Things to Expect from the First Debates -- by John Rathbone

Debate predictions (with Vegas odds!) from the one and only John Rathbone!

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by John Rathbone

The first of twelve promised debates begins with a score of candidates who have all crossed the required thresholds to secure a spot on the stage, and will be presented over two nights, with half the field appearing on Wednesday, June 26th and the other half the following night, Thursday, June 27th. Here are some thoughts and some predictions on what will happen.

Questions for You the Viewer:

Question 1: Should you tune in to these debates?

One might say that the person who wins the debate is the person who found something else to do on those two nights. With the election nearly 500 days away, what’s the rush?

Perhaps it’s best to treat the debates like one treats the NBA and not show up until the play-offs. But if you can’t resist…

Question 2: Should you view each of the twelve debates one at a time when they air or should you wait until the end of the season and just binge-watch?

Here, it’s a matter of personal preference. Spoiler alert: It all builds to a cliff-hanger at the convention. Since no candidate wins enough delegates to claim the nomination outright, all that time you spent watching the debates and going out to vote will be for naught, as the Super Delegates will decide everything behind closed doors.

Didn’t see that one coming did you? Didn’t you watch Season One in 2016?

Fun Facts:

Fun Fact 1: The Venue the debates will be held in is named in honor of Adrienne Arsht, a member of the 1% that so many of the candidates will spend the evening demonizing.

Fun Fact 2: The debates will be held in Florida. Not a single one* of the candidates is from the Sunshine State. (*Warren family legend speaks of cousins living with the Seminoles. Not independently verified.)

Fun Fact 3: Against all odds, not one of the fourteen men will have a mustache or beard! Unknown is the level of dissonance this will create among hipster millennials.

Fun Fact 4: NBC has decided not to open the evening by playing the National Anthem because so many of the candidates don’t want to offend the party’s base by standing for it.

Highlights of the Night:

Ribbon Watch: June is now designated as LGBT Pride Month! Who will commit the possibly fatal sin of omission by forgetting to wear a rainbow ribbon on their lapel?

On the first night, don’t be surprised to hear several hopefuls make a short comment in recognition of this important new celebration. On the second night, having seen the first night, expect even more rainbow ribbons. And expect even more comments, if only to remind voters that the guy with ‘butt’ in his name is gay.

Speaking of Gay: Rachel Maddow won’t be hugging any of the candidates this time around. She’ll appear for the second hour of each night, and if she hugs anyone it should be the person who salvaged her sinking star by slotting her in at all.

Question Answered: Jay Inslee’s performance will put to rest any questions as to why no one has ever heard of him.

Winner Announced: Michael Bennet will increase his support by over 200% when he convinces seven more people to vote for him.

Best Staff Ever: John Delaney, who qualified for the debates by the slimmest of margins, will be delighted to find a bunch of those helium balloons that say, “Congratulations!” taped to his podium.

Whoops!: Beto O’Rourke’s campaign spokesperson will explain that the candidate was under the influence of energy drinks and pot brownies when he accidentally called Elizabeth Warren, “Grandma.”

Top Topic: Health care will be the issue most discussed on both evenings, although no candidate will utter the phrase, “You’ll get to keep your doctor!”

Make It Rain: Free college, free healthcare, free child care. The only things the candidates won’t promise to hand out for free are tickets to their own fundraisers.

Tick Tock: The Biden campaign has complained to the DNC, and to NBC, about the debate’s 9:00 PM start time, claiming that by that late hour many of his supporters on the East Coast have already gone to bed. They had suggested an earlier start immediately after “Wheel of Fortune.”

Presidential Salute: When asked for a show of hands for those who support impeachment, Eric Swalwell will raise his hand, turn it around, and give the middle finger. The crowd will gasp in approval and propel him into the second round of debates.

Cabinet Level: Marianne Williamson receives polite applause when she promises to establish a “Department of Yoga.”

Record of Accomplishment: Bill de Blasio touts his service as Mayor of New York City claiming to be “the most successful administration in the history of the Big Apple at getting residents to move to another state.”

The Truth Slips Out: Cory Booker says it all when he tells the audience that, “I’ve spent my entire career telling truth to power. If you elect me, I’ll have power, and I won’t have to care about the truth anymore.”

Channeling Larry David: Bernie Sanders gets the biggest laugh of the night when, during a discussion on climate change, he quips, “I think the planet should have more years left than I do.”

The More Things Change: After lackluster performances, Gillibrand, Klobuchar and Gabbard will continue to split the “I want to vote for a woman who has no chance” vote.

Deep in the State of Taxes: Percentage of candidates who promise new taxes: 95.

Percentage of candidates who promise the taxes won’t affect you: 95.

Vegas Odds:

  • 87 over/under: Number of times Trump will be mentioned.
  • 1 over/under: Number of times Hillary will be mentioned.
  • 4/5 Odds of debates drawing more viewers than “House Hunters” on HGTV.
  • 4/1 Buttigieg mentions his Christian faith.
  • 3/1 de Blasio mentions he has a black wife.
  • 1/8 Yang & Hickenlooper face off in a poetry slam.

These are just some of my predictions and thoughts about the first debates next week. When they are over, let me know two things: how many of these things actually happened, and which did you enjoy more--this article or the debates themselves?

I offer my apologies to Tim Ryan and Julian Castro. I have no predictions about either, except to say that they would generate more publicity by not attending than they will by showing up.

This first debate should be fun. Not as fun as a Trump rally, but we are talking about Democrats. See you there!

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