Politics Live with The Fix chat transcript: Getting your thoughts on the debate

Feb 20, 2020

Got a burning politics question, or just something you’re curious about? Each week, starting Thursday at noon, The Fix team chats with readers about the big stories in politics.

If you’re a longtime fan of the Ask Amber and Ask Aaron chats, we’re glad you’re back for the new and expanded chat. If you’re new, thanks for checking us out.

This week: The Fix team was up late watching the feisty Nevada debate. The fireworks were going off in every direction, so Amber tracked the biggest brawls of the night.

JM is digging into one big weakness in Bloomberg’s campaign: The way he’s described the controversial stop-and-frisk policy over the years.

We’re also looking ahead: The Nevada caucuses are Saturday, and Eugene is heading to South Carolina to get the lay of the land there ahead of its primary later this month. Super Tuesday is looming. Want to know how it works? Amber lays it all out for you here.

And there’s plenty to talk about in Washington: Aaron has a theory about why some of this week’s presidential pardon recipients and how they represent fights that Trump sees himself in.

Please do discuss today - I know you all will have SO many questions about this. I'm in a Super Tuesday state and am paralyzed by my primary ballot.

Debate! Was insanely dramatic, by Democratic Party standards.

Based on the questions I see here, we'll spend most of the chat discussing this -- though the Roger Stone sentencing is also going on right now for Trump's friend, after he urged the Department of Justice to recommend a lower sentence.

I don't have time to write a whole recap of the debate, but please do read The Fix's Aaron Blake's winners and losers and my review of the most biting brawls of the night. 

And you are far from the only voter I've talked to/heard from who is afraid of making the wrong choice about who to beat Trump. I just feel like after losing to Trump in 2016, Democrats still aren't sure about what kind of candidate will defeat him.

Over/Under an hour before Stone gets pardoned or his sentence commuted?

I was talking to a white-collar defense attorney this morning for something else. This person was musing that if the judge doesn't put Stone in prison right away, there could be a few days before Trump starts thinking about pardoning or commuting his sentence. If he does seriously consider it, could his aides have time to talk him out of it? If Stone goes to jail right away, well, then Trump is more likely to have a knee-jerk reaction.

This is all super speculative, obviously. 

It was disheartening to watch the corridas-like behavior at the last night debates. Whether the fervor and acrimony reflect mood of general electorate or an individual angst, is there a way to impose common sense on debaters to unite against the person they are trying to unseat, rather than eating their own?

I saw some viewers share this similar idea but I largely disagree with it.

At this point in an election, the purpose of a primary debate is to distinguish yourself from your opponents -- especially if you are at risk of suspending your campaign. Multiple studies have shown that most Americans' views of Trump are already formed. Most people watching last night did not need to be convinced by liberal politicians that Trump is bad and that he should be supported. They needed to hear why certain liberal lawmakers are the best -- or not well equipped -- to remove him from the White House. 

Bloomberg was frozen. Bernie was Bernie. Biden woke up (sort of). Klobuchar was shaken, Buttigieg was a jerk. Winner: Warren Losers: Bloomberg, Buttigieg.

Re Warren on the attack, as I wrote last night:

After disappointing showings in Iowa and New Hampshire and stagnant poll numbers, Warren came to fight. She has been trying to carve out a space for herself as the unity candidate, someone who can bridge Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan with moderates who think it’s too radical. But that's led to some confusion about where it stands.

So that's why she went after everyone on their health care plans, from 
 which she labeled ineffective (Buttigieg: “paper-thin version of a plan”) or too short (Klobuchar: It can “fit on a Post-it Note”).  And Sanders, too. ("His campaign relentlessly attacks everyone who asks a question or tries to fill in details about how to actually make this work. And then his own advisers say that probably won’t happen anyway.” )


Are you surprised that there haven't been more attacks on Sanders - not just in debates but in interviews, surrogate appearances, etc - on some of his more controversial Congressional votes? Klobuchar briefly attacked him for opposing comprehensive immigration reform last night and Biden has tried to attack on guns but they've never made it a sustained thing.

I think those most at risk of ending their campaigns used last night to attack the person(s) they thought would be most responsible for ending their race -- and I don't think Sanders falls into the category for most (any?) candidates -- right now. 

As things move forward, I believe there will be more attention on Sanders. But I do believe that Buttigieg, Warren and even Bloomberg got enough jabs in at Sanders last night to show that he is not untouchable. 

Will Bernie EVER be forced to answer the question on his health plan's cost without just deflecting?

