A long way until November 2020

By CHARLES CORDER GUEST COLUMNIST,

MADISON -- So – as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says to start nearly every sentence – I’m done with presidential candidate debates, at least until January.

Last week’s first Democratic primary debates proved that watching 20 people argue on a stage is more entertaining than whatever NBC usually shows in prime time on Wednesday and Thursday nights

According to polls of Democrats, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris were the winners in the debates with each earning 59 percent favorability rating.

Hopefully, future debates will set higher standards for candidate admissions. If you found yourself saying at times, “Who is that?” you are not alone.

I’m not sure a 10-way argument fits the definition of a debate. Sometimes on both nights, the proceedings resembled a “Who’s the Loudest” contest.

NBC’s moderators contributed to the chaos by announcing and largely ignoring the debate rules. Audience members were told to keep their reactions to a minimum. They didn’t. Candidates were warned to confine their answers to the allotted time. They didn’t.

The candidates who debated on Night 2 clearly watched and learned from Night 1.

The second night’s hopefuls were much freer with too-long answers and interruptions.

The top issues in the debates included the economy, health care, immigration and the environment, although not necessarily in that order. The only thing the Democrats agreed on was that they have to deny President Donald Trump a second term.

Harris dominated at times in the second night with scripted zingers and anecdotes.

She benefitted from surprisingly meek performances by Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The first night featured candidates who were polling in single digits. Warren won thanks to name recognition, definite plans and being asked lots of questions by the NBC moderators.

Biden and Sanders are the current leaders among Democratic voters. Both have taken shots over age and policies over reforms. Biden, especially, was put on the defensive in his last debate.

Biden has pitched himself as the centrist, a trusted candidate who can beat Trump in 2020.

But polls say Biden’s edge appears to have eroded. Biden seems to be increasingly dependent on his record of the past. Meanwhile, younger rivals are focused on their visions of the future.

Sanders and Warren are competing for the left-wing Democratic voters, mirroring similar proposals for economy, health care and education.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said during the second debate that the progressive policies of Sanders and Warren could endanger the Democratic party. “If we don’t clearly define that we are not socialist, the Republicans are going to come at us every way they can to call us socialist,” he said.

No matter which candidate you favor, it’s too early for panic for many hopefuls.

The primaries don’t begin until January. That’s where the field will be winnowed to the Democratic finalist and Trump.

Remember, the last two Demorats to sit in the Oval Office, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, weren’t leading in the polls when the primaries began. And both served two terms.

Charles Corder is a longtime editor and writer for newspapers in Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. Contact him at ccorderjr@outlook.com.

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