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Bloomberg haunted the Dem debate with fake irony on Twitter. Here’s how the other absent candidates fared.

They didn’t make it onto the debate stage, but here’s what the outside-shot Democratic candidates were doing on Twitter during last night’s debate.

Bloomberg haunted the Dem debate with fake irony on Twitter. Here’s how the other absent candidates fared.
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Tuesday night’s Democratic debates had a clear winner, and it was Donald Trump.

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As devastating documents from Trump-allied crony Lev Parnas emerged online, the CNN-moderated debate crescendoed with a question about whether Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that a woman couldn’t beat Donald Trump. Subsequent media coverage skipped over any substantive issues and instead focused on the escalating rivalry between the two candidates. Without doing a thing, Donald Trump got to reap the benefits of both a rubbernecking Fourth Estate, and the fact that the most divisive beef yet between two potential rivals centered around the supreme inherent difficulty of beating Donald Trump.

None of the candidates on last night’s debate stage objectively won, but what about the ones who weren’t there?

Running parallel to the familiar, contentious CNN horserace, an entirely different supra-debate contest raged online among the lower-tier candidates who have yet to drop out: Michael Bloomberg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Deval Patrick, and Andrew Yang. And this one did have an obvious victor.

Let’s look at Bloomberg first. Someone on the former New York Mayor’s staff must have realized that the most heat he’s had during this entire campaign-cosplay came when two comedians made an ironic dance video dedicated to him that went sincerely viral. That’s the only possibly explanation for his official campaign flooding the zone with “conversation-generating” irony impostor tweets during the debate.

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These tweets were an approximation of humor designed to appeal to some imaginary youth vote that has somehow remained indifferent but is winnable. They’re written in a language that is so close to actual ironic Twitter humor but misses the mark in an indefinable, essential way. It’s as if a robot studied 2018 sentient brand tweets and the entire history of “shitposting” and came close to passing the Turing Test. Bone-chilling stuff.

While Bloomberg came off as desperate to get people talking about him during the debate, Andrew Yang seemed determined to prove that other people were already talking about him during the debate: by retweeting them all.

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For a candidate whose Joe Rogan-assisted semi-ascendance owes a lot to star power (Donald Glover and Dave Chappelle are among his avowed celebrity supporters), the most marquee name Yang retweeted last night was Norm McDonald, who seemed to be kind of making fun of Yang. Yikes!

Meanwhile, John Delaney had a lot of thoughts on how all the candidates on stage were wrong about everything and if only someone would listen to former Maryland congressperson John Delaney, we could get this great country back on track.

Tulsi Gabbard, on the other hand, focused her ire exclusively on the grave injustice that she was not able to qualify for participation in the debate.

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Finally, there was Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts.

Before the debate aired, Patrick made a pitch for himself by debuting a new ad.

His only tweet about the debate after it started was a commentary on what the moderators chose to focus on.

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By letting the woe-is-me of not being involved go unspoken, and instead critiquing the process, Patrick came off by far as the least embarrassing lower-tier candidate. Everyone else offered mostly sour grapes, trolling, or a vision of an alternate universe where their absence from the debate is the cause of their electoral unpopularity rather than a reflection of it.

Patrick has now emerged as the one to beat in the next parallel online contest which, like each actual debate, ultimately doesn’t matter.

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