Who Asked You: Five takeaways from debate No. 4

Marissa Martinez and Gabby Birenbaum

MARISSA: Hello, and welcome back to “Who Asked You,” The Daily’s political talk show.

GABBY: We’re your hosts, Gabby and Marissa.

MARISSA: So we watched the fourth Democratic debates. And —

GABBY: You know what, Marissa? I’m gonna, I’m going to interrupt you right there. Just you know. OK. Will you sign on to my attempts to remove editor in chief Troy Closson from Twitter?


GABBY: Senator, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t.


GABBY: I asked, but I’m going to keep repeating myself.

MARISSA: Don’t worry, you’ll understand what that reference means if you did not watch the debate later on. It was a debate. There are 12 candidates on stage and I literally felt like I was hallucinating. There’s so many people on stage.

GABBY: Every time Tom Steyer showed up, he looked like a figure in one of those Madame Tussauds wax museums who looks like a replica of somebody I was supposed to know but did not.

MARISSA: I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect to be asked any questions. I’m sure he got -10 talking minutes if we go through the breakdown.

GABBY: He’s literally just there for a good time.

MARISSA: Not a long time, that’s for sure. So what are your general thoughts before we jump right in?

GABBY: This debate was actually a lot more substantive, but a lot more antagonistic, which I didn’t like. I think we’re too close to the primary starting and too close to a serious culling of candidates to be getting into these petty fights, which honestly should have been done earlier. But in general, there was some boring parts, but I thought it was decent, which isn’t high praise for these debates, honestly.

MARISSA: For me it just felt a little… I don’t know, I missed the excitement of the first debates when everyone was just out of control, wilding on stage.

GABBY: When we were young and naive.

MARISSA: We were so young, and we thought that most of them would have dropped out by now. So we decided to shake things up a little bit and talk about five main takeaways from this debate: things that you should know analysis-wise before heading into your next policy class, the next dinner table fight —

GABBY: The next time an annoying policy major tries to talk to you and act like they know more than you — which I will definitely do, so honestly, I don’t blame them. To start off, let’s talk about the feistiness at this debate. There were a lot more back and forths, a lot more conflict, we both felt. What were some of the conflicts that were notable to you and how did you perceive that whole vibe?

MARISSA: Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg really jumped out the gate hot — they drank some Tabasco sauce with their milk this morning because they were on fire. I think that both of them have been trending downward in the polls. And I think that they both saw this as an opportunity to differentiate themselves, namely, when Amy Klobuchar went after Elizabeth Warren and said that, “Just because your ideas are different than mine doesn’t mean that they’re, you know, more radical or they touch more people.” And she really kind of went after that whole “dream big” idea that Elizabeth Warren has and was asking for some concrete details on her plans, which we’ll get into a little bit later. And so I thought that was interesting. And then Pete Buttigieg really has been just asking for it on Twitter. He’s gotten into fights on broadcast news, on Twitter — anywhere you could think of really. He’s kind of turned into a little playground bully, to be honest —

GABBY: Except that he doesn’t have enough clout to be a bully. It’s just like, he’s in the B-list group, you know, like the A-listers that can afford to be nice, but it’s people who want to get into the popular group that have to be mean to everyone else. Like that’s literally what Pete Buttigieg is doing right now.

MARISSA: I know. How did you think that played? Both Pete and Amy and other in-fighting, I guess, on the debate stage.

GABBY: I mean, I think Pete Buttigieg has tried to take Joe Biden’s lane now that he’s taken Beto’s, he’s trying to present himself as the centrist candidate, which was very interesting. I don’t think he ever, in responding to anybody or saying anything, I don’t think he ever went to the left of what somebody directly before him said, he was always trying to push towards the center —

MARISSA: Definitely expected.

