Presidential debates can be moments of high drama, with candidates rhetorically jousting before a raucous crowd looking on. Or they can be nothing burgers. Same talking points, weak moderators, a low-energy audience, stiff candidates wound too tightly.
Let’s hope the first round of debates for the Democratic presidential contenders — June 26 and 27 in Miami moderated by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo — isn’t the latter. It’s hard to imagine it would be with 10 candidates, including two Texans, on stage each night.
Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker and others have qualified for the June debates.
The debates this year and into next will help pare down the unwieldly field. That means the major candidates need to stand out from the pack with soundbytes – not policy wonk, the Ambien of a political debate with 20 candidates.
The debate format and sheer numbers of competitors on stage won’t allow for 5-point plan soliloquies. In the media age in which we live, love it or loathe it, whoever has the best lines of the night wins. It’s all about who stands out from the pack and who wins the coverage wars in the press and on Facebook.
Speaking of coverage, we’ll be holding a video round table with Democratic strategists and grassroots advocates across the state before and right after each night of the June debates. Stay tuned for the details.