Wednesday, January 15, 2020

#DemDebate7: Fizzled, not sizzled *updated

When the talking heads are trying to read lips and body language and meaning into a post-debate non-handshake, you can safely ascertain that the main event was a dud.

Update 1, 1/16: Well, that escalated quickly.

The disagreement, which was amplified on social media because no one knew exactly what had happened, was the continuation of an argument the pair had been having in recent days.

Now perhaps this squabble will carry on a few more news cycles, or be revisited at some point in the future, but I'm seeing molehills and not mountains (which makes me a contrarian to a lot of still-seething Berners this morning).  Say la vee.

Update 2: No, that looks likes a very rocky, craggy mountain upon further review.

Regarding the whole kerfuffle, I'm reminded of LBJ's "Let's make the son of a bitch deny it" legacy as it relates to Warren (allegedly) being told by Sanders that a woman couldn't get elected president in 2020.  It no longer matters who's telling the truth, especially when moderator Abby Phillips provides such a generous assist.

We are, as we all know, supposed to believe women when they're being #MeToo-ed, except Warren isn't being sexually harassed here.  It could very well be that she felt condescended to (if the anonymous sources not in the room are providing an accurate account.  She confirmed that, after all).  If she thought she was being dismissed, mansplained, gaslit, or otherwise vilipended, then who is Bernie -- or I, or anyone else for that matter -- to tell her she wasn't?

Is "I did not mean it the way that you took it" too victim-shamey?  Maybe.

So ... win-win for her to be able to deliver a well-rehearsed zinger at the debate, smirk as Bernie was called a liar by the moderator, take a victory lap with the "I don't want to fight here" baloney, and then say whatever she said to Bernie post-debate that quite obviously wasn't fence-mending.

Well-played, Liz.  Lose-lose for Bernie, but maybe in the long run for you too.  You're the one with the more extensive record of dishonesty.

Somewhere in the middle of some upstate New York woods, Hillary Clinton is cackling her ass off.

If you're a Berner that's burned up about the whole thing, my advice is: get over it.  Fast.  Make a donation.  Get on the dialer.  Or text, if talking to people is outside your comfort zone.

The only question about last night that matters is: did it move the needle in Iowa?  Suppose we'll see, but the bobbleheads all seem to agree that nothing did.  That could help Biden, of course.

There are three tickets that get punched out of the top four the morning after Hawkeye Staters caucus on February 3rd.  Klobuchar, fifth currently by her own measure and mine, is probably out after that, losing her first race ever.  And the spin begins for New Hampshire.


Update 3: I'm feeling a bit like Tom Steyer this morning (Thursday, 1/16), but only in the aspect of standing off to the side watching this train wreck.

And there you have it. Sanders supporters are furious because Warren is clearly a conniving opportunist orchestrating a center stage hit to take Bernie down! And, if you read the internet, CNN is very clearly in cahoots! Warren supporters, meanwhile, are 100 percent sure that Bernie Sanders is a latent sexist! He always has been! That’s why many of them voted for him last time!

None of my advice above needs to be revised. I was #BernieOrGreen in 2015, nothing has happened to alter that, and I simply don't believe Elizabeth Warren's version of this story.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Fight Night 7: It's all about the She Said, He Said


Tuesday's debate in Des Moines, Iowa, will consist of the smallest group of candidates so far, as six Democrats qualified: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire Tom Steyer. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang didn't make the cut, meaning the debate stage will lack any people of color, NBC News notes.

Pundits are keeping a close eye on Sanders and Warren, whose feud escalated Monday after a report that Sanders told Warren during a private 2018 meeting that a woman couldn't win the presidency in 2020. Sanders denied it, and his campaign manager called it a "lie," but Warren subsequently made the claim on the record. How will the candidates address this dispute?

"Given her recent struggle for momentum and Sanders' rise, this is a fight that Warren wants and needs," The Associated Press observes, suggesting this may be Sanders' "turn for the front-runner treatment." Indeed, Politico writes that the debate "could be a doozy," as Democrats "reluctance to brawl is now a vestige of the past."

Expect plenty of foreign policy questions amid tensions with Iran, as well. During this discussion, Biden's vote for the Iraq war "could receive more scrutiny," especially from Sanders, The New York Times writes.

The debate, CNN notes, is also particularly important for the senators on the stage, who could soon be forced off the campaign trail for President Trump's impeachment trial. That's especially true of Klobuchar, who CNN notes "needs a breakout night." The debate is also Buttigieg's "last chance to stop" slipping poll numbers in Iowa before the caucuses, CNN points out.

