Thursday, February 20, 2020

Elizabeth Warren Is Here To Be Queen of the Ashes

By Eric Boehm - February 20, 2020 at 09:38AM

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) is a fan of Game of Thrones' heroine-turned-villain Daenerys Targaryen, and the presidential candidate did her best impression of the Dragon Queen during Wednesday night's Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas.

Warren came out swinging at the opening bell. She interrupted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first response with an absolute slobber-knocker.

She was just getting started. She would torch Bloomberg again and again during the two hour debate—including one particularly effective broadside on Bloomberg's history of requiring employees to sign non-disclosure agreements about sexual harassment, which Warren said effectively silences women who have been subjected to workplace misogyny.

But she saved plenty of fire for the rest of the field too. She cremated former Vice President Joe Biden for having the audacity to work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) to pass legislation. She burned Pete Buttigieg for daring to offer an alternative to universal government-run health care, which he calls "Medicare for all who want it." Warren accused him of having nothing more than "a slogan that was thought up by his consultants." Even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.), with whom Warren had previously shared some debate state camaraderie, took a turn in the barrel for having a health care plan that was…not long enough, I guess?

Some of those attacks were more legitimate than others. (Realistically, the fact that Biden had good relationships with some Republican senators was a benefit for the Obama administration, as Warren would quickly discover if she managed to win the White House.) Still, it was a fiery and energetic performance from a candidate who seems to know she has nothing to lose at this point. The fundraising boost will help too.

Once Warren threw the first punch, everyone wanted a piece of the action. Buttigieg and Klobuchar sniped at one another throughout the night. Bloomberg torched Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) for being a socialist who owns three houses. Even Biden showed a bit of life!

Bloomberg had the worst night of all. One that might—if debates matter, and I'm not sure they do—raise serious questions about his viability going forward. "If the argument for Bloomberg's candidacy is that he's more electable than Sanders and Warren—and more energetic than Biden—then that argument has suffered a significant setback. Maybe a fatal one," offers Reason's Robby Soave.

Even when he wasn't under attack from Warren and the other candidates, Bloomberg suffered from being "a stiff, incompetent political performer with a record in office that's so-so at best and who is aware that what seem to be his authentic policy views are too politically toxic to run on," as Vox's Matt Yglesias put it.

Bloomberg's presence on the stage likely helped Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), who would otherwise have drawn the majority of the other candidates' fire after winning (or nearly winning, depending on how you count Iowa's results) the first two states. It's becoming clear that Sanders is the frontrunner now, but the bigger question is whether he can get an outright majority of the delegates. When asked last night, he was the only candidate on stage to say that a candidate with the plurality of the delegates—that is, the largest pile but not an outright majority—should be the nominee. Everyone else is now angling for a brokered convention, an outcome that the forecasters at FiveThirtyEight say is the most likely outcome of the race right now.

That brings us back to Warren. Her "Dracarys" approach to last night's debate could be seen as a way to say "if I can't win the nomination, no one will"—or maybe "let's take this all the way to Milwaukee." On the other hand, it was notable that she didn't go after Sanders with the same venom she brought for the others. Might that be a sign that she's playing fullback for Sanders?

 

Regardless, Wednesday's debate was evidence that the Democratic presidential race has entered a new, more dramatic phase. One that will last for (checks calendar) a whole six days before we get to do this all over again.


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