The latest Democratic debate threw up a rich haul of clashes, incidents, slow burning controversies and policy collisions that will help define the 2020 race in the weeks to come.
Often, a debate’s impact only becomes clear in subsequent days, when exchanges that did not immediately resonate take on extra significance as the churn of the campaign does its work.
Thursday’s encounter in Houston exposed ideological, personal and policy divisions between the candidates that offer clues about how the Democratic race will unfold from now on.
There’s a trove of material for each campaign to mine to tweak the weaknesses of rival candidates. And President Donald Trump’s team must have been watching with glee as comment on guns and health care piled up material for general election attack ads.
Over the span of this race, there’s little evidence that the debates are changing the hierarchy of candidates. But the confrontations are serving to expose the complex layers of the campaign and offer clues over how it may turn out.
The top tier may freeze in place
The debate solidified the clear top tier in this race and none of the leading candidates looks likely to quickly fade in the crucial run-up to the Iowa caucuses in February.
Former Vice President Joe Biden had a patchy night but Thursday was his best performance so far in his campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was relatively quiet but made no huge mistakes. And Sen. Bernie Sanders will have delighted his solid supporters but did not seem to solve the riddle of broadening his base.
These three however have yet to turn their full fire on one another. That’s one thing to watch for as the race really gets going.
Biden and the age issue
Castro’s pile-on was clumsy. By repeatedly asking Biden: “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” the former HUD Secretary actually built empathy for the former vice president.
But make no mistake, many of the other candidates are happy this is out there and even happier that Castro stepped on the landmine before they had to — their post-debate interviews are proof of that.
“There’s a lot of people concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball across the end line without fumbling,” Booker told CNN’s Anderson Cooper after the debate. Harris was asked several times on “New Day” about the Castro assault, but pointedly chose not to criticize its author or to defend Biden.
The question of whether the former vice president is fit for the rigors of the presidency and to take on Trump is not going away. It’s one of his biggest weaknesses and, as even Biden has said, it’s fair game for opponents to explore. And Biden put it on the table himself by rooting his campaign in an argument about electability.
They say not everyone has the gift of gab to be able to talk about politics in the correct light - but Joseph is the perfect mix between a healthy critic, and a realist cynic. His unique personality works wonders at political discussions which are bound to cause a stir. He is an intellectual with many years of experience in the field, and his work is a reflection of his dedication to making political scenarios common knowledge among the citizens of the nation.