Spectator USA

Skip to Content


Donkey Dow: the wild wild Westerville

Choppy waters in Ohio for Elizabeth Warren

October 16, 2019

12:12 PM

16 October 2019

12:12 PM

The Donkey Dow is a round-up of the movers and shakers in the race to face up against Donald Trump. Here’s how the candidates and contenders fared over the last few days.

donkey dow westerville

On Tuesday night, CNN and the New York Times hosted the largest presidential debate of the primary season — with 12 candidates — in Westerville, Ohio. While Cockburn thinks the debate size is trending in the wrong direction, he was grateful the moderators omitted a tedious round of opening remarks. With so many candidates on the stage, Cockburn looks at who stood out.


Bernie Sanders’s recent heart attack cast doubt on whether the Vermont senator is healthy enough to serve in the country’s highest office. Last night, Sanders likely assured some voters with his solid performance. When asked about his health during the debate, Sanders expressed gratitude, thanking people, including other candidates, ‘for their love, for their prayers, for their well wishes.’ The septuagenarian added that he was ‘so happy to be back here with you this evening.’ Cockburn, a softie at heart, was touched. The moment when Bernie said ‘I agree with Joe and Pete’ was equally convivial. Why can’t we be all friends?

Like Sanders, Joe Biden had his own problem he needed to address: his son, Hunter Biden. Rather than admit to any geopolitical wrongdoing when questioned during the debate, Biden successfully focused on Trump’s sinister motivations: ‘He’s going after me because he knows if I get the nomination I will beat him like a drum.’

While Biden sidestepped the Ukraine affair, he continued to stumble over his words elsewhere in the debate. While discussing economic reforms, the former vice president offered a confusing response:

‘I would eliminate the capital gains tax. I would raise the capital gains tax to the highest rate of 39.5 percent. I would double it. Because guess what? Why in God’s name should someone who is clipping coupons in the stock market make, in fact, pay a lower tax rate than someone who, in fact, is like I said, a school teacher and a firefighter.’

Cockburn, for what it’s worth, is now looking into the lucrative scheme of clipping coupons.

Tom Steyer, the environmental activist and self-made billionaire had his major league debut during last night’s debate. Steyer’s ascendance appeals to the hearts and minds of American voters: with enough money, anyone can get on the presidential debate stage — even if they wear a tartan tie.

Steyer also made the baffling choice to stare straight down the barrel of the camera whenever he was called upon to speak. He may have been trying to connect directly with the viewers at home, but Cockburn felt like he was being ogled on a first date. That’s one way to stand out I guess!

Most pundits agree South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg had a good night while offering a ‘moderate’ vision of the Democratic party. Mayor Pete battled front-runner Elizabeth Warren over the impracticalities of her Medicare-for-All plan and stood up to Beto O’Rourke on the issue of firearm confiscations: ‘The problem isn’t the polls. The problem is the policy. And I don’t need lessons from you on courage — political or personal.’ The sheer homoeroticism of this moment got Cockburn rather hot under the collar. More please!

On the stage after the debate, Cockburn thinks he saw Biden slip a $20 bill in the young mayor’s jacket.

In tandem with Mayor Pete, Amy Klobuchar stood out as voice of moderation, taking her own shots at progressive policy agendas like Medicare-for-All. Unfortunately for everyone, the senator had to slip in this terrible line while discussing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election: ‘This wasn’t meddling. That’s what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she’s doing.’ That excruciating line earned silence from the crowd.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang’s signature issue of Universal Basic Income received further attention during this debate, as the moderators asked the candidates how they would handle the threat of job automation. For an outside candidate, Cockburn counts this as a win.


Julián Castro, who criticized Joe Biden for his age during the last presidential debate, was put in timeout last night, speaking for the third fewest minutes. He used his sparse time crafting some imagery about him and his twin brother being raised by a single mom. A less evocative description than Mayor Pete’s description of a Chevy Cruze…why do candidates treat these debates like they’re reading a personal essay to their creative writing class?

As Cockburn noted in the last Donkey Dow, Beto O’Rourke needs standout moments during debates to receive much-needed attention. Unfortunately for Beto, he got one, with his outlandish proposal to deprive churches of their tax-exempt status ahead of the debate. Not a good look!

Marianne, Oh Marianne. Cockburn’s self-help guru, Marianne Williamson, missed last night’s debate. While Cockburn thinks Marianne is a necessary voice in the Democratic field, he suspects desperate tweets like this do not bode well for her campaign:

Neither here nor there

Elizabeth Warren, who is challenging Joe Biden for the #1 spot in polls, took most of the heat from upstart mid-tier candidates like Mayor Pete, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang. This provided some breathing from for rival Joe Biden, but Cockburn doubts the attention will hurt her surging poll numbers.

Tulsi Gabbard warned earlier this week that she was considering boycotting last night’s debate, but ultimately showed up anyways. With limited speaking minutes, Cockburn thinks she might have attracted more attention by not showing up at all.

Kamala Harris’s camp cannot he happy that her most notable moment was advocating for President Trump to get kicked off Twitter. Perhaps the senator is better equipped for this medium:


Harris was also one of two candidates to make an early play for those coveted Gillibrand votes, by trying to redirect the healthcare conversation to discuss women’s rights to abortion access. Cockburn has a theory here: though Gillibrand never got traction in the early-primary states or online, she was very popular among influential left-leaning not-for-profits like Planned Parenthood. The debate halls are always filled with…the staff of influential left-leaning not-for-profits like Planned Parenthood. By playing to that crowd, perhaps Harris was hoping to get a smattering of applause in the room, therefore creating the perception that she’s still a popular candidate. Worth a shot, right?

The other vocal women’s rights advocate, Cory Booker, spent part of the debate as Democratic presidential field peacemaker. After a spat between Mayor Pete and Beto O’Rourke, the New Jersey senator lamented: ‘I, again, worry about how we talk to each other and about each other.’

While Booker worries about the norms of civility, Cockburn doubts the senator is doing anything to help his stagnant poll numbers. He did bring his ‘boo’ Rosario Dawson into the spin room though. How’s that for civil?

Though he doesn’t have a shot at the nomination, John Delaney is running away with the title of ‘candidate most likely to win in a cage fight.’

Speaking of other non-contenders, do you remember Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet and Tim Ryan? Cockburn is unsure about their whereabouts and is considering filing multiple missing persons reports.

Skidding out

While Cockburn doesn’t like to close on sad news, he must note that since the last Dow, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has dropped out of the race, to focus on spending more time with New Yorkers who hate his guts. His wit and good nature will be missed.

Got a tip for Cockburn? Email cockburn@spectator.us.

Sign up to receive a daily summary of the best of Spectator USA

Show comments