Actually, it was Sanders who said at some of the very first debates that, yes, his plan will require raising taxes on the middle class. And then he immediately pivoted to how much he estimates having government-paid health care will save them. Warren, by contrast, would not allow herself to be saying as much. 

The consensus coming from the debate was that Warren was on fire while taking on Bloomberg and the other moderates, and that meant good things for Sanders. However, as the only other progressive in the race, if her success in the debate leads to more votes, wouldn't those votes be taken from Sanders' pool? In New Hampshire, Klobuchar's success took votes from Buttigieg and Biden. Is there any reason to think that the same thing wouldn't happen with Warren and Sanders?

Many (not all?) of the voters I see who are most attracted to Warren aren't considering Sanders. And that is because there are some differences between the two that make Warren more likely to draw higher educated urban professional (often women) that perhaps aren't actually considering Sanders. They are considering the candidates Warren attacked. 

I found this piece interesting in response to the idea that Warren and Sanders have more in common than they do: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/differences-between-warren-and-sanders-matter/605971/


Obviously the panel of journalists did a lousy job preparing for the debate, and the candidates were eager to oblige with meaningless fist fights. Aren't the format and topics of the debates negotiated in advance between the campaigns and the media? Aren't the democratic candidates and the media embracing the very bad Trump behavior they criticize? Or are simply responding to the type of show people want even as they criticize it? This is mind-boggling!

No, campaigns are not advised ahead of time on topics. 

I thought the moderators were well prepared, and format to allowed the candidates to have a more natural, well, debate by interjecting. Though some questions did veer into the personal over policy. But the candidates themselves largely drove the personal attacks -- imagine what else they might have been talking about in the time they spent going after Bloomberg's record as mayor and comments about women. Not saying that's not a worthy discussion for a high-profile candidate the others are obviously worried about. But we're just at the stage of the primary where the attacks are getting more personal and divisive, because each candidate's success depends on someone else's failure.

Why didn't the journalists control the fights and focus on issues? What happened to Foreign Policy?

At the start of the debate, NBC News' Lester Holt encouraged the candidates “to directly engage with each other on the issues," so perhaps it wasn't unexpected that the candidates went after one another as much as they did.

As my colleague Aaron Blake noted, it was a primary debate. The candidates are supposed to draw contrasts with one another, which is what they tried to do last night.

And as Poynter noted after the debate, it was unclear how much specific questions would have steered the candidates to more substantive answers -- most found a way to circle back to what they most wanted to talk about.

where were the moderators.

Posting people's comments about the debate. I just talked above about the value I saw in having moderators be less police-like. But if you had issues you wanted the candidates to address and they didn't because of all the fighting, I could see how that would be frustrating.

Why does my perception of the "winners and losers" never quite match up with the opinions of the WP writers? Joe Biden did a good job last night and spoke to substance. Warren played right into Trump's hands. Sanders made be riding a wave but it's not the tsunami that WP is judging it to be.

The analysis we do at The Fix is based on our and our sources' expertise about what each person needs to do to succeed politically. So there is subjectiveness inherent in that, and it's okay to have different viewpoints!

I'm wondering why nobody brought up Amy Klobuchar's history as an abusive/toxic boss. It seems to have been swept under the rug since last year's reporting in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, and Vanity Fair. After watching the debate, my fiancé commented, "Amy strikes me as an explosive device with a faulty detonator that you better not bump the wrong way." I thought the same thing.

I don't think anyone on that stage felt really threatened by Klobuchar. If that changes, I imagine that her opponents will attempt to draw more attention to her supposed leadership style.

At best, I think they felt like they could get more mileage out of attacking her controversial record as a prosecutor. 

Watched the debate with my 30-something son. Turned to each other at the end and said, "Can any of these people beat Trump?" We were both depressed.

Fair. 

I will say new Post-ABC polling shows that of your potential likely Democratic primary voters, most think Sanders is most likely to beat Trump, 30% most electable to Bloomberg's 18%, to Biden's 19%.

Not sure why the media is ignoring the fact that prior to his decision to run for President, Bloomberg was a Republican and gave millions to Republicans - including in the 2018 elections. Will you guys please try to get him to answer to that?

I don't think the media is ignoring that at all.

Amber actually wrote about this last week. 

Here it is: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/14/why-we-should-take-mike-bloomberg-seriously/

Maybe I have my rose-colored glasses on but I don't remember Obama being as nasty as the debaters this year. Is there no candidate strong or charismatic enough to get votes without denigrating their opponents?

Hearing this sentiment or something similar a lot today. 

From what I am reading, I am in the minority, but I really don't care about NDAs and that stuff...I care about the issues. Democrats need to stop the purity crap. People don't care about that.

