ChrisWeigant.com

The Great Winnowing

[ Posted Wednesday, August 28th, 2019 – 17:24 UTC ]

Barring any surprise last-minute polls, the stage is now set for the third round of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates. Note that singular "stage" in there, because for the first time the debate will only take place on a single night, with 10 candidates appearing together onstage while 11 others got shut out in the cold. Yes, the time of the Great Winnowing is upon us.

Again, barring any last-minute surprises (the deadline for polling results isn't until midnight tonight), the candidates who will be facing off against each other are (roughly in descending order of support in the polls): Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Julián Castro, and Beto O'Rourke. Those last five names are really kind of interchangeable in position, since they're all struggling to even hit three percent in the polls -- only the top five are regularly polling above five percent.

There were a handful of other candidates who almost made the debate stage this time around, having all passed the criterion of 130,000 donors, but all of them fell short of the other metric required for entry: hitting at least two percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee. Tom Steyer was closest to making it, having chalked up three such polls, but in the end he failed to manage the fourth one. Tulsi Gabbard has had only had two such qualifying polls, and Marianne Williamson and Kirsten Gillibrand both had one. In a surprise twist, however, the fourth debate could be bigger than the third -- which would necessitate a two-night event if they keep to the limit of only 10 candidates onstage at once -- because the criteria for the third and fourth debates are exactly the same. This means that Steyer and the others have roughly another month in which they could hit the four-poll threshold. This guarantees that the field won't be further culled until the fifth debate.

As I was writing this, however, the news just broke that Kirsten Gillibrand has bowed out, so there are now only three candidates left with a decent chance of making the fourth debate (Steyer, Gabbard, and Williamson). Gillibrand becomes the seventh Democrat overall to throw in the towel, leaving only (!) 20 candidates in the field. While her announcement doesn't come as much surprise -- she is a United States senator, but she failed to ever gain the slightest traction in the polls -- she will likely not be the only candidate to quit before the third debate even happens. Even before Gillibrand's announcement, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, and Seth Moulton had also withdrawn from the race in the run-up to the third debate cutoff announcement.

In case you've forgotten who the other seven candidates are who might also soon decide to bow out, here is the list of those who did not even come close to meeting the debate criteria this time around: Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Wayne Messam, Tim Ryan, and Joe Sestak. They should all be seen as the proverbial dead men walking, at this point.

Of course, all the wannabes that didn't make it are grousing, some of them more loudly than the others. But the Great Winnowing really needed to happen, and it strikes me that the both the timing and the criteria used were pretty reasonable. We had two early free-for-all "cattle call" debates (spread over four nights), which fixed the obvious bias the D.N.C. showed last time (when they tried to hand-tailor the debates to maximize Hillary Clinton's chances). But these events were exhausting to watch, even for hardcore political junkies (like myself). There were just too many people on the stage, to be blunt. Granted, this was because of the record-setting breadth of the 2020 Democratic field, but even so it left the voters rather overwhelmed. From anecdotal evidence, it seems that voters are now really looking forward to limiting the participants to only those with a real chance of winning the nomination. In the early days, setting the bar so low that 20 candidates could qualify showed openness by the D.N.C., but there's a limit to how open they really need to be, going forward.

In fact, I'm even looking forward to the second winnowing, which will take place before the fifth debate. If the D.N.C. follows the pattern they've been using so far, they will raise the number of donors required for each candidate as well as bumping up the polling cutoff to three percent (it was one percent for the first two debates and two percent for the third and fourth). Currently, this would shrink the field down to a much more manageable group (in the single digits, at the very least). If the likes of Klobuchar, Yang, Castro, and O'Rourke can't even meet that modest bar as we head towards the end of 2019, then they really don't deserve to be on stage with the candidates who have shown wider voter support. Their supporters will doubtlessly disagree, but the more candidates there are on each debate stage, the less we hear from each individual during the course of the debate -- and at some point, I'd like to see a much more extensive conversation between those who actually have a chance to win the nomination. As things now stand, that seems to only include the top five (Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg) as well as maybe Booker and Klobuchar.

