Astute readers may have noticed that in my series covering the DNC debates I skipped the third debate, and was very late on this one. That's because they've mostly been an exhausting waste of time that's not actually very helpful in selecting a candidate, except maybe to inform you who not to vote for.
So, let's dive in.
Who Stood Out?
There weren't as many great stand out moments as in the first two nights or second debates, but there were still a handful of helpful moments. The biggest one was likely Biden attempting to take credit for one of Warren and Obama's achievements, and her deftly calling him out for trying to take credit for Obama's hard work. You can hear that great laugh line here.
There was also a moment where Mayor Pete and Tulsi Gabbard sparred over their views on Syria and pulling out of the Middle East. While they both generally agree that they need to pull out, it was genuinely interesting to see the only two vets on the stage express different opinions on exactly how that should happen and when, especially since both were clearly influenced by their first hand experience in the armed forces. You can see that moment here.
What was the biggest surprise?
Perhaps this shouldn't have been a surprise, but the fact that all the candidates now consider Warren the front runner and were hell bent on attacking her took me by surprise. I knew that as her polling began to eclipse Biden's that she would be taking more heat from the 2% candidates that don't have a path to the White House, but I wasn't expecting them to all treat Biden like a has-been so quickly.
While some have complained about this, I thought it looked great for Warren. She deftly shrugged off the blows and delivered a few more measured and intelligent blows of her own. She only had one sticky moment the entire night, but we'll get to that in a moment.
What about the moderators?
The moderators were better than in the previous debate, but still seemed hell bent on providing Fox News with a clip of Warren saying she'd raise taxes. We all know what she was saying, the voters aren't stupid, she just has to say it in a round about way to avoid letting it be taken out of context. Almost everyone in this country has a close friend or relative that has a serious disease, disability, or some other story that would land them with a huge hospital bill. Obviously taxes are going to go up if we enact medicare for all, and that's obviously what she was saying, but just like Social Security and other large reform programs, once it's enacted no one would ever want to live without it for a slight tax break and risk financial ruin or having to beg for money on the internet to go to the hospital. We don't have to keep pushing for the sound bite. That being said, it didn't look good for Warren when she kept giving the same answer to the same question and I'd like to see her come up with a better way to call the moderators and some of the other candidates out and answer the question without providing a sound bite that will be taken out of context and used against her.
The last question was also infuriating. Instead of letting the candidates articulate something useful in a closing statement, or having at least a single question about the climate crisis, they decided to end with a throw away question about the candidates most “surprising” friendship. This infuriated me to no end, and didn't provide anything useful to help voters make up their minds when primary season rolls around.
Where do you stand now?
My current candidate list which was set during the third debates and was further locked in by the fourth is as follows:
End of list.
While I would vote for anyone on the stage over a criminally insane reality TV show host, I don't think any of the others have the ability to take punches and deliver their own, the charisma, and the experience required to be a great candidate.
Unfortunately, Booker doesn't yet have the momentum to propel his campaign across the finish line, so unless someone gives his campaign a much needed shot in the arm, it looks like I may have my primary candidate sooner than expected.