In a strange turn, CNN's neoliberal establishment pundits made some sense this morning.

Karen Finney said she expected an "interesting dynamic" play out between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but she said what she thought most voters were looking for: who's the most presidential.

She said people will want to see a president on the stage, someone who can pass the commander in chief test, "given what's been happening in Iran, given the polls we've seen, people are still very concerned. They'll be saying is this someone that can take on Iran, do they have a plan? How do we revive America's relationships around the world?"

Paul Begala said candidates should not try to reinvent their Iraq war vote. He said aides should tell Biden not to look in the rear view mirror, but to look forward. "The most important way to conclude every answer is, 'And that's why I can beat Donald Trump.'"

Joe Lockhart said the person who wins the debate will be the one who rises above and sees the real fight is about keeping Obamacare and protecting Social Security. "The real fight is Trump."

I have no desire to rehash or examine yesterday's "media blowup" between Bernie and Liz for those who may have missed it.  It's manufacturing heaps of outrage for everyone who cares. This Tweet sums up the difference in interpretation pretty well (for me):

(If you get the 'image hidden due to sensitive content' warning, don't be concerned; it's just screenshots of the NYT and CNN stories the Tweeter mentions, and is completely SFW.)

CNN's MJ Lee, the reporter who "broke" this story, has created a reason for ratings to get a nice bump (the audiences for debates have been in the toilet).  It would be far better for all concerned if the debaters took the advice offered above to heart, as well as directing the moderators to ask questions about the climate crisis, Medicare for All, the Iran almost-war, and the host of issues that beg for discussion and go missing every time these meetings happen.

We'll watch and see if that happens.  Either Bernie gets the front-runner punching bag treatment from Warren  -- and everybody else -- or it goes kumbaya between them, with some other friction points serving as the backdrop.  Old Joe's war votes should be a hot topic.

In debate flotsam on the periphery:

-- Michael Bloomberg to guest on live, post-debate ‘Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Bloomey will also run a $10 million ad during the Super Bowl, countering Trump's own.  He's hired 800 staffers and spent $100 million on teevee as of a week ago.

-- BootEdgeEdge is going on Fox in a couple of weeks.

Fox News will host a town hall with former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Jan. 26 from Des Moines, Iowa.

The town hall, which will be moderated by "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, comes one week before the Iowa caucuses.

-- Tom Perez said last week he would reschedule this debate if it conflicted with the Senate impeachment trial.  Since the next debate is on the calendar for February 7 -- three weeks -- it will be mindful to watch how Mitch McConnell reacts this week (and next week, and the week after) and then see what the DNC's response is.

-- Oh yeah, Cory Booker dropped out.  As Egberto wrote, neoliberalism can destroy even the best.

-- Joe Biden really doesn't deserve the support of Black Americans.  He's tried to cut Social Security for forty years.  He keeps lying about his votes for war.  That's presuming his oatmeal brain can remember them, and that it's not creating a convenient new truth for his own comfort.

-- One thing that is true is that the neoliberals -- Biden, Pete, and Klobuchar, along with their sycophants in the corporate media -- see plenty of benefits from a fight between Bernie and Liz.

At last, mainstream journalists could begin to report the kind of conflict that many had long been yearning for. As Politico mentioned in the same article, Sanders and Warren “have largely abstained from attacking one another despite regular prodding from reporters.”

That 'regular prodding from reporters' should be understood in an ideological context. Overall, far-reaching progressive proposals like Medicare for All have received negative coverage from corporate media. Yet during debates, Sanders and Warren have been an effective tag team while defending such proposals. The media establishment would love to see Sanders and Warren clashing instead of cooperating.

There are scads of Berners taking down Warren this morning under the hashtag #RefundWarren, and earning much enmity for it from Warren's camp.  (It might be noted that infamous conservative smear merchant James O'Keefe has launched his own Red-baiting attack, #Expose2020, helpfully filling in the blanks in our neo-McCarthyist era.)  The author of the piece excerpted above argues against the tactic of Democratic progressives squaring off against each other.

I don't agree.  Primaries are for blood-letting of this type, as distasteful as it may be to hyper-partisans (of which I am no longer one).  Bernie Sanders cannot get fucked out the nomination again based on lies, manipulation of vote totals, mischaracterizations of his policies or any of the horseshit that seems to be the only tool at hand for his detractors.  Further, he won't be as successful as he was in 2016 in sheep-dogging his flock back under the blue tent if he does get fucked like that again.