The third debate will feature one matchup that so far has not happened: Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden on the same stage. If they keep to the "higher poll numbers towards the center of the stage" placement rule, this will mean Joe Biden will be flanked by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (with Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg flanking them). That will be an interesting dynamic, since Bernie and Liz have yet to take each other on in any meaningful way -- they are content for now to be the progressive tag-team. If this truce holds for the third debate, then Biden will quite literally (if not ideologically) be getting it from both sides at once. And while Bernie-versus-Biden was interesting, Warren-versus-Biden could be even more of a stark contrast in debate style. To date, some of the attacks on Biden have been effective, but nobody's really drilled down on some of his more questionable stances and past legislation in the way that Warren might be able to achieve.

This is why the Great Winnowing needed to happen -- because in the third Democratic debate, we will see the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee on stage with all of his or her top challengers. There won't be any draw to see which lineup they'll all be in. One of those ten on stage will be the one who ultimately takes on Donald Trump next year. By cutting out the minor candidates, the voters will be able to (hopefully) see a much more substantive debate, without so much desperation and flop sweat. Of course, there will still be a number of candidates who at this point are only really running to either be a vice-presidential pick or a cabinet nominee, but there will be far fewer of them. Which will make the entire exercise much less exhausting for all concerned.

Even after seven have dropped out, there are still 20 Democrats officially in the race -- three more than the total 2016 Republican field. But at this point, the ones who haven't caught fire in any noticeable way are not likely to ever have that magical standout moment which propels them into the upper polling ranks (or, at the very least, above a measly two percent). So it seems entirely reasonable not to have them on the debate stage any longer. Of course, all of them are free to continue their campaigns as long as they wish, as some sort of political vanity project, but there's really no longer any need to see them standing next to the candidates who have an actual chance of winning. The Great Winnowing has mowed them down, and I for one am thankful that I won't have to try to keep them all straight in the upcoming third debate.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

24 Comments on “The Great Winnowing”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    I am looking forward to Debate #3.

  2. [2] 
    Paula wrote:

    Of note: https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/459067-mississippi-officials-confirm-multiple-cases-of-voting-machines-changing

    Here is a documented - no one is saying this is just a rumor, it happened and everyone agrees it happened - case of voting machines changing votes.

    This crap has to get handled. #MoscowMitch needs to get out of the way of election security legislation, for a start.

  3. [3] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    The big winnowing maybe, but not so great when you consider the candidates not winnowed.

    If the DNC can require that candidates have a minimum of 130,000 donors, then they could also require that the candidates have no donors giving aggregate contributions in excess of 200 dollars.

    This would winnow out all the candidates that will be working for the big money interests if they get elected.

    Without that quality the Democratic nominee will be a poor alternative to Trump and merely one step in the wrong direction instead of two.

    And "without that quality" is what got Trump elected in the first place.

    How much longer are we as country and you as a reality based blogger going to keep going in the wrong direction?

  4. [4] 
    TheStig wrote:

    The Great Winnowing is highly evocative. The Atlantic is using also using the phrase. Whoever coined it (or more likely repurposed it...only so many words in English) it's just about perfect. I think the next act has 4 speaking roles and 6 extras.

    For me, it boils down to just 3 with distinct virtues

    Biden - institutional memory

    Warren - progressive planner

    Sanders - progressive negotiator

  5. [5] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    I'm a big fan of Julian Castro... for vice president. His relative youth (44) and latino descent would provide a very nice balance to the old whiteness of the 3 most likely candidates to win the nomination. I don't think he has broad enough political experience for the presidency yet, but he's pretty knowledgeable on domestic policy and still decently in touch with regular people, being a former mayor of a large city and HUD secretary. Again, a good balance for senators like Biden, Sanders, and Warren. Not only that, but Castro is quite popular in his home state of Texas, and could continue to accelerate the purpling of that state, and at the very least help to maximize the latino turnout that is almost certain to be a huge benefit to democrats.