GABBY: And so I think Pete was trying to pick fights with other people, notably the other progressives and with people like Beto O’Rourke, which was kind of random. It seems like punching down a little bit, especially on gun control which is so personal to Beto, but I think the problem with his whole strategy is that so much of Biden’s support is concentrated in older black voters, and Pete is still polling at something like 0 percent with black voters. He doesn’t have the trust or the experience. And so I think it’s interesting that he chose to try to mix it up. I don’t know how that’s gonna play for him.

MARISSA: I just don’t think it’s sustainable, though, going after Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, you know, all these big names — punching up in this scenario doesn’t really work. Because they all have more followers, they all have more standing in the general populace. And so when they respond to him on Twitter that gets more reactions and more likes and more engagement than his original taunt did. And so I think he’s only hurting himself at this point.

GABBY: And I think he’s very personally motivated in his own political career. Again, he’s only in his thirties. He’s not going to win the nomination. I’d be really shocked if he did. And if he’s trying to advocate for his own personal career to build his profile… all these other people on the debate stage have known each other for years and are friends, and he hasn’t. I think he’s also honestly hurting his own personal political future a little bit, but maybe that’ll all be forgotten in six months.

MARISSA: So John Delaney was replaced, I would say, by our father Joseph Biden —

GABBY: As a screamo, but he wasn’t screaming at anybody in particular, he was kind of screaming at the audience, which was weird.

MARISSA: That was really weird. How would you say that played? And how would you say he did overall in terms of attitude and posture on stage?

GABBY: I think he definitely faded away significantly at times. He had an awkward exchange with Warren that I think any woman would recognize, where he was like, “You did a great job” and she, like, paused. You could tell she wanted to say something snappy and she was just like, “Thank you.”

MARISSA: When he interrupted her and he was like, “I laid the pathway for you to blah blah blah.” I was like, oh my gosh!

GABBY: I was like, Joseph R. Any time he tried to say that he’s the only person on stage who has, like, achieved anything.

MARISSA: All women have been in that position too.

GABBY: Yeah, we’ve all felt that Elizabeth, I felt you there, sorry to Joseph R. It kind of seems like he was trying to make like a Kennedy-esque moment like, “Ask not what your country can do for you.” But importantly, Kennedy didn’t scream that at the country. And at the end, Biden was like, “We’re the best country in the world, like come on! We can do better than this!” Why are you yelling at me?

MARISSA: Most of the people in that audience are Democratic voters. And so in theory, they didn’t really do anything.

GABBY: I don’t know. I don’t know who he’s addressing there. To be honest.

GABBY: Elizabeth Warren definitely took the most attacks tonight from her fellow Democrats. What did you think about all that?

MARISSA: In the past that role has fallen on Biden, but you could really see a lot of the campaign strategy in the background when it came to attacking Warren when they asked her, you know, that classic line, “How are you going to help pay for this Medicare for All plan without raising taxes for the middle class?” and she’s… It was kind of funny at the beginning, she’s like, “I’ve said this one gazillion times —”

GABBY: Costs will go down!

MARISSA: “ — go to my website elizabethwarren.com and figure it out.”

GABBY: Yeah, it’s very clear she doesn’t want to be clipped saying taxes will go up on the middle class because she knows exactly how Republicans are going to play that game, so it’s honestly smart. And I think other Democrats know why she doesn’t want to say it. So it’s kind of frustrating when Pete Buttigieg is coming in and being like, “You didn’t answer the question.”

MARISSA: But I think it is important to remember that she has been saying that Medicare for All would happen under her presidency. And I think if you’re not a die-hard Warren stan, that would definitely raise some questions. And I think rightfully so about, well, what about the 150 million people who are on their private insurance? Even if they would all love to give up their private insurance? How is that going to look? What is that going to look like in four years specifically? And I don’t think she answered it as well as she could have, I think she could have probably prepared better. Maybe she wasn’t expecting so many attacks, but that might be something she’s thinking about for future, not only town halls and tweets and things but also the fifth debates in November.