I can understand your lack of interest. But for many voters -- particularly women -- navigating the #MeToo movement, how Bloomberg treated women who worked with him who brought claims of sexual harassment or assault to his attention or to the attention of other leaders who worked with him matters a lot. 

Are the Democratic candidates doing the Republicans work for them by attacking each other in such an aggressive manner?

It is worth remembering that Republicans were very divided during their drawn-out presidential primary process and during their contentious convention in 2016. Then their nominee, Donald Trump, won the presidency.

There are still a lot of unknowns at this point, including whether attacks during a primary debate will matter to voters come Election Day.

Maybe this ignorance on my part, but who won Iowa in the end?

Buttigieg got 13 delegates. Sanders got 12. 

Would you provide a little more context to the delegate question asked at the end? Is it likely that the number of votes by the time of the convention could give a different result than the delegate count, and if so, how will it be addressed?

It was very interesting that 5 of the 6 candidates on Wednesday night seemed to leave open the idea that the delegate leader (which seems most likely to be Sanders) may not be the eventual nominee.

That might be their best argument right now, but can you imagine if it came to pass? A fair number of Sanders supporters backed Trump in the general election last time; what if they perceived the nomination as being stolen from Sanders?

However concerned they might be about Sanders as their nominee, I'm not sure that's a scenario they want to see play out.

Why do we still have debates? They have degraded to the point where they actively reduce our knowledge of the candidates, rather than visa versa. The journalists are primarily interested in idiotic "gotcha" questions (the president of Mexico kerfuffle), or whatever sensationalized topic du jour they want to drive website clicks. The candidates are looking only for gotcha soundbites based on lies, or idiotic exagerrations (Bloomberg supposedly calling the ACA a "disgrace"). I am worse off for having watched that travesty. 45 seconds of disjointed attack points per candidate, and the same "candidate A said this about you, please respond" questions from the moderators. Ugh.

An argument for debates: After Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had a well-received closing line in the New Hampshire debate about how she is the candidate who gets what it's like to have to worry about paying bills, her campaign told me it helped crystallize her momentum in New Hampshire and ultimately helped her come in a surprise third place. But the key was having the debate and her moment happen just days before voting. 

Wow, people who didn't like Mike Bloomberg still don't like Mike Bloomberg... He might even lose the Nevada caucuses (yes, I'm kidding, I know his name isn't on the ballot)? I guess I want to hear from the people who say they are supporting Mike Bloomberg say if this made them change their minds?

That is what I wonder too.

Personally, I believe the number of Bloomberg supporters who have seen his commercials on TV or online is higher than the number who watched the debate -- and therefore their minds might not be changed. 

Time will tell if his weak moments from last night will make it into ads that get before his supporters and eventually lead to changed minds. 

Some are saying Trump will pardon Roger Stone ASAP, but I'm guessing he'll wait until after Stone's appeal process ends (as long as Stone doesn't have to report to prison). Agree?

Why pardon him now when you can let the process play out, see if doubts about his prosecution increase, or maybe even wait until after the election, when Trump wouldn't have to worry about electoral blowback?

Your opinion, please, on: the chances that Trump will participate in the debates; the chances that Trump will participate in the debates if the Democratic nominee is Elizabeth Warren. (It wouldn't entirely surprise me if Bloomberg dropped out because there's no chance he's winning and he doesn't want to have to go up against her again.)

Bloomberg isn't dropping out. I'm not sure he'll see a precipitous drop from this, even as it clearly wasn't good. Also, he's invested so much in Super Tuesday, I don't know how he wouldn't see it through then, at least.

Hi everyone -- thanks for taking questions today after last night's very tense debate. Any thoughts as to why nobody went after Bernie, or at least not very hard? Sen. Warren went after everybody else but him, while Mayor Pete and Sen. Klobuchar went after each other, and while Sen. Klobuchar took some hits, I don't really see how that helps him so long as Bernie is unscathed. Other than Vice President Biden and Bloomberg, are they auditioning for VP because they know Bernie is probably going to win and they want to stay on his good side?

Yeah, it's a good question. Warren and Buttigieg did try to attack Sanders as not a team player, and/or as having unrealistic goals on health care, and/or as being an absolutist. Those are all very substantial attacks. Buttigieg in particular, who came in second to Sanders in New Hampshire, tried to turn the conversation to Sanders every chance he got. But I think the energy and momentum and focus was on Bloomberg tonight, since it was the first time his opponents had a chance to debate him as he spends hundreds of millions on ads and rises in the polls. 

