Debate Roundup: This Was a Very Boring Night

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Tonight’s debate was . . . really boring. No big fights. No memorable lines. No serious FUBARs. And no clear speaking, either. I found myself not really getting a good idea of what each candidate stood for even though I already knew the answer.

Perhaps one thing that stood out was the clear division between a group of two candidates competing for the lefty vote (Sanders and Warren) vs. three candidates competing for the centrist vote (Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar).¹ We political junkies have all known this for months, of course, but I suspect it was a little clearer to the audience at home than it’s been in previous debates.

The foreign policy segment of the debate was almost completely empty. Everyone wants to get out of the Middle East either mostly or totally. Everyone wants to put the Iran deal back in place. No one wants to meet with Kim Jong Un. No one provided any sense of a grander plan than undoing the damage Donald Trump has done.

The climate change discussion was equally mushy. Health care highlighted some differences, but they were chewed over so thoroughly that I’m not sure anyone really stood out. The basic fight was between improving Obamacare vs. doing something completely new, but what difference would it make? You know, and I know, but I’m not sure anyone watching on TV really got it.

I genuinely can’t pick any winners or losers out of this. I don’t think there were any. All six of the candidates seemed to perform at about the same good but not great level. I suppose the conventional wisdom is that this helps the frontrunners, but with the top four candidates in a virtual dead heat in Iowa polling, even the conventional wisdom didn’t help us much tonight.

¹Steyer didn’t really fit easily into either group.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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