Just my opinion.  I could be wrong.  Lemme finish up.

-- Tom Steyer had a bad time with the NYT's ed board.

There are many ways to describe Tom Steyer's interview with The New York Times --  the same interview every presidential candidate is going through in hopes of receiving the paper's 2020 endorsement. And with the billionaire ending his interview admittedly "upset," well, 'rough' might just be an understatement.

Steyer, the oft-donor to Democratic politicians, starts the interview on a less-than-perfect note. He's asked about "policy breakdowns that have led to there still being Americans who are hungry today," and meets it with an "um." It's an admittedly tough question, and Steyer says he'll start by discussing "where people are living" before stumbling to "young people." He eventually recovers to discuss the charitable program he built with his wife.

Things get a little snippy when Steyer is asked if "running for president is the best use of your wealth?", given that the money he's planning to spend on his campaign could fund an estimated five Senate campaigns. "As I'm sure you know since you work for The New York Times and have done your research," Steyer testily begins before describing his voter registration effort NextGen America.

By the end of the interview, Steyer is admittedly "upset" after being asked what he'll likely "fail at as president." He says he's trying to "make sure I keep my temper" and "keep my self-discipline because otherwise I'm going to get very mad," but then calls the Times a "fancy newspaper" that talks to "fancy people," suggesting it's out of touch with what's happening "around this country." Steyer then declares "I'm not sitting here just running my mouth," and the interview ends before the Times can even ask about his tie.

Might post some updates to this post today as developments warrant.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance marks some of our Republican leaders' more egregious conduct in this week's roundup of the best blog posts, Tweets, and news from around and about our Great State.

Our devout Christian governor turns into Judas again.

Our lazy-eyed indicted attorney general is busy getting government off our backs.

From the Strange Bedfellows Department, Karl Rove shares the same concerns (with Dennis Bonnen) of Donald Trump that Barack Obama has of Joe Biden's campaign.

But Trump has bigger crawfish to boil than Rove; he doesn't want to be eclipsed by his junior partners in Austin.  Failing (for now) in starting WWIII with Iran, he's going on the attack against our air and water, via the EPA.

So we need to elect some environmental guardians in 2020.  Steve Taylor of the Rio Grande Guardian covered the Democrat running for Railroad Commissioner who visited the Rio Grande Valley this past weekend.

Chrysta Castañeda at a breakfast meet and greet at Mi Casita Adult Day Care in Pharr, Texas.

Asked about her top campaign issues, Castañeda spoke mostly about the need to eliminate the flaring of natural gas in Texas oilfields.

“We have had laws on the books for 100 years that prevent the waste of our natural gas, which, currently, the oil companies are lighting on fire. The oil is produced along with natural gas and they flare the natural gas rather than take it to market,” Castañeda said.

“If we turned that natural gas into electricity, it would be enough to power the city of Houston. There is so much waste going on. ... My opponent will not enforce that (100-year old) law because the oil companies find it too costly to follow the law. I will enforce the law.”

In Democratic presidential candidate developments, New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg spent last weekend on a bus tour of Texas.  He met with supporters in San Antonio and Austin, kicking off on Saturday in Dallas, where he campaigned with television's Judge Judy.  The Houston Chronicle reported former mayor Pete Buttigieg made a three-day trip to the Lone Star State last week; he hosted two Dallas fundraisers and a private meeting with local Democrats at Paul Quinn College.  And Joe Biden will attend an event this week in Dallas, along with a fundraiser hosted by former mayor Mike Rawlings.

But some Democrats don't think this is enough.

"We had a moment where it felt like Texas was important to everybody, and then it slid to the back burner," said Harris County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lillie Schechter, reflecting a sentiment several other Texas Democrats shared with The Texas Tribune.

The fear is that a few weeks of television advertising and a few pit stops in the state as candidates blitz the rest of the South are not sustaining investments toward making Texas a battleground state and making progress down-ballot, like winning the state House of Representatives.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs posted a two-part weekly Dem prez update focused on tomorrow's debate and the re-ordering of the leaders due to Bernie's surge and Biden, Warren, and Buttigieg's foundering, as well as the usual snark.  There will be an update on Tuesday about the debate and the latest on the Warren/Sanders 'she said/he said' bullshit.

There was a Texas Senate candidate forum in Houston over the weekend, and the candidates blasted both Greg Abbott and John Cornyn.

