Thirteen quick takes on the November Democratic debate

With four presidential contenders packed closely together at the top of the field and a majority of Democratic voters not yet committed to a candidate, televised debates could make or break several campaigns between now and the February 3 Iowa caucuses. As Dan Guild discussed here, debates have fueled breakouts for some lower-polling candidates in past election cycles.

If you missed the fifth Democratic debate on November 20, you can read the full transcript here. My thoughts on the evening in Atlanta:

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Biden following Clinton's 2008 Iowa footsteps. Will Warren's surge hold?

Dan Guild puts the latest Iowa caucus poll for the Des Moines Register in historical context. -promoted by Laura Belin

In March of this year, I wrote that Joe Biden’s numbers looked weak for a front-runner. When Selzer & Co’s last poll of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers came out in June, Biden’s numbers were so weak that I wrote he will probably lose Iowa.

Selzer’s new Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom finds Biden losing support since the early summer. It also finds a new front-runner in Iowa who is in the midst of a surge nationally as well: Elizabeth Warren.

Before we get to the horse race numbers, let’s start with the single most important finding from the poll released on September 21:

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The Detroit debates and Iowa's political proving ground

James Larew presents a contrarian view on last week’s Democratic debates. -promoted by Laura Belin

When the smoke had cleared from the Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to 3, 1863, it appeared to have been just one more bloody battle in the midst of a war that had no obvious end in sight. Only later—after thousands more skirmishes had been fought—would it become clear that so much more had been achieved at Gettysburg. History would show that the Civil War’s end, culminating in General Lee’s surrender to General Grant, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on April 9, 1865 had been predicated nearly two years earlier, when the tides of the entire war had shifted in the Union’s favor at Gettysburg.

So, too, history may record that, on July 30 and 31, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan, well before Iowa’s 2020 presidential nominating caucuses had even been convened, two successive Democratic party presidential nominee debates involving twenty candidates significantly winnowed the field and defined the ultimate outcome of the nomination process: that former Vice President Joe Biden would be the party’s nominee.

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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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