The debate

Last night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas was the first in which we had a good opportunity to see who the candidates are when the pressure is on — and it was disappointing.

Mike Bloomberg: His advertising campaign is terrific, but in person he has no more personality than a cigar-store Indian. What is more, he plainly disliked having to be at the debate, with the regular folk, and field questions. He’d probably be a competent chief executive, but I don’t think there is any way on earth he can win the general election; after all, he’s going to have cameras pointed at him 24/7.

Elizabeth Warren: She is unmistakably smart, and as sincere and earnest as any high school do-gooder organizing a pep-rally. It was she, after all, who spearheaded the drive to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so hated by large financial services firms because it slowed-down their systematic theft. She is tough, too, neatly slicing and dicing Bloomberg. She is thoroughly unpretentious middle-class, and it’s hard not to like that in a field that includes 2-billionaires (maybe). There is a sense of wild-eyed zealot about her, though, and I’m having a difficult time picturing her prevailing through the rough-and-tumble of a long campaign. In that respect, the best thing going for her is that Donald Trump is such an utterly repellent human being. On the down side, she is a bona fide Harvard intellectual, and there are a lot of people who will hold her ‘elitism’ against her.

Joe Biden: Poor guy.

Bernie Sanders: There’s a no-nonsense directness about Sanders that is likable, but it always seems to be accompanied by barely-suppressed anger. He’s not truly a socialist as I understand the word, but nobody who self-identifies as a socialist is likely to be elected in this country for a long, long time.

Pete Buttigieg: He’s another over-achieving intellectual, but ex-military and projects an affable, centrist mindset without the ‘elite’ baggage. There was a whiff of persnickety, querulous teenager in the go-round with Amy Klobuchar over the President of Mexico, I thought, and it was off-putting. And there are people disgusted by Trump who won’t care much for Buttigieg, either, because he’s gay.

Amy Klobuchar: Busybody P.T.A. mom. She’s good with rehearsed talking-points, but doesn’t improvise well; she definitely needs to attend some Toastmaster classes.

As awful as Trump is, the debate ended with me wondering if he could, after all, win a second term. Four of the leading Democrat candidates are ready for pinochle at a retirement home in Florida, and neither of the two youngest is ready for prime time. Buttigieg is probably the most plausible president of the two — but only when the opposition is Trump; otherwise, I’d encourage him to sit out a couple of elections and grow-up some more. But the way things look just now … Go, Mayor Pete!

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