Cockburn is introducing the Donkey Dow: 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 miami

After the four-hour blockbuster that were last week’s Democratic debates in Miami, is Cockburn predicting seismic shifts in the primary field? Not exactly. While so-called ‘reputable’ pollsters might be squealing with glee about ‘Momala’ Harris kicking Joe Biden’s walking stick away, here at the Donkey Dow we’re a little more measured.

All that truly matters is how Wednesday and Thursday’s televised interrupt-athon shaped the perception of the candidates among swing voters in the key states. An opera house full of Planned Parenthood and #MoveOn activists is perhaps not the most precise way to read the temperature of the country. Nor is scrawling through Twitter, listening to the hashtags which amplify that room’s cries. The question that counts is: who showed us something new last week? Without much further ado…


As a minor candidate, it’s vital to make the most of the short time you’ll be allocated to speak. Step forward Marianne Williamson, author, friend of Oprah Winfrey, possible shaman, who enchanted the nation with her promise to defeat Trump by ‘harnessing love’ and earnest desire to take the prime minister of New Zealand down a peg or two, then decried the ‘aggressive energy‘ of the event. Will anyone vote for Williamson in the primary? Perhaps Republicans. Can’t wait to see more from her.

Another low-polling contender who did well: Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She came across as relaxed, despite being asked the only negative question of Wednesday night, and systematically dismantled Tim Ryan when the Ohio congressman gave a weak answer about the war in Afghanistan.

When you’re in double digits like Elizabeth Warren, the most important thing is to not bottle it. To her credit, the Massachusetts senator kept it simple: mostly addressing the moderators and the cameras and staying above the fray of the other candidates, a strategy that looked, dare I say it, presidential?

Also on form was Pete Buttigieg, who Cockburn assumes was a high-school debating champion less than 20 years ago. The South Bend mayor answered tough questions about a shooting in his town with dignity and remained calm throughout. He, like Biden, dodged the spin room afterwards: supposedly, according to one of Cockburn’s spies, to head straight for the bar of the Miami Hilton and socialize with the debate audience. Always knew he was smart. To top it off, Buttigieg announced huge Q2 fund-raising numbers today. Mayor Pete may be the man to beat.

Cory Booker proved popular in the south, so could have a look-in according to our Washington Editor Curt Mills. Also served as an avatar for the audience by cringing at Beto’s Spanish.


Joe Biden had a bad night, but nowhere near as damning as people are making out. In the heat of the moment, Harris’s leap for his jugular looked painful…but does anyone truly believe that re-litigating Uncle Joe’s Senate record to ask whether he’s a racist-by-2019-standards will be his downfall? Doing so will not un-make him the VP of America’s first black president.

We’ll mark him down, however, for his senior moment, where he said his first act as president would be ‘defeating Donald Trump’. All Joe has to do to win is appear more with-it than Trump. Surely he can’t blow it?

Eric Swalwell‘s confrontational approach made him look as infantile as the two-year-old he brandishes every time he needs to remind people that he’s a young father. He decided to go after Biden for being old, asking the former VP to ‘pass the torch’, and attacked Pete Buttigieg for not firing his police chief over the South Bend shooting. Whenever he opened his mouth, he offered a prompt to ask, ‘why is this guy here again?’ Man he sucks.

Beto O’Rourke got a hard time from Julián Castro on Wednesday over an obscure part of US immigration law, making him look even more pathetic than usual. Julián’s brother Joaquin told Cockburn the attack was ‘nothing personal’. Despite that, it was a bad look for O’Rourke. Not his worst though.

Also his ‘habla Español’ moment was pandering of the highest order. Adios hombre!

In a city full of Cubans and Venezuelans who fled communist regimes, Bernie Sanders failed to stoke the flames of revolution. The self-avowed democratic socialist may be responsible for the change in the party’s tide, but he seemed grumpy to not be getting the credit. Try again next month.

Andrew Yang‘s task was simple: remind Americans that he planned to give them $12,000, say it four or five times so the message sticks. He got it out…twice? Thursday was his biggest opportunity to translate his huge online following into genuine support in the states that matter…and he missed it.

Talking for a long time and saying nothing of note should be fatal when the field is this large. Time for Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet to drop out, therefore. Along with Tim Ryan for his aforementioned lust for forever-war.

Neither here nor there

Kamala Harris. Yes, really. The California senator may have earned a gold star from some chambers by attacking Barack Obama’s VP on his race record, and spun it into a weekend of coverage by vilifying Donald Trump Jr’s querying of her black identity. However, attention may not Harris’s friend: questions about her record as a prosecutor, her attitude towards sex workers and all the other leftist criticisms of her candidacy are following her into the limelight. She had a fun 36 hours though.

Cockburn hates to say it…but Bill de Blasio had a good night on Wednesday. He was commanding, held the other candidates to account and made the most of the progressive policy initiatives he’d passed in New York City to entice the Democratic base. Fortunately, he screwed it all up the next day by quoting Che Guevara…in a city that reviles Che Guevara. Nature’s balance is restored.

John Hickenlooper and John Delaney offered about as much to the debates as Steve Bullock did, and Bullock wasn’t even there. Cockburn won’t knock them down though, as they proved to be the social champions of the week. Hickenlooper was spotted post-debate in the hotel bar on Thursday night, and Delaney’s team were very charitable with their spare booze. Maybe moderates have more fun?

New faces

‘Wait for me!’, yelled former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak on the Sunday before the debates. ‘I’m from a Rust Belt state! I’ve got the same amount of experience as Beto! Come back!’ But it was too late.