from President on down, and there's a post for almost every one of them. Just like "it takes a village to raise a child", it takes a TEAM to govern this unwieldy country, and the TEAM should identify itself before we start to think about electing anyone for President. It ain't a one man band.

Submitted on Friday, Jun 28, 2019 at 7:04:16 PM

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Janet Supriano

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I really can't add anything but my agreement. I've long thought a team of peers should govern; each bringing their expertise to the table and thus to the people.

But so much of our system would have to change before the team concept could have a chance at good governance.

~~~I once wrote Sen. Feinstein suggesting either her retirement or switching parties; also requested legislation to adopt Lobbying as the official fourth branch of government. Shockingly, I got no response; not even a boiler plate letter thanking me for my interest. LOL I've written plenty of serious letters, too. This is just a silly little example of how they do not have to pay attention to us anymore...the system is sewn up; allegiance belonging to the donors.

I'm also retired, from State policy service, no less. I have the time to both pay attention and then cry in my beer.

Maybe humanity will save Earth from an asteroid, but only the gods can save us from politicians. I like that idea better than pitchforks. Cheers, Molly!

Submitted on Friday, Jun 28, 2019 at 8:48:29 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to Janet Supriano:   New Content

Janet Supriano, I am going to suggest something to you. From experience, I know it works. Do not cry in your beer. Instead, carry on a conversation even if it is with yourself, talk with your hands, and before you know it your beer will go flying all over and you will bust out laughing. Try it, you might enjoy it. But beware, you might have to wash beer off your shoes. :)

Submitted on Saturday, Jun 29, 2019 at 3:49:49 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Definitely worth a repeat performance! :)

Submitted on Sunday, Jun 30, 2019 at 2:42:55 AM

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molly cruz

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I tried "reply" and nothing happened. Thank you very much. I don't think anything would have to change. We primary a President since protocol demands it, and he/she picks volunteers from the rest for Cabinet Positions; and the campaign is off and running. Nobody would have to wear themselves out, they'd have all that shared money, all that expertise, and we wouldn't hardly have to dump anyone. Strength in numbers, I say!

Submitted on Friday, Jun 28, 2019 at 11:51:41 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Reply to molly cruz:   New Content

Naw, they'd all volunteer and they'd still be nincompoops.


Submitted on Sunday, Jun 30, 2019 at 2:44:46 AM

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Joe Giambrone

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Both should drop out.

Submitted on Saturday, Jun 29, 2019 at 6:37:31 PM

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