“Rolling the Political Dice in Campaign 2020” – The Sunday Political Brunch February 23, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s only fitting in the week when we have the Nevada Caucuses, that we bring in a gambling theme! Look, for some of these candidates the odds are getting better, while for others it’s still a crap shoot. And then we had the first debate-stage appearance by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R), then (I), New York City. There was a lot of other maneuvering this week that is worth a moment in the red-hot spotlight, too! So, let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“OMG!!!” – Oh my God!!! In the 43 years I’ve been covering politics, that was the meanest, nastiest, feistiest, bar-knuckled brawl of a debate I’ve ever seen. The gloves came off right out of the box with Elizabeth Warren saying, “So I'd like to talk about who we're running against, a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And, no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Old, ‘What’s His Name?’” – Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, who’s had some brilliant debates – especially last week in New Hampshire – really faltered this week. She was chastised by many, including former Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend Indiana, because she was unable to name the president of Mexico in a recent interview. “But you're staking your candidacy on your Washington experience. You're on the committee that oversees border security. You're on the committee that does trade?” inquired Buttigieg of her gaffe. Klobuchar shot back, “Are you -- are you trying to say that I'm dumb? Or are you mocking me here, Pete?” Other candidates beat up on Klobuchar, too.

“Ouch, and Ouch Right Back at Ya!’” – The best “mix-it-up” moment of the night came between Bloomberg and Senator Bernie Sanders. After being attacked for his wealth all night Bloomberg fought back saying, “What a wonderful country we have. The best-known socialist in the country (Sanders) happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here?” Sanders fired back, “Well, you'll miss that I work in Washington, house one… live in Burlington, house two… and like thousands of other Vermonters, I do have a summer camp. Forgive me for that. Where is your home? Which tax haven do you have your home?” Bloomberg shot back, “New York City, thank you very much, and I pay all my taxes.” Millionaire or billionaire, few average voters can relate to either.

“Biden His Time?” – Former Vice President Joe Biden had a lukewarm debate performance but may have made his best case when he said in the NBC sponsored debate, “In terms of who can beat Donald Trump, NBC did a poll yesterday. It says Joe Biden is best equipped to beat Donald Trump.”

“The Political ‘Hail Mary’ Pass!” – Maybe the most intriguing development this week is the idea put forth by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he might choose 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton as his running mate. It created lots of buzz, intrigue and social media chatter. But oddly enough, not one of the five debate moderators asked Bloomberg (or, anyone else on stage) the question. An epic media fail!

“How Odd are the Odds?” – Las Vegas and Reno live by the game of numbers, so let’s go there. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll as we head to the caucus vote has it this way: Bernie Sanders 30 percent (up), Joe Biden 16 percent (down), Pete Buttigieg 14 percent (up), Elizabeth Warren 13.7 percent (up), Tom Steyer 10.3 percent (up), and Amy Klobuchar 10 percent (up). Michael Bloomberg did not poll. It goes without saying that the only person dropping in the polls is former Vice President Joe Biden.

“And the Winner Is?” – “And the Winner Is?” – At last look in Nevada, it was Sanders 47 percent, to Biden 19 percent, 15 percent Buttigieg, 10 percent Warren, 4 percent Steyer, and, 5 percent Klobuchar. With top-two finishes in the first three contests, Bernie Sander is now the front-runner.

“And the REAL Winner Is? – It’s a theme a lot of people said to me the morning after the debate. With the bitter division between Democrats, it may pave the way for President Trump’s reelection. Bloomberg said of Sanders chances. “I don't think there's any chance whatsoever. And if he goes and is the candidate, we will have Donald Trump for another four years. And we can't stand that.” In a roundabout way, Trump may have won the Las Vegas debate, if in the end Democrats can't unify behind one nominee.

“Can Democrats Unite and Win After This Fight?” – Yes, the debate was ugly. But is it a death sentence? Let’s go back to the first presidential campaign I ever covered in 1980 between President Jimmy Carter, former Gov. Ronald Reagan (R) California and Independent candidate Rep. John Anderson (R) Illinois. The Republican debates were feisty – though not as mean – but they were combative. At one-point candidate George H.W. Bush referred to Reagan’s financial plan as “voodoo economics.” But history shows the two “kissed and made up” and they united and held the White House for 12 years. Democrats can mend and survive this week’s dust-up, too.

There have been nine Democratic presidential debates so far. Has your candidate choice or opinion changed? Just click the comment button and let us know.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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