Amanda Edwards, left, Victor Hugo Harris, Jack Daniel Foster, Jr., Sema Hernandez, Adrian Ocegueda, Annie Garcia, Michael Cooper, Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, Chris Bell, and Sen. Royce West, right, are shown during the U.S. Senate Candidate Forum at the Green House International Church, 200 W. Greens Rd., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Houston. 
Photo: Melissa Phillip, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Grassroots activist Sema Hernandez of Pasadena, who finished second to then-U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the 2018 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, said Abbott’s refusal to accept additional refugees was particularly unseemly because so many of those refugees were, she said, a direct result of U.S. military and economic policies.

“This is the damage we have inflicted in over four decades, 40 years, of neoliberal policies,” Hernandez said.

Kuff interviewed the three Democrats running in HD134: Ann Johnson, Ruby Powers, and Lanny BoseUpdate: TXElects has the full candidate list available for subscribers.

Our Crib Sheets have been updated with the Green Party’s candidate slate. They now include the 347 Republicans, 328 Democrats, 90 Libertarians, 14 Greens and 44 independents who have filed for the state’s federal, statewide and legislative offices on the ballot in 2020. Any candidate who did not file by the December 9 deadline may still seek to become a certified write-in candidate. Otherwise, the fields for 2020 are set.

Absent a write-in candidacy, 32 legislative incumbents are unopposed for re-election: Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and Reps. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd), Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Sheryl Cole (D-Austin), Tom Craddick (R-Midland), Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas), Jay Dean (R-Longview), Art Fierro (D-El Paso), Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), Jessica González (D-Dallas), Mary González (D-Clint), Ana Hernandez (D-Houston), Kyle Kacal (R-College Station), Ken King (R-Canadian), Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa), Ben Leman (R-Iola), J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville), Mando Martinez (D-Weslaco), Will Metcalf (R-Conroe), Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio), Lina Ortega (D-El Paso), Dade Phelan (R-Port Neches), Four Price (R-Amarillo), Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), Toni Rose (D-Dallas), John Smithee (R-Amarillo), Chris Turner (D-Arlington), Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), Armando Walle (D-Houston) and James White (R-Hilister). All statewide and congressional incumbents seeking re-election have opponents.

Transitioning from electoral politics to some of the social and legislative matters that impact our beloved Deep-In-The-Hearta ...

Grits for Breakfast has doubts about a proposed judicial appointment system.  Amber Briggle at Love to the Max documents how to pass an equality ordinance.

SocraticGadfly looked at the New York Times' 1619 Project, trying to claim that year, not 1776, is the keystone to US history, and says BOTH it AND its major opponents are all wet.

Rogelio Sáenz at the Rivard Report notes that children of color are already the majority in many US states.  The Bloggess presents her TED talk.  And some just wanted to blog about weed.

As Fort Worth gets ready for their Stock Show and Rodeo, Bud Kennedy at the FWST brags that the attendees will find a revitalized Cowtown, aimed at the '21st century cowboy'.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update, Part 2

With a host of developments surrounding the White House incumbent this past week -- the most recent being that Speaker Pelosi has at last decided to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate -- I'll forgo extended mention of the warring, lying, megalomanic for now.

News flash: Bernie's going to win.

Establishment Democrats Can’t Stop Sanders’ Surge

Bernie Sanders is surging in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary polls, and, as CNN analyst Harry Enten wrote Sunday, “It’s becoming more apparent” that the Vermont senator and former Vice President Joe Biden “are the candidates to beat.” Sanders, according to Enten, has an extra advantage: “Biden’s fundraising is not anywhere near as strong as Sanders’.” As a recent Politico story observed, Sanders’ campaign is “being taken seriously” among Democratic party insiders.

Sanders’ ascension is scaring acolytes of former President Barack Obama, but according to a new story from the Daily Beast, they can’t figure out a way to stop him.

“As Sanders gained new flashes of traction in recent weeks,” the Daily Beast reports, “the former president’s lack of official guidance to halt his momentum, and the scattering of his inner circle to rival campaigns, have hampered any meaningful #NeverBernie movement.”

Proof Bernie Sanders has the Billionaire Class' Attention

Billionaire Jeff Gundlach told fellow wealthy investors late Tuesday that Sen. Bernie Sanders is the “odds-on favorite” to win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination -- and warned the senator’s potential general election victory could pose a serious threat to Wall Street profits.

“Bernie is stronger than people think,” Gundlach, who correctly predicted Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, said during his annual 'Just Markets' webcast.

