On Today's Show

The results of CNN’s ridiculous event The Draw, how to watch the July debates, Ohio moves its primary...to Saint Patrick’s Day, and the big divide on Medicare for All versus a public option.


Show Transcript

Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.

The results of CNN’s ridiculous event The Draw

On Thursday night at 8pm Eastern, CNN aired the most spectacular event we’ve yet seen in this primary cycle. Called “The Draw,” the event was CNN’s version of what NBC did last month in a small private meeting at 30 Rock. But CNN doesn’t do small private meetings. CNN does The Draw.

Now, before I can pull back the curtain on The Draw, we do have to review the methodology behind the previous debate selection in that meeting at 30 Rock. That process led to the two-day lineup for the June debates, and a lot of people didn’t love that four of the five highest-polling candidates ended up on the same night.

Back in June, the methodology was simple. NBC had two boxes. In one box were pieces of paper with the names of candidates polling at 2 percent and below, according to an average of DNC-approved polls. In the other box were all the candidates polling ABOVE 2 percent. The names were drawn from the boxes and placed on boards labeled “purple” and “orange.” The purple and orange teams were then assigned to specific nights of the debate by NBC executives in a closed-door meeting. The DNC didn’t love that part, but apparently NBC did what it wanted.

Okay, so enter The Draw. CNN doesn’t mess around. CNN draws. The methodology behind The Draw has more boxes. WAY more boxes. And way more draws, in fact. To start with, The Draw as an event is actually not just one draw, but three separate double-draws, executed a total of 20 times. Yeah, I’ll get to that.

The Draw was actually an episode of Anderson Cooper 360, though a CNN countdown clock promoted it all day. It included a panel of eight analysts, Cooper included, who were constantly commenting on the events of the evening, and even speculating as to what might happen next in match-ups that had yet to be drawn. Meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer MC’d the whole thing, and three anchors did the actual drawing. Throughout the event, CNN stressed that they were doing this whole thing in order to be “transparent,” and that the DNC and CNN had mutually agreed upon the rules.

Prior to the event, CNN announced that rather than using two groups, it would have three groups, dubbed the first, second, and “final” draws.

In the “first draw” box were the names of ten candidates polling at the lowest levels—more in a moment on specifics there. They were: Bennet, Bullock, de Blasio, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Ryan, and Williamson.

Then in the second draw box were a middle tier of six candidates, again according to polling. They were: Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, and Yang. The Final Draw included just four candidates: Biden, Harris, Sanders, and Warren.

Now, you might ask exactly how the candidates ended up in each box. It’s super simple. CNN used the eight qualifying polls approved by the DNC between the last debate and the end of qualifying for this one. Then they averaged them. These polls line up reasonably well with other popular averages, like the RealClearPolitics polling average.

So the first draw is anyone under 1 percent in average polling. The second draw is anyone between 1 percent and 9.9 percent. The final draw is anybody at 10 percent and up.

Here’s how it happened. There were three tables set up, each with two big boxes. One box was labeled “Presidential Candidates” and the other “Debate Night.” One anchor stood at each podium. Brianna Keiler performed the First Draw, by picking one name at a time out of the Candidates box and then drawing another from the night box. CNN switched to an overhead shot during each draw, as the names and nights were placed these weird custom mats made for the occasion.

Incidentally, I need to point out that there were SIX BOXES in the room here. That is way better than the measly two boxes NBC had. For those of you on Twitter requesting additional boxes, apparently The Draw listened.

Here’s a clip of Keiler introducing the process and drawing two names. During much of this clip, there were a total of three cameras shown in a multi-screen view from overhead. And the clacking sounds are her gathering up pre-printed placards as the narrates.


Okay, so then Victor Blackwell did the Second Draw, using the same procedure. Then, after much analysis by the gigantic team of commentators, Ana Cabrera did the Final Draw. The entire event took AN HOUR.

CNN later announced the podium placements, which were again based on putting the highest-polling candidates in the middle, radiating outward.

So, I know at this point you’re probably saying, look, I understand that The Draw has already occurred, and there were a lot of boxes, and it took even longer than this segment, so who’s going on each night? Well, wait no further. The Draw understands. The Draw listens. The Draw has delivered these results from its many boxes.

Night one, which is Tuesday, July 30th, will feature, from left to right:

Williamson, Ryan, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren, O’Rourke, Hickenlooper, Delaney, and Bullock.

Yes, that means we get to see Sanders vs. Warren on night one, and they’re right next to each other.

And night two, which is Wednesday, July 31st, will feature, from left to right:

Bennet, Gillibrand, Castro, Booker, Biden, Harris, Yang, Gabbard, Inslee, and de Blasio.

And yes, THAT means we’ll see Biden vs. Harris again, although this time they’ll be right next to each other with no Sanders in the middle. Now let us never speak of The Draw again.

How to watch the July debates

Okay, next up, details on how to watch these second debates.

They will happen at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, and will air live on CNN, They’re on July 30th and 31st, and they air starting at 8pm Eastern, live. They again run for two hours each night. You can watch on CNN or Telemundo, or stream it on either of those channels’ mobile apps—OR, if you’re not a subscriber to those channels, you can catch it on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.

The moderators are Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper.

