Last night, CNN televised five presidential town halls featuring Democratic candidates, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg.
I watched them all, here are seven takeaways:
Amy Klobuchar is substance over style. She needs more style: Senator Klobuchar is an intelligent computer. Unfortunately, the data from that computer is being printed out on an old dot matrix printer. It whirls along, line by line, producing a serviceable product but it sells itself short because it can’t produce details in it’s explanations or an emphasis on which ideas are more important than others. This primary is not going to be won by a calmly read list of moderate talking points. It’s going to take the right personality to light a fire inside of the voters.
Elizabeth Warren’s Jiu-Jitsu on Donald Trump Impeachment: The Senator from Massachusetts doubled down on her call to begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump based on the findings of the Mueller report. When Anderson Cooper asked her this question, she deflected the attention to her colleagues in Congress, forcing them to answer the same question. She’s not going to be the one explaining why they should try to impeach Trump, it’s going to be her opponents explaining why they shouldn’t.
Bernie has to define “Democratic Socialism”… again”: The current front-runner faced a question he’s had to answer many times, this time from a student who described her family’s experience fleeing the Soviet Union. What exactly does he stand for? Bernie’s explanation is strong, but people still aren’t exactly sure what a Democratic Socialist is. This is a messaging problem. If Democratic primary voters are still asking what it means, then what are general election voters going to do?
Kamala Harris is best when she is on her script:: The California Senator had her strongest moments when she was asked a question that she was prepared for, such as supporting the Green New Deal and her fight for LGBTQ rights while serving as Attorney General. The challenge was when she had to go off script and that occured a few times during the hour long town hall. Harris was caught offguard and “looked forward to having that conversation” or “studying” the issue.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg must translate local solutions into national solutions: “Don’t defend a system that is letting you down”, Mayor Pete was Mayor Pete. There were calculated, balanced answers but he was challenged for the lack of policy points on his website (Professionals will actually tell you that is not an accident, a planned rollout of a platform often works best) and how his experience as Mayor of South Bend would translate into success as President.
Student loan debt to the front of the political conversation: The audience consisted of college students and each candidate was asked about the debt being incurred by many of them for a college education. This issue isn’t going away, and the candidates can earn votes by voicing pragmatic solutions. It might be the key to unlocking the youth vote in 2020.
If I had to rank them: No one’s campaign took a serious step forward or suffered a setback last night but if you made me rank the candidates, this is how it would look.