  6. [6] 
    dsws wrote:

    There are nine candidates that people have to choose among for who they actually want to vote for, and only one option if they want to go the "safe" white guy route. That disparity cannot be overcome. Biden is the nominee, he's a general election loser, and Trump has a second term in the bag.

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    dsws

    Your forecast is based on the premise (which may well turn out to be totally valid), that Trump's 2016 supporters are "party slaves" as Michale puts it, who have failed to recognize what an incompetent asshole their guy turned out to be.

    I think there's actually a chance that a good many votes that elected him last time were not actually Trump votes, but were rather anti-Clinton votes. There's a chance that those folks were not so ideologically committed (aka "party slaves") as to be willing to accept a centrist Dem.

    As a Libertarian, I'll have trouble voting for any Dem, but this just may turn out to be the one time in 84 yrs that I have to do so.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    There are nine candidates that people have to choose among for who they actually want to vote for, and only one option if they want to go the "safe" white guy route. That disparity cannot be overcome. Biden is the nominee, he's a general election loser, and Trump has a second term in the bag.

    Succinct, direct, to the point.. And above all else, with regards to the last part, dead on ballz accurate...

    The only down side that I will have to vote for Biden..

    A small price to pay for a second President Trump term.. :D

    Having said that, I still don't agree that Biden is the shoe-in for the nomination.. All his gaffes and errors and bonehead statements are cumulative..

    But it's irrelevant. There is not a candidate in he mix who can beat President Trump...

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Your forecast is based on the premise (which may well turn out to be totally valid), that Trump's 2016 supporters are "party slaves" as Michale puts it, who have failed to recognize what an incompetent asshole their guy turned out to be.

    If one is only interested in President Trump's screwups, yea.. There are a few that can be found.

    But if one really cares about this country, it's clear based on the FACTS that President Trump has done much more good than bad..

  10. [10] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Michale

    As I've pointed out many times, the current presidents get all the credit when things go right, and all the blame when things go to hell, and truth be known, they rarely deserve either.

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    As I've pointed out many times, the current presidents get all the credit when things go right, and all the blame when things go to hell, and truth be known, they rarely deserve either.

    Except for the fact that, around these here parts and with a couple of very VERY rare exceptions (CW and JL come to mind in addition to present company) President Trump NEVER gets any credit when and where credit is due..

  12. [12] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    President Trump NEVER gets any credit when and where credit is due..

    So, like, when and where is credit due?

    The economy is Obama's - until Trump kills it.

    The rest is a mess - no bright spots.

    So when and where?

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    The economy is Obama's - until Trump kills it.

    Unless something bad happens.. Then it's all Trump's..

    You prove my point for me..

    Even CW has acknowledged Trump's credit...

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    The rest is a mess - no bright spots.

    You only see what you want to see..

  15. [15] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Even CW has acknowledged Trump's credit...

    Honestly...for what?

  16. [16] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    I am willing to give Trump full credit for the economy beginning one year after he took office.

    The stock market is up. Good for those that make their money off the stock market- bad for the rest of us.

    Unemployment has remained constant or slightly improved. Wages are mostly stagnant and the jobs that many citizens are getting are not good paying jobs or even as good as what jobs they may have previously had. How many are not counted because they are no longer on unemployment and are not counted as unemployed?

    Income inequality continues to get worse or at least has not significantly improved.

    Not that any Democrats provide a good alternative as they also represent the big money interests and if consistent with the last thirty plus years will only provide a few small crumbs to pacify citizens to keep citizens from being completely disappointed by the the Democrats not fulfilling their campaign promises again because they never intended to and can keep running the same campaign election after election if they never actually solve the problems they are pretending to want to solve.

    Trump's "success" or failure on the economy will not convince me to vote for him or for a big money Democrat.

    The cold hard truth is you have be a few tools short in the toolbox to not be in the top 1-10% and think that voting for either Trump or any of the big money Democrats is in your best interests economically.