Why did NONE of the moderators think to ask Bloomberg how he came to decide to switch from Republican to a Democrat? We all evolve as we get older and I thought this was a critical piece of information about his candidacy that should have been asked.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did criticize Bloomberg at one point last night for supporting then-president George W. Bush in 2004, but Bloomberg's party switches have also been public for some time.

Here is some coverage of what he said when he switched to the Democratic Party in 2018.

The only way Senator Warren could have been more baller last night is if, after her total evisceration of Michael Bloomberg, she chugged from a Big Gulp.

Or if she did anything to actually take support from the candidate whose supporters are most accessible to her: Sanders. This might have succeeded in knocking Bloomberg down a peg, but as we saw with Christie going after Rubio in 2016, sometimes the attacker doesn't benefit.

Is it really fair that Elizabeth Warren has been so completely lumped in with Bernie Sanders in the media narrative about the race for the Democratic nomination? While she is clearly chasing the vote of the progressive wing of the party neither her rhetoric nor her views are anywhere near as fringe as Sanders are - I think she is probably much closer to Obama than Sanders on a lot of key issues. When I look at her positions she appears to be best situated as the bridge between the 4 moderate Dems and Sanders but the media narrative about her is that she is indistinguishable on the political spectrum from Sanders which doesn't seem to be accurate given her actual positions?

I think the two have differences that aren't always obvious on the surface. And the longer they both stay in the race, the more attention can be paid to distinguishing the two.

Here's a piece we wrote on what separates them: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sanders-warren-seek-to-clarify-their-differences-as-the-fight-for-democratic-left-intensifies/2019/11/03/d140d7a6-b3cb-11e9-8f6c-7828e68cb15f_story.html

Bernie suggested that the anti-union comments alleged to have come from his campaign might have actually come from overseas trolls. Is this credible?

That was an interesting moment in the debate last night. He was basically saying that he is one of the most pro-union candidates in the race (Joe Biden might take offense to that) and so it's not believable that his supporters would leave threatening messages and emails to Nevada union officials after they criticized his health care plan and actively campaigned against him.

Sanders was saying that Russians tried to sow division in 2016, and he's not saying that's happening now, but it's worth asking.

In short, I don't know if there's any credibility to that. But I do know that some of Sanders's supporters are more passionate, argumentative and sometimes downright hostile to critics of him than other supporters of Democratic candidates. That's just a fact of politics.

No doubt Elizabeth Warren savaged Bloomberg last night. If this was a boxing match, it was a first-round knockout. However, voters judge candidates in debates as much for leadership qualities and tone as for technical debate prowess. Overall, did her takedown of Bloomberg help or hurt -- her? Please explain.

It depends on the measuring stick. 

If fundraising is considered good (and it usually is), last night was a win for Warren and should keep her in this contest a little longer. 

https://www.newsweek.com/elizabeth-warren-campaign-says-first-hour-las-vegas-democratic-debate-was-best-hour-fundraising-1488160

Chances Elisabeth Warren win Nevada? If only that if Joe Biden does win South Carolina, it would be a different candidate won each of the four early primary states?

It would be a pretty big shock, because current polling suggests she's around 3rd and pretty far behind Sanders. Also remember that early voting is already done -- before her performance Wednesday night.

That said, polling in Nevada is tough, especially considering the format this year is new. Unpredictable things could happen.

Will they tip the state blue in 2020?

Democrats are certainly hoping so.

But you never know. Having the right to vote and actually voting aren't the same things -- especially in a state where voting isn't exactly easy.

Do the candidates really think this picking each other apart helps their cause(s), or does it show their lack of leadership and judgement? It seems there is very little to be gained from a Democratic perspective.

The stuff between Klobuchar and Buttigieg was unquestionably petty and very personal.

Much of the rest of it, though, was pretty substantive. People are supposed to disagree at debates!

Why was Foreign Policy not part of the debate?

Especially with Telemundo co-hosting, I thought this was a missed opportunity to talk more about foreign policy, particularly in the Americas. There's a lot going on there!

I'm torn about the question to Klobuchar of whether she could name the president of Mexico and discuss his policies was a smart one -- as moderator Vanessa Hauc pointed out, she also couldn't speak to his specific policies -- was a legitimate one, or a kinda gotchya question. The candidates certainly transformed it into a more shallow attack on each other -- Buttigieg to Klobuchar, and Warren to Buttigieg for attacking Klobuchar on this.

So Elizabeth Warren is aghast at money from this or that person and now her campaign is soliciting donations like mad and wants everybody and their uncle to know how well she's doing at it? I get the difference between high-end fundraisers, self-funding, and small donor fundraising in particular online, but it still seems weird how much focus anti-money in politics people then put into "HEY! WOW! LOOK AT ALL THE MONEY I RAISED!"

