Late Night Tackles 2020 Democrats
October 10, 2019

At their debate next week, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates "are likely to face some tough questions from the moderators," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were game to answer maybe-less-tough questions from Colbert's staff. Impressively, only about 45 percent of them were softballs.

"There are 19 Democrats campaigning to be the one to face Trump in the general election," Colbert reminded viewers, and he ribbed a few of them. Frontrunner Joe Biden, for example, tweeted his best wishes to a basketball player who was back in the game already. Sen. Cory Booker's (D-N.J.) campaign staff is reportedly "Zen about the future of the race," despite his polling at 2 percent, he said. "It makes sense that they're Zen — when you're polling that low, you know the sound of one hand clapping." And Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) had a call-and-response fail in Nevada. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 19, 2019

Last week's Democratic president debate has "shaken up the race just a little bit," because according to a new poll, "Elizabeth Warren is closing in on Joe Biden," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. Warren is "down just 6 points," while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) "has fallen into a distant third place," he said. "Since July, he's seen an increase of just 1 percent — yet another reason for Bernie to hate the 1 percent."

"For all their difference, the three Democratic frontrunners do have one thing in common: They are all old enough to get discount tickets to see Hustlers this weekend," Colbert said, imagining Sanders setting up that date. "Warren is 70, Biden is 76, and Bernie is 78, and people are naturally wondering: Is that too old to be president?" Former President Jimmy Carter, now 95, suggested that at least Bernie might be aging out of the job.

"According to reports, Bernie Sanders' campaign is in complete disarray, and campaign workers say it's unorganized and total chaos," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show. "Basically, if the campaign were a person, it would look like Bernie Sanders."

"You may remember that when Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that she was exploring a presidential run at the end of 2018, many pundits proclaimed her candidacy dead on arrival because she had supposedly missed her moment," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. Now the pundit buzzword for Warren is "surging." He showed part of her big anti-corruption speech and suggested her message is resonating with voters.

President Trump openly bragging about being funded by the Saudis "is the kind of corruption that has been institutionalized in Washington for years, it's just that Trump came along and made it worse and more obvious," Meyers said. "It's also blatantly illegal and unconstitutional," yet "the same pundits who speculated wildly about Warren missing her moment are the same ones now insisting that impeaching a lawless, corrupt president could hurt Democrats." Watch below. Peter Weber

September 18, 2019

On Monday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) "held a rally in New York's Washington Square Park which drew a crowd of 20,000 people," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, "only 3,000 of which were there to score weed." Warren "pledged to take on government corruption," called President Trump "corruption in the flesh," took a subtle jab at former Vice President Joe Biden, and said she isn't afraid and you shouldn't be either, Colbert recapped. He used Yoda to amplify that last point.

Warren was also Colbert's main guest Tuesday, and he asked her about the rally and the four hours of selfies she took afterward. "You know, the selfies are the most fun," she said. "It means for every single person who stays in that line — and look, somebody waited four hours, you know, the guy at the end — but it's about power," a bit of proof that the other person in the selfie is also in the fight to reclaim the U.S. government.

Warren said she wasn't talking about Biden with her line about not being afraid of supporting a candidate you believe in. "The way I see this is these really are scary times," she said. "It's scary times because Donald Trump is truly a terrible president — not just bad, terrible." Colbert asked Warren if she isn't also looking to the past; Warren retold her story France Perkins and the creation of the U.S. safety net in the 1930s and '40s, then how corporations captured Washington in the 1970s and '80s. "It's not just Donald Trump — yeah I get it, he is corruption in the flesh," she said, "but the truth is, a country that elects a Donald Trump is already in serious trouble."

Colbert tried valiantly to get Warren to say whether middle class taxes would go up under her Medicare-for-All plan, but she would only explain how "costs" would go down for "hard-working families." In the lightening round, Colbert asked Warren about Iran versus Saudi Arabia and if she agrees with Trump on anything — she does. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 17, 2019

"Last week was the third Democratic debate, where 10 Democratic hopefuls went head-to-head — you know, I was actually going to make a joke about this story, but I don't think it needs a joke," Jimmy Fallon said on Monday's Tonight Show. "I think it needs to be slow-jammed." One of the 10 candidates at the debate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), also wanted to slow-jam the news. And so she did — the "news" here being her run for president, platform, and qualifications.

Harris had the relatively dry job of explaining her platform, with a few zingers thrown in; Fallon added the double entendres to spice it up a bit and some puns that might not exactly resonate with the all-college-audience — "last tango in Harris"? A Culture Club reference? — and Tariq Trotter, as per usual, had the best lines. If the other 20+ Democratic candidates want their turns to slow-jam the news, Fallon could easily keep this up until after the Iowa caucuses. Peter Weber

September 13, 2019

The first 20 minutes of Thursday's Democratic debate in Houston "was arguing about heath care, and health care is very important," New York Times opinion writer Jamelle Bouie told Trevor Noah on Thursday's Daily Show, but that is an old debate and there's a lot of rehashing old fights "and I think what a lot of Democratic voters just want to know is how capable are you going to be on a debate stage with Trump, how able are you going to be to beat Trump? ... I'm not sure the Democratic voters are all that invested in these policy conversations."

Noah asked if the debates should be style over substance, and Bouie said it's a combination of the two. "The crazy thing is, Democratic voters really want to beat Trump, and they have firm ideas about what being electable means, but the fact that Trump is president means that literally anyone's electable," he said. "I think part of the trouble for Democratic voters is that there's no clear-cut way to actually determine who is going to be the best up against Trump, who is the most electable?"

