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We just finished the SEVENTH Democratic debate. Soak that up. Usually when I am writing about the seventh installation of anything, I assume that it must be an absolute masterpiece, otherwise, why else would people still be making it? The more I think about it, the more I know this is true. I personally think that Fast and the Furious 7 was the all-time best due to the awesome Charlie Puth montage of Paul Walker (RIP) at the end. Tbh Halloween 7 was a banger too because Jamie Lee Curtis made her return to the franchise after 15+ years of being absent. Sequels = success. But I was a little disappointed in last night’s Iowa debate (part 7!!!) because it just didn’t have the thrills of past episodes in the DNC franchise. This was probably due to some casting decisions made at the top that gave most of the leading roles to older, whiter, more established stars (Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren) at the expense of character actors looking to break-out into the mainstream (Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker). Honestly, I also just think everyone was weirded-out by the fact that there weren’t 100 people on stage and they didn’t have to fight for every last second to talk. It was just a different kind of night.
As is SSG tradition, I will now summarize everything that happened at the debate with the best line from each candidate. Enjoy.
BERNIE SANDERS & ELIZABETH WARREN – “30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact…But I don’t know that that is the major issue of the day.”
Where I was raised, I learned that it is important to respect your elders and to be nice to girls because they are bad at math. Turns out I had it backwards. Sen. Warren had to explain to Bernie Sanders that the last time he beat a real Republican was 30 years ago. This was because Bernie does not understand how long ago the ’90s were and is generally just bad at calculating things, like the number of delegates he had at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. That said, I will give Sen. Warren the benefit of the doubt on one thing: she was probably just trying to help an old man who was having a senior moment and meant no disrespect to Bernie. And that is kind of the point. One of the things that makes Warren such an iconic mashup between New England and Midwest is her ability to land absolutely savage blows on her opponents with polite subtlety. Making Bernie count the years since he ran against an incumbent Republican — and slowly and painfully reminding the public just how old he is — was the biggest W she’s hung on this dude in a while.
As for Bernie, this was the most meaningful exchange for him too. Usually he is on the winning side of meme-able moments but his deflection that the subject of “30 years” is not “the major issue of the day” was a total white flag of defeat.
JOE BIDEN – “…In the Obamacare-expanded-with-the-Biden-option.”
Joe Biden described his health care plan as literally that: The Obamacare-Expanded-With-Biden Option. I am pretty sure that that is also his entire pitch for why he should be President: Uncle Joe is the Obama-Administration-Expanded-With-Biden Presidency.
PETE BUTTIGIEG – “You actually demoted me. I was an associate.”
Rich Guy Tom Steyer totally tussled Mayor Pete’s hair for being a junior guy at McKinsey & Company, which is like the Navy SEAL squad of Wall Street consulting firms. It was an amazing flex due to the fact that Steyer is so rich that he could basically buy McKinsey and sell its employees to Somali pirates if he needed something to do on a Saturday afternoon.
To the point: Buttigieg’s joke that Steyer “demoted” him was alpha AF because of some conflicting things. First, Mayor Pete and Steyer got a massive laugh out of it. For one second, Pete dropped his earnest, Midwestern man-of-the-people act and giggled with a fellow Ivy Leaguer about their elite inside jokes. Talk about breaking character.
But also, credit to Pete: he immediately added that he did not think that working at McKinsey was a particularly meaningful part of his life or career in a way that was very sincere. For most guys who go to Harvard & Stanford, or who use the word “summer” as a verb, getting a job at McKinsey is something to brag about for life. But to Buttigieg, it was a boner gig on the way to something better. Kewl.
TOM STEYER – “I absolutely am.”
Most people who have lives/do not have gambling/drinking problems still do not know who Tom Steyer is. If they do, all they know is that he is rich AF and wants (thinks) he should be president. Steyer also always wears the same tie to every debate but does not get nearly as much cred as Andrew Yang does for his wardrobe consistency.
Anyway, last night someone asked Steyer, “Are you the candidate who can….” and his answer was the only one an unknown political squirt like him can give: “I absolutely am!”
This is kind of Tom Steyer’s super power — and it’s not just money. A lot of people watching last night still don’t know who he is. He might be old but compared to Warren, Sanders, and Biden, he’s a fresh face. He is like the kid who transferred into high school in 10th grade. He can just invent himself to be whatever he thinks voters want without fear of having a conflicting political record behind it. Because of this, I am very curious to see if Steyer gets a bump in the polls after this debate, which was the first one where he was actually visible. That could portend good things in a primary that has had a lot of one-month love affairs from voters. But whoever voters fall for now might not be a hit-it-and-quit-it deal like Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris were. It’s too late in the game for that and voters could accidentally get pregnant with a guy like Steyer if they get in bed with him in Iowa or New Hampshire.
AMY KLOBUCHAR – “…”
If I am being completely honest, Amy Klobuchar did not say anything memorable. But I think this is kind of a good thing. She has been totally on-message from day one about how she is the practical Midwestern candidate who gets it done. So I was not at all surprised when I heard her talk about exactly that on repeat for two hours last night. That’s savage message discipline from a pro. No wonder this alpha knows how to win. I am still not ready to count Klobuchar out of this race and think that she is a lock to be Joe Biden’s VP pick.