What I am keeping my eye on is how candidates' -- particularly Warren's -- stances on donations changes as they become more cash strapped. It will be interesting to see how long these convictions last and hold. 

Do you think Democrats will come to regret this speeded-up primary schedule? It looks like Bernie could be the presumptive nominee in about 10 days. A more prolonged schedule would give us all more time to make the most electable choice.

The fact that more than half of delegates are available in basically a two-week span between March 3 and March 17 really put a premium on peaking at the right time. You do wonder if there might be a discussion about whether the process would benefit from being more drawn-out. But it's largely up to states to decide when to go.

Where can we find the requirements for all future Democrat debates

There are two additional Democratic debates scheduled at this point: One in South Carolina next Tuesday, Feb. 25 and one in Arizona on March 15.

Here is more on the South Carolina debate and the qualifications for that debate.

My opinion is that the net result of last night is virtually zero. Warren and Klobuchar will still get zero delegates in NV and SC. Biden will continue to slide, and at best will do well enough in SC to not drop out before Super Tuesday. After Super Tuesday I suspect only Sanders, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg will have a realistic case for remaining in the race. Anyone want to bet against this?

I think this is a pretty decent guess. But if Wednesday reduces the number of delegates Bloomberg might have won from Super Tuesday or diminishes someone like Biden or Buttigieg, that's still significant.

Does anyone else thing Buttigieg came across as a smug jerk last night?

I have heard some version of this a few times in this live chat. 

I wonder how much of this was gender dynamics at play -- he was attacking a woman, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and being attacked frequently by another women, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. That can be a tricky thing for a man to do without coming across as aggressive. I'm thinking out loud here, because I'm not accusing Buttigieg of doing that; I'm just trying to figure out why several viewers in this chat were turned off by Buttigieg's performance last night. 

If Sanders is the nominee, how do dem candidates in other races answer whether they support a socialist over Trump?

We will have to wait and see. 

But if he's the nominee, I think Sanders and his supporters will attempt to spend more energy distinguishing Democratic socialism from socialism and arguing that Sanders' plan for America helps more individuals in the middle and working class than Trump's. 

I wish the cameras would stay on the debaters for at least a minute right after the debate is over. As soon as Lester Holt wrapped up, they went to a really long shot, and it's only because I was squinting at my very large TV that I could see that Klobuchar totally rebuffed Buttigieg's offer at a handshake and stalked off stage. And since I was watching that, I missed whether there was any dynamic between Warren (who seemed to start chatting with Biden? Sanders?) and Bloomberg. Tiny thing for most people; soap opera-level stuff for political junkies.

Agree. Lester Holt led into post-debate coverage by mentioning he saw Biden and Sanders talk to each other and MSNBC was going to try to see if the mics at the podiums were still on and they could get audio from it. I don't think anything ever came of that. 

The commentary I heard last night was that if the candidate field stays this wide and they mostly end up splitting the vote, there may be a winner take all of 415 delegates in California because anyone below 15% threshold gets none. Could this all be over in less than 2 weeks?

California is extremely intriguing and worth paying close attention to. The most recent polls have Sanders in first (to varying degrees) with the other candidates hovering around that 15 percent threshold.

It seems unthinkable that none of them would crest 15 percent -- especially when undecided voters might factor in -- but if they don't and Sanders wins all those delegates, you can probably call the delegate race for Sanders.

Philip Bump wrote about the president's pardon of a guy from Ohio - former owner of the 49'ers, in order to "boost" his Ohio numbers. (link in the Tuesday 5-Minute Fix letter) So, the president can complain about Bloomberg, his money, etc, and all others being corrupt, but he can certainly "buy" his way into elections with pardons?? The insanity is starting to get to me. Blago? Milken? Kerik? Will the Senate learn how much of a mistake they made giving this man a free pass?

I think for many GOP senators, the most important thing for them is keeping their seats and all that come with it. And so as long as their position remains, they will be able to justify their support for Trump -- no matter what. 

That and their belief that the left is simply too left will always allow them to rest their heads at night. 

So far the primaries have been in overwhelmingly white states. Which candidate truly has the best interests of minority Americans, LGBTQ+ Trans community, women, you know all the people the Democrats need to win

Well that truly depends on which woman, person of color or LGBTQ person you ask!

If you look at the polls, Biden is still leading with those groups, but Sanders is in a close second. And in some cases, so is Bloomberg.

 

Any thoughts on possible VP selection? Is it someone up on the stage last night or someone else?