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    Honestly...for what?

    I am not going to waste my time digging up the reference because you will simply ignore it and respond with more Trump hate..

    I know it, CW knows it and you know it too.. You just can't can't admit that President Trump has actually done some good for this country..

    You're hate has made you a caricature of denial..

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    Wages are mostly stagnant and the jobs that many citizens are getting are not good paying jobs or even as good as what jobs they may have previously had.

    Not factually accurate.. Wages are up across the board..

    Unemployment has remained constant or slightly improved.

    Hispanic and black American unemployment is the LOWEST it has ever been..

    LOWEST IT HAS EVER BEEN...

    But to hear the haters tell it, THAT is because of Obama..

    Obama.. The moron who said 2% GDP is the "new normal"..

    Obama.. The moron who said, "You didn't build that"...

    Obama.. The moron who said that manufacturing jobs and coal jobs weren't coming back.

    THAT is who Trump/America haters want to give credit to.. The moron who DENIED it could ever happen..

    The cold hard truth is you have be a few tools short in the toolbox to not be in the top 1-10% and think that voting for either Trump or any of the big money Democrats is in your best interests economically.

    It is.. Most Americans are happier and wealthier thanx to President Trump's actions..

    FAR better off than they were under Odumbo and the Dumbocrats...

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    Trump Cancels Poland Trip as Hurricane Bears Down on Florida
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-29/trump-cancels-poland-trip-as-hurricane-bears-down-on-florida

    President Trump deserves credit for staying on the job to help us down here in FL..

    Of course, no one here will give him that credit.. Everyone here will just come up with more reasons to hate on Trump..

    #sad

  20. [20] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Michale (18)-
    Not accurate.

    There has been a small uptick in wages, but it is minimal and much less gain for ordinary citizens than than gains made by those at the top. And if you are working at a job that is significantly less than the previous job you had a small uptick in the lower wage you are getting still leaves you making less than your previous job.

    Unemployment was low when Trump took over and got a little lower. Cherry picking a statistic about one segment does not paint the whole picture or explain those no longer being counted as unemployed.

    Only someone blinded by their ideology would believe that nonsense or that most Americans are better off thanks to Trump any more than they were better off under Obama.

    They MAY in some instances be better off under Trump than Obama (eliminating the individual mandate, which I gave Trump credit for) or under Obama than Bush, but the better off under either is not better off overall- it is only better off by being less bad than the predecessor.

    Kind of like getting a small raise at job that pays significantly less than your previous job.

  21. [21] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Just to be clear, I am not completely against the individual mandate.

    I am against an individual mandate without a public option as I am opposed to insurance companies in the health care business and do not want to be forced to buy insurance from a private for-profit company.

    But I would probably buy insurance provided by the government even without a mandate.

  22. [22] 
    dsws wrote:

    Presidents don't have that much ability to make the economy run well. Obama deserves only a little of the credit for the recovery during his administration, and the ra*ist-in-chief deserves only a little for the continued economic growth in the last two years.

  23. [23] 
    Kick wrote:

    dsws
    6

    There are nine candidates that people have to choose among for who they actually want to vote for, and only one option if they want to go the "safe" white guy route.

    Seriously!? You seem to continually keep making the ridiculous assertion that everyone in America shares your views. They don't.

    Biden is the nominee, he's a general election loser, and Trump has a second term in the bag.

    Again... a ridiculous assumption. :)

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    Michale
    19

    President Trump deserves credit for staying on the job to help us down here in FL..

    Trump would have also been "on the job" if he had gone to Poland versus sending Pence.

    Of course, no one here will give him that credit..

    You want commenters here to give Trump credit for just "staying on the job"?

    Low bar, Mike. *laughs*

    Everyone here will just come up with more reasons to hate on Trump..

    And if you attend a baseball game, they'll be playing baseball... no matter how much you whine and moan incessantly that you want football. Duh. :)

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