The rules are a little different this time, and CNN seems to have learned some lessons from NBC. Reading here from a CNN summary:

“…[C]andidates will be given 60 seconds to respond to a moderator-directed question, and 30 seconds for responses and rebuttals.
In addition, the campaign representatives were told:
Colored lights will be used to help the candidates manage their remaining response times: 15 seconds = yellow; 5 seconds = flashing red; no time remaining = solid red.
A candidate attacked by name by another candidate will be given 30 seconds to respond.
There will be no show of hands or one-word, down-the-line questions.
A candidate who consistently interrupts will have his or her time reduced.
Questions posed by the moderators will appear on the bottom of the screen for television viewers.”

So there you have it. No shows of hands, and at least in theory, CNN anchors will try to rein the candidates in if they chatter on too long. We’ll have to see how that works out in practice.

Ohio moves its primary...to Saint Patrick’s Day

In 2020, Ohio will hold its primary on March 17th. That happens to be Saint Patrick’s Day, and it has some Democrats up in arms about the change.

This date has been in the works since June, when it was placed in a spending bill. Ohio Republicans needed to have the date be after March 15th in order to allow Ohio to award all of its delegates in a winner-take-all style in the Republican primary. So they picked the 17th, put that in the bill, the bill passed unanimously, and the rest is history.

Except now Democrats are pointing out that on St. Patrick’s Day, especially in cities like Cleveland, it’s really hard to move around the city and get to certain polling places. Cleveland routinely draws hundreds of thousands to its parade. And they drink.

Republicans point out, and I think correctly, that Ohio’s early voting system allows 28 days of early voting prior to that voting day deadline. Still, Democrats counter that the timing of the primary is a problem because lots of people don’t use early voting. Plus, it’s unlikely that there will be a meaningful Republican primary this year, so any lack in turnout might hurt Democrats while not affecting Republicans at all.

Anyway, part of the Democratic argument is that on St. Patrick’s Day, many downtown polling places are closed or otherwise inaccessible due to parade route security. Democrats are currently considering how to handle this—whether to change polling places, which risks confusion, or try to change the date somehow.

Republicans note, again with a totally valid point, that the Ohio primary this year falls on the exact same day as those in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. Somehow, all those states manage to both drink AND vote, so why should Ohio be any different?

There is a long-shot proposal on the table to move the primary in Ohio back to March 24th, though it seems extremely unlikely, given that the bill has already passed and there is little incentive for Republicans to change it. Senate Finance Chair Matt Dolan did the math and noted that if that change happens, it moves the due date for paperwork to be in the primary to Christmas Eve, which presents its own problems—albeit for a much smaller number of people.

I’ll keep you posted if the Ohio primary moves. But for all of you Ohioans listening, I encourage you to vote early and spend Saint Patrick’s Day doing something else.

The big divide on Medicare for All versus a public option

Last up today, here’s a topic that we’ll return to in future weeks, but I want to highlight for you as we head into the weekend. Maybe it’s something you can think about as you drift off to sleep, counting policies like sheep as they jump over the fence.

One of the biggest actual differences on policy in the current field has to do with health care. Specifically, you have a small group of candidates who support Medicare for All, in the form of a bill introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders. And then you have all the people who really hate that specific bill, and see it as a potential election-loser for the party. There are also a few candidates kinda-sorta in the middle, like Harris, who co-sponsored the Sanders bill and claimed to support it, but has gone back and forth several times—link in the show notes for more on that, if you’re curious. You can essentially divide the candidates into two camps: the few Medicare for All group, and the add-a-public-option-to-Obamacare group.

In the first set of debates, we saw that now-famous show of hands in which moderators asked which candidates supported ending private health care insurance as we know it in favor of a government-run health care system. Here’s who raised their hands: de Blasio, Harris, Sanders, and Warren. Harris almost immediately walked that back, leaving us with three candidates who seem to be truly on-board with the Sanders bill and one who’s a question mark.

This leaves us with a field where two of the top four candidates support the Medicare for All bill as written by Sanders. If you’re curious about that bill, go check out the episode of this show from April 12th titled “All About Medicare for All.” The Sanders bill is genuinely complex. As Ezra Klein at Vox pointed out in an article analyzing the bill, focusing on the private insurance thing is not very meaningful unless you examine the rest of the proposal. Check the show notes for finer points there too, regardless of whether you support Medicare for All.

On Wednesday at an AARP Forum in Cedar Rapids, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet argued that Medicare for All would lose Democrats the election. Here’s a clip of what he said:


On the same day, Sanders gave a major speech on Medicare for All at George Washington University. Here’s a snippet from that:


In a recent poll of New Hampshire voters, pollsters asked voters which candidate they thought could best handle health care. 34 percent said Sanders. He’s trailed in that poll by Warren, who supports the exact same plan, with just 19 percent. Then there’s Biden, whose plan we discussed on Monday at 16 percent. Everybody else is down in the single digits.

There’s more to explore here, but I wanted to give you a taste of two very different viewpoints that are coexisting in this field today. There are many issues on which the candidates agree, right down to the specific legislation. Health care coverage is not one of them.


Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Our first week with the new name concludes today, and I think it went just fine. Also, today is the first time I’ve recorded an episode in a rental car just outside Boston. It’s not quite the creature comforts of home, but there’s 24/7 tea and coffee, so I’ve got that going for me. As always, thanks for listening and I will talk to y’all on MONDAY.