I have a difficult time seeing one of the older candidates being the VP pick if another older candidate (i.e. anyone but Klobuchar or Buttigieg) is the nominee.

I'd imagine Julian Castro will be in play, Booker possibly, Kamala Harris. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada? 

Maybe this has always been the way, but it seems that anytime a Democrat is interviewed, he or she makes a point of saying they campaign and support whoever wins the nomination. They seem to emphasise that part more than any other. Is this just PTS from 2016 DNC in Philadelphia where Bernie Sanders supporters made so, so much hay? Maybe it's more on me and this has always been the way people in politics talk?

I think it comes from a genuine fear that the left's electorate is so divided that significant percentages of voters will sit 2020 out if their candidate doesn't win. I've already heard some voters say they will not support certain candidates if they are the nominee -- and the candidates that they are referring to are actually doing pretty well!

It is disheartening in the same way that US Olympic coverage tends to focus exclusively on American participants that the media has pitched things as "Bernie, Biden, Buttgieg and Bloomberg" - without regard to the fact that A. It is awfully early in the game, and B. there are other candidates still standing. I think Warren did a lot to lose what Alexandra Petri called her "invisibility" last night, but her performance will not change the minds of those focused on her "sins" of being female and correct. Any wisdom?

My wisdom in the time I have is this: It is much more difficult for a woman to run for political office, especially an executive office and especially the ultimate executive office, than a man. Research shows women have to be likeable to get people's vote and also demonstrate their experience and also not be too forceful in how they come across, less they be seen as aggressive (sigh) and that voters are skeptical of handing a woman keys to the decision-making, which is why there are so few female governors. Add to that some Democratic voters' concerns that Hillary Clinton lost the election primarily because she was a woman and Americans won't vote for a woman for president and then Democrats will lose the election, and I am absolutely certain that those gender dynamics are influencing Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar and the other women who ran. They even talk about this a lot; it was no accident Warren emphasized how she has a "plan" for everything and Klobuchar regularly talks about her experience in Washington and lambasts Buttigieg for having none and getting this far.

But I'd have to think more about how that has contributed to Warren being perceived as passed over in coverage, and whether that's indeed the case.

I wrote about how gender bias is shaping the 2020 primary right as it got underway this spring.

Is there a point in the Democratic primary where former President Obama steps in to prevent disaster (i.e. either a Sanders nomination or a brokered convention)?

Not likely. Historically, former presidents usually (there have been some exceptions) don't endorse during primaries. Obama has been a bit vocal about wanting the process to play out and wanting voters to have their say.

Also, I think some people may be overestimating the impact of Obama's endorsement -- especially at this point.

I would just like to respectfully push back on the person who considers discussion of MeToo to be "purity crap" and instead wants everyone to "care about the issues." For many of us, MeToo--otherwise known as the fight for the right to go to work without being subjected to harassment and abuse--IS an issue. If it's not an issue for you, that means you've been very lucky in your personal and professional experiences.

Thanks for sharing. Especially in the context of how Democrats can beat Trump this November, it's a conversation that isn't going away anytime soon in the political sphere.

I'm surprised to see so many people thinking last night's debate was too contentious. I thought it was great! Democrats need FIRE to beat Trump. The nominee is going to have to do exactly what Warren was doing last night. Whether we like it or not, politely discussing policy differences is not going to do the job in November. I have liked Warren from the beginning and she affirmed for me last night that she is the person who can take Trump down.

That was definitely what she and the others were aiming for last night, to show they can take the heat and -- most importantly -- bring it to Trump.

Stacy Abrams once said that she had no interest in being number 2 but a few days ago she vehemently said she wanted to be VP. What are her chances of being chosen?

High. Very high. 

Early in the campaign the Post published detailed analysis of the various healthcare proposals from the Democratic candidates, including 10 year spending projections, funding options, numbers covered, etc. I cannot find anything like that for Mayor Bloomberg's proposals for reforming healthcare or anything else? What exactly is Mike promising he will get done, how much will it cost, and how will he pay for it? Where's the deep dive into details that you provided early on for the rest of the field of challengers?

Here is some of The Post's coverage on former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg's health care plan.

Similar to former vice president Joe Biden, Bloomberg has proposed a public option. You can read more about that here.

Why do you think Warren basically ignored Sanders--the clear front-runner? What is her biggest weakness as a candidate? What would need to occur for her to appeal to more centrist voters?

In this moment, I'm not sure Warren thinks Sanders is her biggest competition. When her team looks at voters who consider her a second choice, I think she sees some of the more moderate candidates as her competition - so she went for them.

