Democratic Candidates, debate
Photo credit: WhoWhatWhy

I’ll be honest. After watching Wednesday’s Democratic debate, I was somewhat confused as to… well, everything. Who was the most well informed? The most vigorous? The most likable? Had the most realistic plan? Was the most electable? 

Fortunately, I thought, there’s all that fancy analysis out there. Big media, with its vast resources and cache of experts, was where to turn. 

The New York Times has a handy panel where each judge scores the contestants from 1 to 10, with 10 the maximum, like with the Olympics, and offers a commentary, and then the points are averaged. The winners were: 

Cory Booker 6.6

Bernie Sanders 6.6 (for some reason they chose to list the underperforming Booker ahead of Sanders)

Amy Klobuchar 6.4

Kamala Harris 6.1

Elizabeth Warren 6.1

Pete Buttigieg 5.9

Joe Biden 5.3

Andrew Yang 5.0

Tulsi Gabbard 4.0

Tom Steyer 3.6

I thought I better check out the Washington Post in case the Times assessment was somehow just a wee bit less than scientific. 

The Post, however, had a fairly different take


Pete Buttigieg

Amy Klobuchar


Joe Biden

Tulsi Gabbard 

Now I was confused. But, fortunately, academia was here to save the day. The Center for Survey Research (CSR) at East Carolina University “collected more than 150,000 tweets (of which 85,606 could be categorized as positive or negative for a specific candidate) made during the hours of the Democratic national debate on November 20, 2019. 

Using sentiment analysis to calculate a ratio of positive to negative tweets for each of the ten candidates, Elizabeth Warren received the highest percentage of positive tweets, whereas former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the leading contenders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, failed to impress the Twitter audience.

So is tweet sentiment more or less useful than what a panel of New York Times columnists thinks —  or a single person at the Washington Post?  

Putting on my thinking cap, backwards, I am going to say that the perfect ticket may be Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, with Elizabeth Warren as secretary of the treasury. 

Or not. Hmm…

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2 years ago

Thanks for weighing in on the debate mass media debacle and shining some light on the main deficit. The formats have been dumbed-down by the sponsors and hosts, except for some few better questioners such as the all-women panel. The Democratic Party folks are co-responsible for the bland, confusing impression of the candidates that these debates have sown. It should be a mystery as to why and how this type of mistake happens, but it’s pretty apparent. The reason is partly or likely mostly that the party wishes or pretends to want grass root enthusiasm and support but instead aligns and allies with financial forces to keep the debates more constrained and more inscrutable than less. The result is nebulous and off-putting. Are we being served?

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