How do you know Elizabeth Warren is the Democratic front-runner? Well, the polls give you a clue. But the more significant evidence is that the other presidential candidates went for her at the CNN debate last night.
When they turn on you like that, it means you are winning.
Warren was attacked by various candidates — by Pete Buttigieg and by Amy Klobuchar most effectively. She wobbled a bit, especially on her vague Medicare plans, but she didn’t falter.
It’s clear that she isn’t the devastatingly brilliant candidate establishment progressives so want her to be. She sounds a bit hurt and feeble when attacked: how will she cope with 2020? Still, in a field of 20 or so strangely ineffective runners, she increasingly stands out as a woman to be taken seriously. Unlike, say, Tom Steyer.
Warren can also find eloquence when she goes on the offensive. When she accused the others of protecting the super-rich, she had one of the lines of of the night. ‘My question isn’t why do Bernie [Sanders] and I support a wealth tax. It is why does everyone else think it is more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation of Americans.’ The danger for Warren is that she seems phony (see the next edition of the Spectator US edition). The more she can paint her and Bernie as the true left-wing radicals, the better for her.
Pete Buttigieg is the best debater — and polls after the show suggested he won the night. That doesn’t really matter. He’s clever, confident and knows how to make points on stage. But he isn’t quite charismatic enough to be a major figure and he can’t seem to get the sort of traction among the public — and African American voters — that he needs.
Kamala Harris made lots of noise, but even the media pundits who have spent the last year boosting her seem to have lost their enthusiasm now.
In a sane world, Tulsi Gabbard would be a front-runner. She is telegenic, well informed, and interesting. She also rises above the petty squabbling. But the Democratic party and the media are too mad to take her seriously.
Warren was the center of attention — which is what she wants to be in order to win. She was called ‘punitive’ by Beto O’Rourke, but if anything that may have helped her because Beto seems such a ridiculous attention seeker these days.
Biden, meanwhile, has faded. He stumbled on Ukraine. He said he loved his son — never a vote-losing line. He doesn’t sound very well. He’s still there and perhaps, in their eagerness to make Warren the focus, CNN analysts and editors are forgetting that Joe is still a major force in the race.
It was, as these debates usually are, a fairly limp spectacle. Lots of radical noise, not a lot of common sense. The only clarity of the night was on Donald Trump — the great Satan in the White House, the man all Democrats can agree to renounce. This obsessive anti-Trumpism may rally the party. But it makes the Democrats sound ever more unhinged.