GABBY: I liked the conversation about big tech in that they hadn’t really gotten into tech companies. And that was interesting because a lot of candidates do have a lot of different ideas on that. People like Andrew Yang, who say that protecting data is like the most important way to hold companies accountable. There’s people like Warren who want to enforce antitrust law and the people like Beto in the middle who say that antitrust law should be enforced by the presidential candidates and get to choose which companies to do it against and who the Justice Department should bring cases against. So it was definitely interesting to get that nuance on a topic that is relatively new. This is something that wasn’t being talked about in 2016. I loved when Joe Biden screamed because it just kept me awake.

MARISSA: Honestly. Yeah, it woke me up from my daze. Okay, also, one question that was definitely a low for me was the last one.

GABBY: Oh, like, who’s a weird friend you have?

MARISSA: AKA, who’s your Republican BFF? That did not play well with me at all.

GABBY: That’s really bizarre.

MARISSA: Especially since there are so many issues that they could have talked about besides that, but to have, in lieu of closing statements, who is a Republican that you get along with, especially connecting that to the Ellen-George Bush thing where it’s, you know, like, George Bush did war crimes. That’s not a positive thing.

GABBY: What were some of your lows? Besides that?

MARISSA: Elizabeth Warren. I think that she just came out as more of a loser in that sense, but I don’t necessarily know if the others came out as winners because it’s one thing to definitely poke holes in your opponent’s plan. But at the same time, you need to be presenting your own plan. So especially, you know, @ Pete Buttigieg.

GABBY: My least favorite moment was when Joe Biden said, “I’m going to offend some people here.” I was very concerned what was going to come out of his mouth.

MARISSA: A number of things could have flown out that mouth.

GABBY: But he ended up just saying he’s the only one who’s done anything.

MARISSA: Also, I’m pretty sure Cory Booker was like, not paying attention during half the debate because —

GABBY: He’ll just say something different.

MARISSA: Yeah, there’ll be a question, let’s say, on health care, and then they move on to gun control and he’s like, “OK, guys, first of all, we all need to be friends. But back to what we were saying about health care,” and it’s like, dude, we moved on, come on, like, I’m sorry, you only did one of the readings but you’ve got to keep up, dude. You gotta keep up.

GABBY: Yeah. Oh, and the weird Kamala trying to get Warren to sign her petition or whatever to remove Trump from Twitter was just a very weird hill to try to die on, and Warren didn’t even, like, pretend to care.

MARISSA: Also, the whole campaign to remove Trump from Twitter doesn’t really make sense because even if he does use the account to spout some pretty horrible things, that’s the way that he’s communicating with the American people. And so honestly, we wouldn’t know half the things we know about the White House or Washington or his campaign or his presidency —

GABBY: Or his crimes, which he like openly tweets about —

MARISSA: Or his crimes, which he openly admits to; someone should get a handle on that. But at the same time, if that’s what he’s using to communicate, we can’t just shut it down, which I don’t think Jack would even do. He’s too busy drinking Soylent or something.

GABBY: Being on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

MARISSA: So another segment we’re going to try is “Youth Vote.” So how do us, the youth, perceive the candidates so far?

GABBY: I thought Joe Biden’s screaming really came across as having to listen to your random relative, and a lot of times, when he would go on a rant, it wouldn’t seem like he really knew where he was going to go and he seemed lost at times and kept saying Iraq instead of Syria and things like that.

MARISSA: The Andrew Yang stuff comes in. I think in the past two debates, at least, maybe more, there’s been a significant amount of cheering and yelling when he says anything, really, on stage. And I think a lot of that definitely is coming from people who are under 30 and people who are energized and that definitely says something about the way he’s able to tap into things.

GABBY: His fan base is very online and the way that like, if you’re a Joe Biden supporter, you probably don’t have Twitter, etc. There’s a lot of right-wing people, too, who have like pro Andrew Yang-meme accounts and things like that.

