What the debates taught us

Ira Lacher: “For many Americans who only experience candidates through email appeals or in prepackaged videos, the debates provided an opportunity to see them as people.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Now that the first Democratic presidential debates have come and gone, what have we learned?

Forgetting and ignoring what the national media have said, here’s what I learned from my own and others’ observations from two nights of debate-watching parties.

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A case for Andrew Yang and his Freedom Dividend

Des Moines resident Jon Muller has worked in public policy analysis for 27 years. -promoted by Laura Belin

While I will be voting for whoever wins the Democratic nomination for president, Andrew Yang stands out among the nearly two dozen candidates.

There are two fundamental questions most Democrats are considering, broadly, and I’m not much different.

1. Which candidate has the best chance of winning in 2020?
2. Which candidate best conforms to my sense of the best direction for this nation?

In my view, Andrew Yang is the answer to both of those questions. Let’s take the second question first.

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A candid assessment of seven presidential candidates

Ed Fallon is a former Democratic state lawmaker and “agitator in chief” at Bold Iowa. He backed Bernie Sanders shortly before the 2016 Iowa caucuses but has not endorsed a 2020 presidential candidate. -promoted by Laura Belin

Remember how the Republican field shifted in the 2012 and 2016 Iowa caucuses? The lead changed so many times that emergency rooms across Iowa saw a drastic increase in whiplash cases.

Ok, I made that last part up. But seriously, remember one-time 2012 front runner Herman Cain? I didn’t think so. How about 2016 flash-in-the-pack leader Ben Carson? Or shoe-in-for-the-nomination Scott Walker? And oh, how I miss Michele Bachmann.

The horde of Democrats running for president this year may or may not experience the same level of volatility, but we’ve already witnessed some surprises. A year ago, how many of us had even heard of …

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What candidates said about health care, reproductive rights at the Hall of Fame

Nineteen presidential candidates had five minutes each to make their case to more than 1,000 activists at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids on June 9. Most offered at least one really good applause line. Teams of reporters from the Des Moines Register and Iowa Starting Line pulled together some of the memorable parts of each speech here and here.

I decided to focus on how the candidates spoke about health care and women’s ability to access abortion for a couple of reasons. First, while the candidates highlighted a wide range of problems and proposals, almost all of them addressed those topics in some way.

Second, this post represents my gesture toward what media critic Jay Rosen has called the “citizens agenda” approach to covering campaigns. Although I lack survey data to know for sure what Iowa Democrats want the presidential contenders to be talking about, I believe health care and reproductive rights are among the most salient for caucus-goers, because:

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Penguins pin down Joe Biden on climate

Ed Fallon reports on the latest efforts by Bold Iowa’s “Climate Bird Dogs.” -promoted by Laura Belin

As further evidence of the efficacy of bird-dogging — or penguin-popping, as my daughter Fionna suggests we call it — look no further than Joe Biden’s just-finished campaign blitz through Iowa.

At his first three stops — Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Iowa City — Biden barely mentioned climate change. “He made some basic statement about climate, but it wasn’t anything like we’d want to hear,” said Christine Lehman-Engledow, who attended Biden’s rally in Cedar Rapids.

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