The Nevada Debate Was a Total Disaster for Democrats

From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stand on stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, embraces Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, hosted by ABC News, Apple News, and WMUR-TV at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

To this point in the cycle, it’s been pretty cliche to pronounce Donald Trump the winner of each Democrat debate, and that’s not untrue. Most of them have been unappealing slap fests for who can be the most radical and promise the most free stuff.

But last night was different. It wasn’t just about a contrast with Trump on policy, it was a total disaster for the Democratic party as a whole. Each and every candidate came across as unlikeable (yes, even Amy Klobuchar, who had some seriously cringeworthy moments). They yelled, they bashed each other, they got exposed for their hypocrisies, and oh yeah, they were also awful on policy.

Take Elizabeth Warren. She certainly landed the most blows last night, essentially ending Michael Bloomberg’s campaign with two exchanges (see Elizabeth Warren Ends Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign at Nevada Debate). Here’s a taste of that.

Did any of this help Warren, though? I’d posit that it didn’t. In all her ruthless, obviously pre-rehearsed attacks, I’m fairly positive she got even more unlikable. The same is true of Pete Buttigieg, who tried to stay on offense all night but ended up looking petty and unfair most of the time. There was a point when he went after Klobuchar on voting for Trump judges and he just kept interrupting her over and over as she tried to explain. None of that plays well and I think it’s now fairly obvious why Buttigieg isn’t gaining national traction despite two 2nd places finishes to start the primary season.

Joe Biden comes across as a stumbling (and it clearly has nothing to do with any stutter) old man who is way out of his league. His answer to everything is “I got it done” even though he was basically a figurehead in the Obama administration, there to give bad advice and read speeches when the President didn’t feel like getting out. The idea that Biden was the spearhead is laughable and it comes across as laughable when he tries to take credit for everything. Meanwhile, Amy Klobuchar is what she is. She’s the least crazy person on the stage but she’s also about as charismatic as a bag of rocks. She tries to dance the line between woke and rational and it doesn’t go well usually, as it leaves her open to attacks from both flanks. I don’t believe she’s going anywhere.

But then there were the real reasons this debate was just awful for Democrats going forward. Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg represented two contrasts that both ended in disaster. Bloomberg was absolutely wrecked on a variety of fronts. I just can’t imagine a path forward for him after that shellacking. He’s not Donald Trump. He doesn’t have that kind of magnetism and energy to overcome being brutalized. And while I felt he made some really good points in the second half of the debate, most Democrats won’t agree. His defenses of capitalism and smacking around of Bernie will probably hurt him, not help him.

And that brings me to Bernie. There’s no doubt he’s the prohibitive favorite in the race now. With the great mini-hope that was Bloomberg now crushed into dust and clearly out of step with the party, Bernie faces a situation where only he is likely to gain a majority of delegates (and remains the favorite for a plurality at least). The problem? Bernie is a certified insane person. His rantings might as well be readings of the communist manifesto. He provides no detail about anything he hopes to do and when pushed on it, instead of being clever and funny in his comebacks (i.e. like Trump), he just starts yelling and ranting about billionaires.

At one point, Bernie got nailed on his three houses and it was a really bad look for him.

I hesitate to make pronouncements about much of anything this far out. Bernie being the nominee is scary and just about any Democrat could win if things fall right (it’s foolish to ever count anyone out, as many learned in 2016). Yet, when I watch the hysterical yelling and ridiculous proclamations coming from Bernie’s mouth, I just don’t see how this plays well among moderates and independents, especially in the swing states. That’s the group Democrats won in 2018 to retake the House. It’s also the group that will help deliver victory to someone in 2020. Is your middle-class soccer mom who abandoned Trump in 2018 going to vote for a raving communist? I’m very skeptical.

In short, yes it’s cliche, but Trump was the big winner last night. Worse for the Democrat party is that they’ve now been cast into a role that I’m not sure many of their average voters want. They are firmly the American version of the UK’s Labour party and that’s a bad, bad thing. It’s suddenly become more important than ever that Trump not screw this up. This goes far beyond just him at this point and every voter has to realize that when it comes time to make a decision.