Gundlach, CEO of investment firm DoubleLine Capital, said Sanders’ possible win over Trump in November represents the “biggest risk” to financial markets.

“I think it’s Bernie Sanders becoming more believed in as a real force, and we have to start taking him more seriously,” Gundlach said. “If people get more worried about Bernie Sanders and they start to price in his spending programs, then you could really start to see trouble in both [long-term Treasury] bonds and stocks, which could really be on a rough ride.”

Asked by CNN reporter Ryan Nobles about Gundlach’s assessment of the 2020 race, Sanders’ communications director Mike Casca offered a snappy response: “A stopped Rolex is right twice a day.”

In response to Larry David's complaint the previous night on Colbert, regarding a Bernie Sanders victory in November ...

So there's all of that, a splendid week for Tio Bernard.

Uncle Joe?  Not so much.

Try to keep in mind that facts are not attacks.

Trump's conflict with Iran exposes the real difference between Biden and Sanders

Sanders is a longtime antiwar advocate who voted not to authorize the use of force in Iraq. He’s staked out distinct positions on foreign policy, including America’s relationship with Israel and its role in the Middle East. Biden represents the establishment wing of the party’s views. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for years, voted for the Iraq War, and is running on a platform of a return to normalcy.

“Joe Biden voted and helped lead the effort for the war in Iraq, the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday night.

Sanders co-introduced a bill late last week to block funding for any military action in Iran and put out a video saying he’s “not sorry” for his long history of opposing US wars.

We're working pretty hard on it. The message seems to be slowly sinking in, though it would be grand if I could get my Boomer Black friends to read this blog.

Now it's not as if the criticism of Bernie has been muted.  The Neera Tandens and Joy Reids and Mimi Rocahs are having brunch this weekend to plot a new strategy.  Nervous Nellies among blue progressives are crying for a unity ticket, presumably to avoid a disputed national convention.  Those to the left of Bernie are making the more cogent arguments, as usual.  <<-- The two links in this sentence are the best in this post, IMHO.  But about 90% of you who try to read them are going to have your heads explode before you can finish them.  Give it a go anyway.

Here's a collection of topics relevant to the election generally.

-- So Facebook Cleared Things Up for 2020: Politicians Can Totally Lie to Users

Please #DeleteYourFacebook.  Especially if you are a member of the Resistance terrified by Russian hacking (sic), still blaming Jill Stein for 2016, or just generally suffering from an undiagnosed case of cranial-rectal inversion.

If you think you would be unable to communicate with high skool pals or family or associated whatnot, try to remember what you did BFB: email listservs.

-- In a captivating interview with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, Dennis Kucinich addresses his legacy as a Democrat before his time.

I muse about this very same premise, as well as the Texas version of the 2000s Kucinich, David Van Os.  I would imagine that DVO would prefer to be compared to Bernie Sanders ... except for lacking any electoral success.

-- In a smattering of Libertarian developments, we have the former head of the FDIC, Sheila Bair (note the misspelling in Tom Sullivan's take) concern-trolling Democrats for her vote.  Mentioned at the very end there is the biggest news of the week for the Libs.

(On January 8), at the National Press Club in Washington, former Republican Senator, Independent Governor, and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, formally announced he is seeking the Libertarian Party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

Born into a politically connected family, Chafee succeeded his father, John Chafee, as U.S. Senator in 1999 and established himself as a Liberal Republican, emphasizing support for gun control and environmental protections.  He was the only Senate Republican to vote against the authorization for the Iraq War in 2002, but supported the Patriot Act the previous year.  In the 2004 presidential election, he wrote-in former President George H.W. Bush.  Chafee was voted out of office in the Democratic wave election of 2006.  The next year he publicly endorsed the presidential campaign of future president Barack Obama and officially left the Republican Party.  He was elected Governor of Rhode Island as an Independent in 2010 but did not seek re-election.  He endorsed the re-election of President Obama in 2012 and joined the Democratic Party in 2013.  He sought the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination and participated in a widely criticized Democratic debate in which he called for the adoption of the metric system. Due to a lack of support, he withdrew before the primaries and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.


Chafee joins a growing field of candidates that includes New Hampshire representative Max Abramson, anti-war activist Adam Kokesh, businessman John McAfee, former Vice chair Arvin Vohra, 1996 Vice presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen, 2000 presidential candidate Jacob Hornberger, software engineer Dan Behrman, Radical caucus vice chair Kim Ruff and performance artist Vermin Supreme.

