Democrat Debate: What to Expect

Written by Bill Thomas on February 19, 2020

The Democrats’ presidential debate in Las Vegas is setting up to be the most interesting of all the debates they’ve had thus far. For the first time, Michael Bloomberg (D-NY), the billionaire who’s bought his way into this race, will be onstage to face his rivals, including front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who says Bloomberg represents “oligarchy not democracy.”

Sanders isn’t the only one chomping at the bit to get a bite out of the former mayor. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted, “It’s a shame Mike Bloomberg can buy his way into the debate. But at least now primary voters curious about how each candidate will take on Donald Trump can get a live demonstration of how we each take on an egomaniac billionaire.”

Wanting to stay relevant, former Vice President Joe Biden chimed in this weekend that Bloomberg’s vast fortune cannot erase his record. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) have also joined in the bash the billionaire party attacking his past sexist comments and avoidance of the media.

This is one of the first times the Democrats have begun to go after each other. So, what could happen? Here’s my take for each of the candidates.

I expect Mayor Bloomberg to be stiff and rehearsed. He’ll be hit by both sides of the Democrat divide and my hunch is he’ll bristle at being questioned. I’m guessing he’ll be incensed when his past is brought up, especially his sexist remarks or his racist comments Bloomberg will find that it is much easier to advertise than it is to go live.

For Joe Biden, this debate is important. It’s getting close to the time when each one might be his last one. Biden will try to go on the attack, but the problem for him is that he has to go after nearly everyone on the stage. Biden’s prospects have dimmed so much that he’s calling it a great night if he gets second place. It doesn’t look too good for Biden, though. On Monday he announced, while explaining a policy “here in California.” Sounds like a normal candidate except Joe was in Nevada.

Elizabeth Warren is nearing a desperate moment, too. She was supposed to be doing much better and the truth is, she isn’t. Warren has taken some initial shots at Bloomberg and has even lobbed a few complaints Bernie’s way. She’s had a plan for every contingency, I suppose we’ll see if she has a plan for a campaign on its last legs.

Amy Klobuchar will attempt to portray herself as a reasonable, middle-American moderate. Her unflinching support for abortion and Planned Parenthood don’t seem to me to reflect middle-American values, but she’ll claim it anyway. She’ll also likely tell the story of her grandpa, a coal miner who put savings in a coffee can to put her dad through community college. She’s been telling that story since 2013. In this debate, though, Klobuchar will struggle for air time. Unless she’s willing to attack, she may become a bystander. Without donations and/or a good finish in Nevada, Klobuchar may be positioning for the VP role.

Pete Buttigieg will continue to be “preachy” Pete. He exudes a certain smarminess that makes me think he’s making it up as he goes. Politico reports “His speech at a Nevada Black Legislative Caucus brunch over the weekend competed with the din of a buffet line — and whole tables of people who rarely looked up.” I’m thinking he’ll attempt to eloquently tell anyone who’s listening how he is the “just right” porridge among the Sanders “too hot” and Bloomberg “too cold.”

Bernie Sanders has the most to gain. He’s in the lead and by far has the most passionate following among the Democrats. Just this week a prominent national Latino group endorsed Bernie. Bernie is, day by day, becoming the Democrats’ most likely nominee. At the debate, Bernie will be Bernie. He’ll spout his crazy ideas about socialism. He’ll talk about policies that won’t ever pass Congress. He’ll offer free stuff to all. He’ll blast billionaires and it will help to have one on stage with him. I think Bernie will likely be the winner of this debate, thus making establishment Democrats lose sleep.

The real winner of the Democrat debate? The answer is obvious. President Trump and the GOP. The Democrats are hopelessly divided. The way they’ve set up their primaries makes it quite possible that no candidate will have 1,991 pledged delegates on the first ballot. The establishment Democrats don’t think Bernie’s electable. He is a socialist after all. The Bernie bros, though, are not likely to accept anyone else, especially if Bernie has the most pledged delegates. Since it began in Iowa, the Democrat primary has been nothing but chaotic. Look for a new chapter at the Nevada debate.

Bill Thomas
Bill Thomas lives in Washington, Missouri and is a professor at St. Louis Christian College. He's also on staff at First Christian Church in Washington, Missouri. He's authored two novellas, From the Ashes and The Sixty-First Minute published by White Feather Press of MI and three Bible studies, Surrounded by Grace, The Critical Questions and More and The Road to Victory published by CSS Publishing of OH.