MARISSA: He brought it up on stage. He said, “I’m friends with a Trump supporter, stereotypically red state working-class person,” and he said, “I convinced him to vote for me.” We don’t know if his campaign is salient enough to keep going but it is interesting to watch.

GABBY: At the same time. I think it also says a lot about how like a lot of young conservatives, I know that their preferred candidate is Tulsi or Andrew Yang.

MARISSA: We haven’t really mentioned Tom Steyer at all this episode. I don’t think we’re going to continue to mention him. He did not really capture the youth vote or any vote at all, I would say, on stage. Actually, Beto, I think he went up probably, if anything, because of the attacks on him by Pete Buttigieg. And he mentioned, you know, the work that all the teenage activists have done in terms of gun control.

GABBY: Because it’s very annoying when you all these candidates are like, “Oh, we have to make a better future for our kids.” We’re actively trying to do that for ourselves. We’re out here leading climate protests and gun control protests and all you could say about the youth is like, “Get off your phones.” This new generation of voters, we have a very specific American mental experience from all of the problems that exist because these adults have created them. And then all they can say is like, “Get off your phone” — it legitimately is annoying and frustrating to hear.

MARISSA: You know what I thought was weird? Tulsi being on stage because she said she wouldn’t come to the debates.

GABBY: Tulsi replied no on the Facebook event for the party but then showed up anyway.

MARISSA: For those who missed it, Tulsi said that she was thinking about not attending the debates because of the unfairness that has been leveled against her and other candidates by the DNC. And she said she’s seriously considering her voter base and their requests for her to not be on stage. And yet who did I see?

GABBY: You saw Tulsi. If her voter base doesn’t want her on stage, I think that kind of says something. Tulsi was very weird. She was definitely feeling the spooky Halloween energy, let me tell you. She’s about to walk into the Pike basement with an alien costume because she was literally on a different planet with her foreign policy analysis. But she claims that the Syria situation seems regime change war, like, no, that’s not true. She kept saying strange things with the mainstream media, [and] called out CNN, The New York Times for running hit pieces about her. I was like, Tulsi, I don’t know what world you’re in right now, but it’s not hard when they’re talking about the best friends, and it was very weird but totally said my best friend is named Bashar. No, I’m kidding. That didn’t happen. I was worried she was gonna say it.

MARISSA: Yeah, that was an entire really horrible question. It was really interesting to see who they chose. Some people chose very well known senators—

GABBY: AKA John McCain, who literally everybody chose —

MARISSA: Rand Paul, Ted Cruz came up I believe it was random and then —

GABBY: Okay, Tom Steyer was like, this activist from South Carolina, she’s a black woman from South Carolina, and I’m none of those things. And then he’s like, but my parents taught me the value of hard work. So he just literally brought her up to get you into the story and then totally abandoned her to talk about his parent.

MARISSA: I think that was his one black friend. Literally proved me wrong time, Steyer. I dare you because I personally think that’s my friend.

GABBY: He could have a lot more if he dropped his campaign and spent this money instead on like, registering voters and changing state legislators but alas —

MARISSA: They give him heebie-jeebies.

GABBY: Oh my God, stop.

MARISSA: This is our final segment, and we’re just gonna talk a little bit about the power rankings. So who moved up, who moved down? Who gave me heebie-jeebies? All of them did.

GABBY: Well now I can’t talk about a few candidates. I thought it was a pretty good night for Pete Buttigieg. We’ll see how it plays out in the polls, but I think he definitely presented himself as this centrist option to Warren and Sanders. He wanted to come out on the attack, and he definitely was able to. I know we might have a different opinion about this — I don’t think there’s a great showing for Warren, but I think you can’t consider it a loss because she got to say so much and because it was so clear that every other candidate was coming at her that she was the front runner. So while it is — as Joe Biden learned — it’s tough to be at the top for now. And it’s a much shorter time to the primaries than it was when Biden was there.

