Thursday, August 1, 2019

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The Results Aren’t In

The Washington Post says Castro, Yang, Sanders, and Warren won.

CNN says Biden, Booker, Castro, and Gabbard won.

USA Today says Booker, Yang, and Castro won.

John Podhoretz says Biden won (except for his coal answer).

Business Insider says Booker, Yang, and Gabbard won.

The New York Post’s Christina Greer says Booker and Castro won.

Mediaite says Booker, Yang, and Gabbard won.

Doug Schoen says Biden and Gabbard won.

Vox says Biden, Booker, Sanders, and Warren won.

The Independent says Booker, Harris, de Blasio, and Gabbard won.

The BBC says Biden and Yang won.

RedState says Biden, Yang, and Gabbard won.

The Wall Street Journal says Biden sort of won.

My take: No pundit or analyst anywhere has the slightest idea what real voters thought of this debate or will take away from the coverage on various platforms.  But the media has a lot of power in such cases to set the (yuck, this word) narrative defining what occurred.  Based on that coverage, and on my own eyes and ears, here are the most sensible tentative conclusions:

A. The debate did not shake up the race. (Per the Washington Post’s sage Dan Balz: “The reality is that little changed as a result of the debate. The absence of clear winners and the absence of the emergence of a candidate with a hopeful message for a broader audience produced a status quo ending.”)

B.  Biden is lucky that his verbal stumbles – while fodder for snarky Twitter and right-wing mash-ups – were not so egregious as to be defining for normal voters or worried donors.

C. Booker, Yang, and Gabbard will see enough of a spike in donations, support, and interest to give them a chance to move up in a sustained manner.

D. When the Big Five (Biden, Warren, Harris, Sanders, Buttigieg) appear on the same stage, there will be no reluctance to tangle.

E. Candidates have no qualms about appealing for unity, saying Democratic disagreements only help Donald Trump – and then ripping the heads off of party rivals.

F. No one on the stage Wednesday night is the equal of Warren or Sanders in having a clear theory of the case explaining in tangible terms what America would be like under their leadership.


Karl Rove agrees with Michael Bennet about Kamala Harris’ health care plan.

My take: But that doesn’t mean it is a Republican talking point.

Dan Balz agrees with Donald Trump about how the Democrats did overall.

My take: But that doesn’t mean it is a Republican talking point.  Balz writes, “By the conclusion Wednesday, it seemed almost as if the Democrats had decided to put their worst face forward. Their disagreements overwhelmed almost everything else. Attacks on Trump were infrequent. And the absence of a message of hope or uplift seemed a big missed opportunity.”

My focus-group-of-one word cloud:

Biden: Trump-focused, too Obama-focused, relaxed, forceful, played just the right amount of defense, reassuring (to his supporters at least) except when he lost his verbal train of thought (especially in his closing statement), composed, fumbling with opposition research (except against Senator Gillibrand), squirrelly on his record (dodged on health care, deportations, TPP), largely unscathed, absence of vision or theory of the case.

Harris: Biden-focused, thoughtful, clever, steely more than charming, (mostly) composed under fire, persistent, in the spotlight, squirrelly on her record as California attorney general and on her health care plan, absence of vision or theory of the case.

Booker: Digging deep, back to basics, on-brand, peacemaking (except when it came to Joe Biden), forceful, self-possessed, global.

Yang: Poised, knowledgeable, engaging, futuristic, iconoclastic, doesn’t talk like a politician, error-free, tieless (sorry, he was tieless).

Castro: Competent, natural, well-informed, sharp-elbowed, elegant, patient.

Gabbard:  Harris-focused, sober, intense, sporadically fluid, principled, populist.

Gillibrand: Trump-focused, practiced, tactics over strategy, surprisingly above the fray (until she hit Biden hard towards the end).

Inslee: Passionate yet subdued, determined, powerful, thoughtful.

Bennet: Clear eyes, full heart, earnest (to the point of brooding), unshackled, polite.

De Blasio: Biden-focused, wild swings from optimism to darkness, broad gestures, going down fighting.

In other news:

Biden joined Snapchat.

My take: The former VP is still not a strong online brand. Content is king; distribution is not (although it is important, too).

Soros starts Super PAC.

My take: Both the investor and fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg have not revealed their hands yet on how much they will spend on 2020. If the pair devotes their fortunes to defeating Donald Trump, as a book once said, that would be a game changer.

US-China trade talks to resume in the fall.

My take: It is déjà vu all over again if the Wall Street Journal is right and China is once again not in any hurry to conclude a deal.  If the Chinese are prepared to wait out the Trump administration, that complicates the outlook for the US and world economies and for the president’s re-election.

Wall Street Journal nugget: “The campaign sees the president’s polling numbers as most vulnerable when voters perceive the White House to be in chaos, when Mr. Trump’s base of supporters dislike legislation he signs, and when the president is perceived as ‘punching down,’ said one adviser.”

My take: Team Trump is wasting a fair amount of coin on polling, in the sense that it won’t really impact the candidate’s behavior and/but the data can be used to shape targeted digital ads, which are a big part of the re-elect.

House Republican retirements continue.

My take: Departures in Red districts don’t matter much, but everyone believes more GOP sayonaras are coming in less-safe districts, with major implications for 2020.

Top sports story: Astros land Greinke, emerge as WS co-favorites

Top business story: Stocks plunge after Fed cuts rates for first time since 2008—here’s what experts are saying

Top entertainment story: Mario Lopez Misses ‘Extra’ Taping, Apologizes For Transgender Remarks

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