40 months for or lying to and obstructing Congress and witness tampering in the Russia investigation

I have some thoughts -- more about the scenes in the courtroom than the actual sentence.

Read all about them here. Basically, the new prosecutor seemed to disregard Barr's decision to overrule the initial sentencing recommendation and echoed many of it's argument. The big question: What on earth is happening at DOJ?

These debates are not achieving their purpose; they have devolved into slugfests for entertainment of the masses. Where are the hard questions, the ones that take more than a soundbite? Surely there is a better way to get to know the candidates. Candidates, what would you do to make this process more effective?

I'm not sure I, the candidates or other voters agree. Debates have multiple purposes. Fundraising is one of them, which several candidates were able to do effectively last night.

Other candidates got out their message about why their opponents are so problematic, which took with some viewers depending on who you ask.

And other candidates were able to pitch bits of their stump speech that some voters don't get to hear unless they are on the trail with the candidate.

I highly doubt that most candidates -- or even voters -- left the debate last night thinking that it was a waste. 

Given that the Democratic primary doesn't allow winner-take-all states and there seems to be no indication that anyone is dropping out before Super Tuesday, isn't it inevitable that this ends in a contested convention since no one will be able to get a majority?

Perhaps not inevitable (and there is still a long way to go), but my colleague Philip Bump gamed this out a bit yesterday if you're curious about how the delegate counts could shape up in the weeks and months ahead.

Roger Stone has been sentenced to 40 months but is free on bond. He's asking for a new trial because the jury floor person in his trial hid her bias. The judge will be ruling on that in the future. What do you think are the chances there will be a new trial?

If you look at her comments, she didn't seem to have much regard for the idea that Stone was unjustly prosecuted. 

She said that the case arose because "Roger Stone injected himself, characteristically, in one of the most significant issues of the day."

If Biden has a bad showing in NV and SC, would he drop out before Super Tuesday?

Educated guess: He'll go as long as he has the money to keep running, which is almost certainly at least Super Tuesday.

Nevada's culinary union is a huge force in the state, even though they have chosen not to make an endorsement. Members have excellent health care benefits they do not want to give up. If Sanders' plan would substitute for their benefit...why is Sanders polling so strong in Nevada?

Good question. The union is a very effective get-out-the-vote organizer, but they don't necessarily reflect the entire Democratic voter profile of the state, and Nevada is increasingly turning more and more blue (it has an all-Democratic state government and a majority-Democratic congressional delegation). That means more diversity of voters.

Why can't they just campaign on restoring ObamaCare in 2020 and move forward with enhancements? I realize they are trying to differentiate themselves, but they - none of them - sound very credible in their arguments - I can't watch them argue the topic any longer. Are they actually moving voters when the go there?

I was thinking last night, as the debate skipped over a lot of policy arguments in favor of personal ones, that health care is without a doubt the most consistent and in-depth policy argument the candidates have, every single debate. It reflects how much Sanders has driven the party to think about this in a new way. Not that long ago his Medicare-for-all plan was a fringe one in liberal circles. Now he's defending it from one of the center podiums on the debate stage.

As somebody who was in Georgia during the midterms, I do have to say Stacy Abrams is a bit overhyped. Or at least her flaws as a candidate are a bit overlooked and her response to the SOTU wasn't very compelling.

Yeah I think it's fair to be wary of any candidate who is celebrated by one party as perfect, or a savior of some sort.

I don't see how pardons help Trump. These are criminals and voters like the police.

He hasn't really been punished for them, it seems. And it sends a message to people that if you are loyal to him when the stuff is hitting the fan, you stand to benefit from that.

That's an over-simplification, perhaps, but that's what he could gain from this kind of thing.

Why does Sanders persist in calling himself a socialist. He is not a socialist, and his use of this political moniker spells doom if he is the nominee.

He talked about this in a speech in June. Basically, he's trying to argue that Americans have already embraced socialism in their society, in the form of the New Deal, for example, or entitlements.

I heard this refrain during the 2016 election, and it was more about whether you liked the candidate or not. Someone on the other side thought they were "forceful".

So much of politics is so personal and in the eye of the beholder. That's what makes it fun/difficult/fallible to cover. People's own unique life experiences shape how they see candidates.

Is there any sentient being who believes that Trump won't pardon Stone at the first opportunity? And is there anyone who seriously believes that Barr would actually quit as AG due to Trump's tweets?

He may not actually quit. But he is under real pressure from inside DOJ. And the more Trump persists with this, the more Barr looks like his stooge. He may or may not be totally genuine, but at some point, all that has to weigh on him and his pride.