MARISSA: But I think at the same time, it’s kind of like very perspective-based. So if you really like Elizabeth Warren, you might think that she, you know, did her classic policy point, she hit all her marks.

GABBY: And she did have some great moments — that tangle with Biden about the CFPB, where she was like, “I’d like to thank President Obama” was really great.

MARISSA: Oh, and everyone in the audience was like, “Ohh,” that was funny.

GABBY: Even Joe had to laugh.

MARISSA: But at the same time, if you are on the fence about her, I don’t think that this really pushed you towards Warren, namely, because of the holes that people poked. I mean, whether they were valid or not, people got a lot of jabs in. She definitely outpaced everyone by a significant amount of minutes. And if you’re one of the people who has more of the mindset that everyone should get equal speaking time, she definitely did not do well, in that sense. She talked a lot more proportionally than she ever has in previous debates.

GABBY: Yeah, I think that was a positive for her, because there were times that she disappeared in the past. I think she definitely got herself into every single debate and I think she was really strong on guns this time. Strong on the big tech conversation. I think she definitely had her moments. And when this gets turned into a highlight reel, she definitely got what she wanted in that sense, which is clickable moments,

MARISA: Amy Klobuchar really went after people and was a lot spicier and a lot heavier. I think she’s really trying to differentiate herself at this point because, you know, the field (hopefully) is narrowing a little bit. And she, as of right now, has not qualified for the fifth debate stage because of polling. And so I think her strategy was to get her poll numbers up so that way, she can definitely be on the fifth stage. And I think one of her last-ditch strategies was to just go after people. On the opposite end, I think Cory Booker did not have a great showing. If you like Cory Booker, he did fine. But I don’t think anyone’s rushing over to his side.

GABBY: Cory Booker acted like the DNC chair on the stage, trying to be like — if it felt like there was a Republican talking point being brought up, he’d call it out. I really liked when he said we need to care about women because they’re people, not just because you have a mom or whatever.

MARISSA: And when he talked about low-income people, that was really important. A few candidates did, actually, which was really nice.

GABBY: He talks about child poverty, some interesting things, he encouraged like his whole message of love and unity. So I think if you’re just kind of — you know you’re a Democrat, but you don’t know that you support, maybe he played well because you’re like, “Oh, he is positive, but he’s also not crusty.”

MARISSA: That really eliminates half the field at this point.

GABBY: I think some of the losers for me were Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. I think Kamala Harris got a lot of momentum after that first debate, but she’s really lost it, and I think her campaign was never really sure why she’s running and what she stands for.

MARISSA: Interesting.

GABBY: Even at the end when she said when she was talking about her Republican friend whoever and then she was like, “I guess that’s why I’m running.” Just like even the inclusion of “I guess,” I was like, I don’t even know if you really know like, if you could give an elevator pitch as to why you’re running. I think she turned it into like I can prosecute the case against Trump.

MARISSA: Right, she’s turned into the prosecutor, but that’s a double-edged sword —

GABBY: Her campaign is really losing steam and momentum and she is struggling to pick it back up. Joe Biden disappeared at times, and when he did speak, he was kind of incoherent.

MARISSA: I don’t think he was a big hit to Biden’s thing because he did neutral. He did fine.

GABBY: But when you’re not the front runner anymore, “fine” typically isn’t going to be enough at this point.

MARISSA: Right. He’s still coasting on the “inevitability” that he had before and now it’s dwindling. And I think Kamala Harris is doing the same thing. She was really riding on that first debate performance and kind of dropped ever since. And then Tom Steyer — he was there. Where do the candidates stand? He stood on the stage.

GABBY: That’s literally all you can say about him.

MARISSA: For the entire debate. Those are some of our takeaways from this debate. We will definitely be coming at you before the November debates to give our take and hopefully to count on less than 10 fingers the candidates remaining.

GABBY: We literally can only pray. Nobody asked us but here we are.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @mar1ssamart1nez

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @birenbomb