"Does Trump have an advantage because he will just blatantly lie on a debate stage?" Noah asked. "Does that give him an advantage in a debate?" Bouie agreed: "I think it does."

On Jimmy Kimmel Live, actor Sean Penn said he thought the debate was good because the 10 Democrats focused more on policy and less on Trump. "I think we're in a country where if he doesn't make the argument well enough against him, then we've lost anyway," Penn said. "They don't need to address him." Watch below. Peter Weber

September 13, 2019

Ten top Democratic candidates debated in Houston on Thursday night, as The Late Show noted in song.

"Who was thirsty for a big moment and who actually got one?" Stephen Colbert asked CNN's Jake Tapper. "I don't think anyone got a 'big' moment, I didn't see anything tonight that's going to change the trajectory too much of the three frontrunners — Warren, Biden, and Sanders," Tapper said. He didn't think Beto O'Rourke's mandatory AR-15 buyback pledge was a game-changer or plausible, but "Sen. Cory Booker had a good night," though "I don't know if it's going to be enough for him," given that "almost two-thirds of the Democratic electorate" supports the three frontrunners.

"Is someone paying Julián Castro to attack Joe Biden?" Colbert asked, noting Castro's salvo. "It was a tough attack. I mean, he seemed to be suggesting that Joe Biden wasn't all there and had forgotten something he had said," Tapper said. "But you saw the audience turned on Castro when he said that, and also, I think that he was wrong." "So he was kind of mean and inaccurate," Colbert summarized.

The marquee matchup of the night was supposed to be Biden versus Elizabeth Warren, but "there was more face-off between Sanders and Biden than there was between Warren," Tapper said. "Warren doesn't really like to attack people." He had a hard time imagining any of the three frontrunners dropping out. "What would you call Biden's message," Colbert asked, "because to me, Biden's message feels a little bit to me like: 'You know how you used to feel? I am that feeling. Feel me.'" "I don't think his message is 'Feel me,'" Tapper said.

"There have been bad debates that left you feeling really sad — but this wasn't one of them," Pod Save America co-host Jon Lovett told Colbert. He thought all the candidates did well, except Castro when he attacked Biden. He also thought Harris blew a great opportunity with her botched Wizard of Oz joke, and he explained why people always underestimate Biden. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 13, 2019

Thursday's Democratic presidential debate winnowed the field down to a near-manageable 10 candidates, and former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren shared the stage for the first time, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's live Late Show. He raised an eyebrow at Andrew Yang's free-money opener, creatively mimicked Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) hoarse voice, and took a drink the first time Biden lashed himself to former President Barack Obama. "It really helps you pretend Obama's still president," he joked.

"Sparks flew" between multiple candidates when the topic was health care, and "one of the most dramatic moments was when Julián Castro went after not only Biden's health-care plan, but Biden's favorite name to drop," Colbert said. "Ooooh, the crowd did not like Julián playing the old man card. I think he should really think twice about his new slogan: 'Castro 2020 — Shove the Elderly Onto an Ice Floe.' Don't worry, Julián, it's not like old people vote."

Beto O'Rourke showed courage, "and not just political courage," by vowing to take away AR-15s, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) referenced a 15-year-old movie when discussing climate change, and "Biden got technological when talking about education" — unfortunately it was very old technology, Colbert recapped. "So in the end, what did we get? Ten candidates, four moderators, three hours, two languages, and hopefully, one person who can beat Donald Trump."

"I actually think a woman has a better chance against Trump, especially in a debate," Jimmy Kimmel said at Kimmel Live. "Women are much better at handling babies than men, it's just a biological fact." He imagined the 10 candidates as sitcom characters, each with a pretty clever nickname, noted that "some of the candidates went after Joe Biden like he was some kind of deadbeat dad on The Maury Povich Show," and judged that overall, "it was a good debate."

"I don't know who won the debate, but watching candidates discuss the issues intelligently, using real facts, I'd forgotten what it was like," Kimmel said. "It was like walking out of North Korea and into a Costco." Watch below. Peter Weber

September 13, 2019

For the first time, the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates shared the same debate stage on the same night, and the fireworks started with the opening statements, Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show. "Kamala Harris used her opening remarks to go directly at Donald Trump. But Andrew Yang? Andrew Yang went with a different approach: He just went with cold hard cash."

"Whoa, look at Asian Oprah over here! He's just giving everybody money," Noah marveled. Still, he was glad none of the other candidates tried to copy Yang — "Can you imagine if Bernie was like: 'And I — okay, I will do my health care, free health care, right now. Drop your pants. Everyone's getting a prostate exam! You getting an exam! You getting an exam! Everyone's getting an exam!'" During a fight about Medicare-for-All, "Julián Castro decided that this was the perfect moment to try and take down the king," Joe Biden, he said. "Damn! Castro took it there. No, because he knows Biden's battling the narrative that he's a forgetful old man. So he jumped on this opportunity to make Biden look old."

All the Democrats basically agreed about criminal justice reform — though things got "tense when the moderator shanked Kamala in the yard" — and stricter guns laws, though one candidate pledged to forcibly buy back assault rifles, Noah said. "That is a ballsy statement from Beto O'Rourke. Because I don't think any other candidate has said flat-out they're gonna confiscate guns. And he said it with such confidence as well, which is not the way I would talk about taking away assault rifles from people from people who like to shoot."

They also agreed on one more thing. "For the most part, the candidates on stage tonight wanted to make one thing very clear: They roll with Barack," Noah said. Former President Obama "was getting so much love at tonight's debate, I bet Michelle was looking at him, like, 'Is there something you want to tell me?'"

What about the candidates who didn't make the cut? Or dropped out? The Daily Show has a plan for them, too. Watch below. Peter Weber

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