Rather than focus on topics that encouraged substantive discussion, the media sought to encourage squabbling among candidates. They should have directed their questions at issues like foreign policy, education, income inequality solutions, the wide spread corruption among members and within departments of the Trump administration, environmental tragedies which are occurring daily by the loss of regulations, the separation of church and state. Really terrible interviewers, very petty and wanted it so.

I actually appreciated the moderators allowing the candidates to talk so much. The candidates using their time to focus on what they thought was important -- mostly each other  -- communicates a lot to the voters about the respective candidates' priorities. 

And therefore, it allows the voters to make a more informed decision about whether their own priorities align w those of the candidate.

It seems to me that Buttigieg did better in IA and NH than the polling numbers had him doing even as close as the day before the caucus/primary. And it seems that he is pulling in tremendous numbers at his events. Where is the disconnect? I anticipate he will do better in NV than most people think and that his fluency in Spanish will give him an unexpected boost as well. Thoughts?

I don't know where the disconnect is, if there is one. (The problem is state polls are very limited in size, scope and thus accuracy. Iowa is an exception to the rule, and yet polls did have Buttigieg polling on average lower than Biden and Sanders.)

So I do think it's fair to ask if Buttigieg will out-perform expectations in Nevada.

Bernie will really have to do more than he did in 2016 to get his supporters to vote if another Dem wins the nomination. You said many of hs supporters voted for Trump and the election result might have been different if they had Voted for clinton (or even just stayed at home) So the odds he gives a full endorsement of whoever the Dems pick if it isn't him>

He played ball with Clinton, so I tend to believe he'd do it again. It would be an easy call if it was somehow Warren. Perhaps it would be more difficult if it was someone like Bloomberg. But there would be tremendous pressure on him to do everything he could to bring his base over. If he didn't, he'd risk looking like he tanked the Democratic nominee.

I found Buttigieg's attacks on Klobuchar very off-putting - I thought it was a negative for Pete. I was very happy to see Warren come to Klobuchar's defense. Personally, I am very progressive, so neither Buttigieg nor Klobuchar are on my list, but I just didn't like how Buttigieg came across in this debate - too many personal attacks. Any thoughts?

I tried to answer this above. I thought Klobuchar attacked Buttigieg with just as much ferocity, but that's not new for her. Buttigieg turning to his left and going after Klobuchar was, and somewhat unexpected given he's performed above her in Iowa and New Hampshire. Maybe that, plus the gender dynamics of a man going after a woman, caught people off guard? It wasn't the Buttigieg they thought they knew?

Yes! Please find out for us. Is there any chance that people at DOJ who care about rule of law and their own conscience will force a reckoning with regard to Barr or Trump? What is happening are they caving in or standing up?

Please read basically everything Matt Zapotosky at The Post has written on this. Morale there is very, very low under Barr.

I’m in a Super Tuesday state, and given the rising likelihood of a contested convention, I’d like to have more information around how the delegate process works so I can be strategic with my vote. Specifically, 1)After the first round, who has sway over how delegates vote? How much influence do candidates generally have say in re-directing their delegates to their preferred choice? Who else will have influence at this point? 2)I understand that delegates are free to switch votes after the first round, but how would delegates be reallocated if a candidate withdraws before the first round of voting? If, say, Biden withdraws before the convention, would he be able to re-direct his delegates on the first round? How closely do delegates usually follow candidate endorsements? 3)Who do you see Elizabeth Warren being most likely to throw support to? On the one hand, both Sanders and Warren represent the left wing of the party; on the other hand, there has been some recent bad blood between them, and Amy Klobuchar was the rival she congratulated most notably in her speech in New Hampshire. For voters who like Elizabeth Warren a lot, but worry about her delegates going to Sanders, this could come into play.

A few helpful posts on delegates and what a brokered convention could look like:

It gets a little complicated when it comes to delegates, because there are different categories of delegates, aside from superdelegates. Having said that, things start to get messy after the first round in a brokered convention.

Thanks for joining us this week, keep the questions coming and be sure to sign up for The Fix's weekday newsletter.

See you next week ahead of the South Carolina primary.

In This Chat
Amber Phillips
Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper.
Eugene Scott
Eugene Scott writes about identity politics for The Fix. He was recently a fellow at the Georgetown University Institute of Politics. And prior to joining the Post, he was a breaking news reporter at CNN Politics.
JM Rieger
JM Rieger is the video editor for The Fix, covering national politics. He joined The Washington Post in 2018. Previously, Rieger worked as a video producer covering national politics for HuffPost. He began his career as a video editor covering Congress for Roll Call.
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