The first act of the two-part Democratic debate to kick-off the 2020 primary season took place Wednesday night, and in the single word tweeted by President Donald Trump to describe the event, it was rather “BORING!“
The president, usually the focal point of Democratic talking points, was not the center of attention Wednesday night.
That caught the attention of NBC’s Washington D.C.-based national political reporter Jonathan Allen, who declared in an Op-Ed for NBC News that Donald Trump was the “big winner” of Wednesday night’s Democratic debate.
Allen noted that Trump was en route to the G-20 economic summit in Japan while the debate took place, and that even though he took no part in the debate, the president nevertheless “emerged … largely unscathed — barely mentioned at all — even though he is a uniquely antagonizing and energizing force for Democratic voters.”
The reporter noted that rather than incessantly attack the president, the candidates instead spent the bulk of the time competing against one another and jockeying for position — some staking out radical positions on the far-left flank, others sliding toward the wide-open centrist lane — while seemingly forgetting about the man who has so galvanized the party.
“The obvious reason: The motivation to beat each other was, on this night, more urgent than defeating Trump — a life-or-death moment for some of their campaigns,” Allen wrote. “Trump was the chief beneficiary of that dynamic.”
The president did not go entirely unmentioned all night, as a separate report from NBC News revealed that his name or title came up 35 separate times during the nearly two-hour event, with the most mentions — 9 total — coming from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, followed by Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who mentioned Trump seven times.
The remainder of the participants mentioned Trump only two to four times. Neither Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren nor New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned the president at all.
Allen argued that Warren left Trump out of her comments by design, as the senator told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews after the debate, “You can’t just make this all about Donald Trump,” and added that he’s old news that people are “getting tired of.”
While Warren is right that political arguments can’t revolve solely around the president, there are tens of millions of voters who would beg to differ with her second point, that America has grown “tired” of the president with a track record of winning.
Allen also reviewed the performance of several candidates, writing that former Texas Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke was bested by all who tangled with him. O’Rourke did indeed have a rough evening.
The reporter also took note of how O’Rourke, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and former Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro all spoke at length in Spanish during the debate, an obvious appeal to Hispanic and Latino voters.
The bilingual answers instead came across as unwanted pandering that risked alienating Spanish-speaking viewers wary of condescension.
Of a different risky debate tactic Allen wrote, “The other risk shared by Democrats is that losing sight of Trump will allow him to exploit their divisions and position himself for re-election. He was one step closer to that after Wednesday’s debate.”
To be sure, President Trump will not be able to skate by forever without being a focal point of intense criticism from the plethora of Democratic candidates, and the second act of the debate on Thursday evening could very well feature incessant attacks against the president
As it stands right now, though, Trump emerged as the clear winner of the Democratic debate on Wednesday.
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