Even CNN Was Unimpressed With the Way Their Debate Turned Out

While CNN’s panels of partisan analysts and journalists had their thoughts on which Democratic candidates did well in their debate, host Chris Cuomo stated best when he deduced that “the consensus, though, is that this was not the type of night of ambition we expected.” One analyst was so distraught he declared he was “dispirited.” Not what the Democratic National Committee wanted to hear going into the Iowa caucuses.

The first to register his displeasure with the debate was former Obama adviser David Axelrod. He thought Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and former Vice President Joe Biden had their tout-able moments but seemed disappointed there were no “fiery moments” that stood out.

There were some confrontations but for whatever reason and it may be that people are uneasy in a race where people are well-liked, generally, to take on folks that might drive second choices away, drive the undecided away,” he said.

Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was “surprised” and “shocked” by the lack of aggression from the candidates. “I mean, this is the last shot you’ve got until the Iowa caucus in three weeks. The four front runners, nobody went after each other. I was really surprised at that. Joe Biden has been leading the race since he got into it, nobody touched him tonight, nobody went after him. It was just shocking to me that this is your last shot to make an impression before you go in it,” he lamented.

Most of the panel agreed with him when he noted the debate didn’t change the dynamic of the race in any way, including chief political analyst Gloria Borger and liberal activist/CNN weekend host Van Jones.

“All right, of course, we’re listening to you all here, Anderson, it’s so interesting to get all of these different perspectives on what happened. I think the consensus, though, is that this was not the type of night of ambition we expected. So, then the big question becomes, well, why,” Cuomo declared shortly thereafter.

Cuomo spoke with chief political correspondent Dana Bash and political director David Chalian, who thought there was no fire and no needles being moved. “Was it fiery? Could you feel the crackling in here? No,” Bash admitted. Chalian added: “I don’t think anything really changed tonight in this race and I agree that caution was the most active participant on the stage…

The most distraught was Jones by far. “As a progressive, to see those two have that level of vitriol was very dispiriting,” he bemoaned when speaking about the feud between Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders (VT). His emotions appeared to run high as he worried that Democratic division could lead to President Trump’s reelection:

Democrats have to do better than what we tonight. There was nothing I saw tonight that would be able to take Donald Trump out. And I want to see a Democrat in the White House as soon as possible. There was nothing tonight that, if you’re looking at this thing, you say “any of these people are prepared for what Donald Trump is going to do for us.” And to see further division tonight is very dispiriting.

This is CNN.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read: 

CNN Debate Post Analysis
January 14, 2020
11:12:20 p.m. Eastern

(…)

DAVID AXELROD: I thought this was Elizabeth Warren’s best debate in several debates. She was consistent, strong, emphatic. I think she did what she came there to do. As for the Vice President, his closing was very, very strong. You wonder where that energy is throughout the debate. There were times when he seemed, you know, very much sort of low energy.

And the debate itself, we expected some fiery moments. There were some confrontations but for whatever reason and it may be that people are uneasy in a race where people are well-liked, generally, to take on folks that might drive second choices away, drive the undecided away.

(…)

TERRY MCAULIFFE: You know, I’m a little surprised. I thought it would be a much more aggressive debate tonight. I mean, this is the last shot you’ve got until the Iowa caucus in three weeks. The four front runners, nobody went after each other. I was really surprised at that. Joe Biden has been leading the race since he got into it, nobody touched him tonight, nobody went after him. It was just shocking to me that this is your last shot to make an impression before you go in it.

I thought Pete was strong tonight. I thought he had a very good debate. I was very impressed with Tom Steyer. You know, I think there was something for everybody here tonight. But what you walk away with, does this change the dynamic of the caucus in three weeks?

GLORIA BORGER: No.

AXELROD: No.

BORGER: Not at all

MCAULIFFE: Absolutely not.

VAN JONES: No.

(…)

CHRIS CUOMO: All right, of course, we’re listening to you all here, Anderson, it’s so interesting to get all of these different perspectives on what happened. I think the consensus, though, is that this was not the type of night of ambition we expected. So, then the big question becomes, well, why?

You have two possibilities. One is the adage in politics: scared never wins, which is that you hold your fire, everybody up there is popular and you don’t want to hurt yourself this close before the caucuses. Okay.

But the second perspective is, you have to go for it at a certain point to distinguish yourself from your competitors. And remember what every Democrat is looking for and why you see this bottleneck at the top and people moving back and forth, three, four people within the margin of error, who is the right one to beat Trump? That speaks to a big ambition. To a boldness. Someone who can take on, arguably, the most fierce campaigner we’ve seen in a generation.

So, the question becomes why did they play it this way tonight? I have Dana Bash and David Chalian, can’t get better minds than this.

(…)

DANA BASH: I do think that you were dead on about the stakes being so high but I actually — Was it fiery? Could you feel the crackling in here? No. But if you are a caucus goer thinking, “Who do I like, I’m a little torn, I just want to hear what they believe on the issues I care about,” you’ve got that tonight, particularly on an issue that we have heard almost nothing about until tonight and that is foreign policy, given the fact that things are so different now with what happened in Iran than they were just a couple of weeks ago.

(…)

DAVID CHALAIN: I agree. I don’t think anything really changed tonight in this race and I agree that caution was the most active participant on the stage and I think there’s a reason why. It is those rules that are particular here in Iowa, where that second choice can really matter and so it’s a calculation, if you go after somebody you may be ruling out their supporters.

(…)

11:26:44 p.m. Eastern

VAN JONES: So I think that what she did was extraordinary. But what I love about Elizabeth Warren in those moments, she never stopped being the educator-in-chief. She didn’t just say, listen, I’m a woman, I can do it rah rah rah, she made the case that women have been winning in the Trump era and have been leading this movement. And so, I think she used the moment well.

But that was – as a progressive, to see those two have that level of vitriol was very dispiriting. And I want to say that tonight, for me, was dispiriting. Democrats have to do better than what we tonight. There was nothing I saw tonight that would be able to take Donald Trump out. And I want to see a Democrat in the White House as soon as possible. There was nothing tonight that, if you’re looking at this thing, you say “any of these people are prepared for what Donald Trump is going to do for us.” And to see further division tonight is very dispiriting.

(…)

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