Others speculated to make a run include former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, Independent Congressman Justin Amash, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, and businessman Rocky De La Fuente.

More about McAfee at the very end of this post.  VS was referenced at the bottom of the Update two weeks ago.  Walsh was a Republican primary opponent to Trump earlier in 2019 but dropped out.  Weld and De La Fuente have already filed in various states as GOP primary challengers.

It's snark time.

(Here's the reference.)

I had so many more, too.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update, Part 1

Lots of developments to cover since last week's Update.  These are just from today, part of why this post comes later than usual.

Writer, entrepreneur and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson has ended her presidential campaign, months after garnering viral attention in early debates, earning curiosity but little support from Democratic voters.

"The primaries might be tightly contested among the top contenders, and I don't want to get in the way of a progressive candidate winning any of them," Williamson wrote in a letter to supporters. "As of today, therefore, I'm suspending my campaign."

She was indeed the most progressive candidate on reparations.

Williamson's campaign revolved around several policies, including allocating $500 billion for reparations to African Americans and Native Americans, as well as other proposals for tackling economic inequality. She advocated for the creation of several new governmental organizations, including a Department of Peace and U.S. Department of Children and Youth.

I doubt whether a future in politics is in the offing despite her recent history in California and this White House shot, but one never knows, does one.

This is spot on.  It's a two-old white man race from here.  Before we get to that, let's glance at next Tuesday's CNN-moderated debate lineup.

We’re fairly confident in the debate roster at this point, though, because no one else is close to qualifying. ... (T)wo polls from Fox News dropped late Thursday, putting billionaire activist Tom Steyer on the debate stage. In the end, he qualified for the debate via the early-state polling method (at least 7 percent in two early-state polls), picking up a startling 15 percent in South Carolina (he’d hit 4 percent previously in October) and 12 percent in Nevada (5 percent previously in November). So far, he’s the only candidate to have qualified solely via the early-state method.

As for the five other candidates who have made it, four of them sit above 5 percent in the national polls: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. As for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, she, like Steyer, is polling below 5 percent nationally (she’s at 3 percent, on average; Steyer’s at 2 percent), but she’s still managed to crack 5 percent in six polls (a mix of early-state and national surveys) to qualify.

As for the other major candidates still in the race, only billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reached the polling threshold. But because he isn’t seeking donations, he’s unlikely to attract enough individual contributors to qualify for the debate. But that probably doesn’t faze Bloomberg much, as he’s said making the debates isn’t really part of his strategy. Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Sen. Cory Booker have enough donors to qualify (though Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is also close to the donor threshold), but have likely come up short on the polling front. Yang was the only other candidate to pick up a qualifying poll, but he needs three more to make it ...

Until (yesterday), there had been a pronounced dearth in polling since late December, with only two qualifying polls released since the Dec. 19 debate. The lack of polling prompted Yang to ask the DNC to sponsor some surveys, but the DNC declined to do so, telling the New York Times that the organizations on the DNC’s polling list “should conduct more independent polling.” Of course, many pollsters avoid polling during holiday periods because of depressed response rates, which is one reason there are fewer qualifying polls this time around. But another culprit for the lack of polls may be the ongoing impeachment of President Trump. Conducting high quality polls is expensive, and some pollsters may have prioritized surveys on that question over horse-race polls of the Democratic primary, as impeachment -- not Iowa -- was the political story of December. But then it started raining polls on Thursday, when three new surveys came out. At least one more poll is expected Friday, though that wouldn’t be enough to change things for any of the candidates on the outside looking in.

The candidates have stratified into the following tiers:

1. Biden and Sanders

2. Warren and Buttigieg

3. (a) Klobuchar

3. (b) Yang, Steyer, Bloomberg

4. (and functionally extinguished): Booker, Bennet, Delaney, Gabbard, and Patrick

The longest shots to pop at a price, as they say down at the paddock, are the billionaires.  They are spending whatever it takes on their way to the nomination.  One -- I doubt both -- could very well be left standing in July.  Of the pair, I believe that Steyer has the stronger hand as an outsider who's been running on two systemic changes: climate and impeachment.  Bloomberg has baggage as a former Republican, "stop and frisk", some #MeToo issues and a few other things.

But Bloomey is building the Democratic Party for future victories in purple states, and at some point he will be rewarded for that.  What his reward will be, and who gives it to him remains to be seen.

Part 2 will focus on Bernie and Uncle Joe, with some of the odds and ends that are piling up on the fringes of the presidential campaign.  And the snark, as always.