Debate II: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly #sincerely76315-066

Ken Smukler is a former political consultant. He is currently residing in a federally gated community. He is now writing for under the tagline #sincerely76315-066

Ken Smukler is a former political consultant. He is currently residing in a federally gated community. He is now writing for under the tagline #sincerely76315-066

Prepared authenticity:  the ability to deliver lines in a debate that have been both scripted and vetted delivered in a way that sounds like the line just pooped out of your head.

Elizabeth Warren has proven herself a master of the art.  Waiting to pounce on the predictable pie-in-the-sky attack on her version of Medicare for All (this time delivered by soon-to-be former candidate John Delaney). Warren chose not just to deflect the attack but to counterpunch. Note: I've spending a lot of time this summer with guys who know a lot about boxing both in the ring and on the street, so allow me this pugilistic analogy.  In a boxing match, if you see the right hook coming, you defend with the left pushing your opponent's right punching hand towards the floor then once past the opponent's right, take your left to the opponent's jaw.

Warren's, "I don't understand why you go to all the trouble to run for president" line was just such a counterpunch haymaker.  She knew the attack from the right on Medicare for All was coming, she saw it, she deflected and scored.  Her skillfulness in this moment gave her the takeaway soundbite of passion and principle.

Bernie Sander's, on the other hand, had no such finesse with his counterpunch.  When confronted by Congressman Tim Ryan on his Medicare for All plan, he chose not to speak of the aspirational goals of the legislation but to the "I wrote the damn bill," prolonging a fight with a candidate who, at best, is running for Veep. A line like that sounds more like a search for credit than an appeal to the hearts and minds of the Democratic electorate.

Kamala Harris showed that she can give better than she can take which is a shame given that every pundit under the sun was predicting she would be attacked for her less-than-progressive record as California's Attorney General.  Harris' one-two counter was both generic and dismissive of the attacker, leaving her open to the Gabbard rebuttal that she had not answered the question.  Harris would have been much better off admitting to failures but taking credit over all for moving the office in a progressive direction.

Harris also didn't recognize when to take her foot off the gas as she was trying to run Joe Biden over with her campaign bus. Speaking of which...

Biden's worst moment was his first few seconds on stage, calling a sitting U.S. Senator "kid." Then again his last moment in which he gave a website with a heretofore unknown number didn't do much to dispel the septuagenarian swan song narrative circling around his campaign.

In the intervening 90 minutes, Biden showed that he is not afraid to throw some punches - the counter on Gillibrand's weak sexism attack probably knocked the Senator from upstate New York off the stage in September - but his attack on Booker's stint as Newark mayor ("hiring Giuliani's guy") sounded as if his heart wasn't in it.

Neither Mayor Pete nor Beto O'Rourke seemed to want to wrest the leadership mantle from Warren or Sanders leaving the Geritol Generation unscathed by the GenExers and Millenials.  While they will both live to fight another day, the question remains whether they choose the national stage in September to fight at all.

Finally, to those who may not make it to Round 3 in September.

I will miss Marianne Williamson who seems to have achieved her dual goals of upping her Q rating and getting her next self-help book on Oprah's Book Club required reading.  She showed us another dimension which, at times, teetered toward the Twilight Zone and, at times, was a true breath of fresh air.

I will not miss the 3 blind mice: Governor Jay Inslee's blind devotion to reversing climate change, Andrew Yang's blind commitment to giving away 1-large a month to every man woman and child, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard's blind infatuation with her military resume.

But let me leave you with one big winner who may not make it to the debate stage in September but may (and in my view should) make it to the DNC convention as the VP nominee:  Senator Michael Bennet. He did what Joe Biden could not do - provide a passionate succinct counterpoint to the Medicare For All crowd.  Should any candidate other than Biden become the nominee, they would be hard-pressed to find a more qualified and capable candidate on the stump with them than Senator Bennet.  He will provide a nice positioning balance on the ticket which will be desperately needed as these candidates are moving toward affirming the Trump "Socialist" moniker and, oh yeah, he hails from the battleground state of Colorado.