Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Salon's Amanda Marcotte believes that debates probably don't matter.

I think debates can have some impact, although it dissipates quickly. Amy Klobuchar's strong performance in the debate just before the New Hampshire primary helped propel her to a third-place finish, with 20% of the vote. It's likely that she took votes away from Pete Buttigieg, who might otherwise have overcome the one-point gap separating him and Bernie Sanders. If Buttigieg had beaten Sanders in New Hampshire after tying him in Iowa, we'd be having very different discussions about this race. So I think that debate mattered.

The problem for Warren is that debates matter only if the Great Mentioners in the media continue to speak of your candidacy as viable. The pundits can't make a hopeless cause plausible -- for quite a while, they tried to tell us that Marianne Williamson was a legitimate candidate, and the voters weren't buying it -- but after Warren's autumn poll surge, they decided that it was time for her to be canceled, and they haven't changed their minds about that. They're now saying that they'll consider un-canceling her if she'll put a sustained hit on Bernie Sanders, whom they despise, but if she won't do that, they won't judge her debate performances (or the rest of her campaign for that matter) on the merits. The response is: Wow, nice debate, Liz. Now dance the way we want you to dance. Otherwise, nothing you say or do matters.

These folks have been rooting for every moderate to have a surge, so before the New Hampshire primary they were eager to amplify the message that Klobuchar had a good night. With Warren, they don't care about strong debates, unless she'll do what they want.

Warren took one shot at Sanders last night, but it wasn't enough. You can have all the good debates you want, but the gatekeepers have to decide that you're the right person to have a good debate, and that you had the right kind. Regrettably, they'll never say that about Warren.

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