With the first round over and another scheduled for Thursday night as the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls debate in Miami, Sunshine State News reached out to Shannon Bream from Fox News Channel for her thoughts.
Bream knows Florida very well. A graduate of Liberty University and Florida State University College of Law, Bream was crowned as both Miss Virginia and Miss Florida. She currently serves as the anchor of Fox News Channel's “FOX News @ Night” which runs on weekdays between 11PM-12AM/ET though she is expanding her coverage an extra hour on Thursday night as she covers the second round of debates live in Miami. Bream joined Fox News back in 2007 covering the U.S. Supreme Court.
SSN: With the first debate now in the rearview mirror, what were your impressions of it?
Bream: Going into night number one, we expected Senator Warren to command the attention on issues from health care to immigration. She came out of the gate early with strong positions on the economy and remained a player on all of the night’s topics. Senator Booker scored plenty of face time and got an excellent opportunity to introduce himself to a broader audience – following his prominent role in opposing the nomination of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year. I think former HUD Secretary Julian Castro may have surprised some people with his ability to dominate much of the heated conversation on the immigration issue. It’s fair to say he had some breakout moments that may have potential primary voters more interesting in investigating his candidacy. There were heavy expectations on former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who mounted a strong challenge to Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms, but many political analysts felt he didn’t rise to the occasion.
Both Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Congressman John Delaney worked to represent something less than a fully-progressive position on key issues, primarily during a discussion about abolishing private health insurance in favor of government-run health care. Delaney, especially, is cautioning Democrats against taking away something that he says is working well for tens of millions of Americans. It will be interesting to see which approach resonates most with primary voters.
SSN: With 10 candidates on the stage for each of the two debates battling for time and attention, some issues are going to be overlooked. Were there any issues that you expected to come up in the first debate that were ignored?
Bream: There was some discussion of the federal court system, and the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices but I was expecting a little more depth on that topic. It is a game-changer for any presidential legacy and it would be helpful for voters to hear more about exactly the types of nominees the candidates would support. I think we’ll hear more about that in night number two.
SSN: With so many of the lesser known candidates on the stage in the first debate, did any of them stand out for you?
Bream: I do think former HUD Secretary Castro made the most of the stage. He engaged thoughtfully on key issues and elevated his profile. It’s interesting that social media statistics showed people using those mediums during the debate were searching for information about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. As a combat veteran, she’s very articulate on issues impacting our military members and issues of foreign policy. While that arena marks some of her most controversial positions, she does speak from experience.
SSN: Looking ahead to the second debate, what are you looking for? Who has the most to win and who has the most to lose tonight?
Bream: All eyes are going to be on former Vice President Joe Biden. He’s been criticized for not being as engaged on the campaign trail, skipping key events and treating the primary as if it’s just a formality. Expect him to get some head-on attacks, especially from candidates who are not polling well and need to breakthrough before they lose the ability to continue fundraising. I think Biden has the most at stake. Someone like Senator Gillibrand needs to have a break out moment or risk fading permanently.
SSN: In the 2016 election cycle, Republicans had the top candidates in one debate and the underdogs in a second one. This time out, the Democrats are randomly assigned into one debate or the other. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages on how the Democrats are running their debates?
Bream: After the accusations that the DNC essentially coroneted former Secretary Hillary Clinton, they are very aware of the need to show transparency and the absence of any bias. A DNC official told me post-debate last night, the organization acknowledges the criticism and has worked to structure things so voters feel they can trust the process.
I think the advantage clearly goes to the lesser-known candidates. They have a chance to wind up the stage with key front-runners, regardless of how they’re polling.
By contrast, the top tier of candidates may feel disadvantaged. They’re potentially forced to engage in direct attacks with candidates who may feel they have nothing to lose.
SSN: While the GOP is riding high in Florida after 2016 and 2018, it’s always a swing state in presidential elections. From what you’ve seen of the crowded field of Democrats, which of them do you think will pose a challenge to Donald Trump in the Sunshine State?
Bream: Florida is such a diverse state, from geography to demography. There are industries ranging from citrus and livestock to tourism and NASA. It’s difficult at this point to say that any one candidate has a lock on any of the various groups making up the population.