After a week so full of political news your head could spin — remember, we’re less than six days out from State of the Union drama, a messy Iowa caucus, the impeachment acquittal, and Trump’s post-impeachment victory speech — Saturday Night Live kept its focus narrowly on the 2020 Democratic primary candidates in its cold open this weekend.
It did so by featuring a New Hampshire debate stage full of candidates skewered along lines that ought to now be familiar to regular SNL viewers in a sketch that saw the return of creepy Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis), bitter Amy Klobuchar (Rachel Dratch), robotic Pete Buttigieg (Colin Jost), and sassy Andrew Yang (Bowen Yang).
Kate McKinnon and Larry David revived their popular Warren and Sanders impressions, and Pete Davidson rounded out the cast as Tom Steyer, recognizable only because of his tartan tie.
The debate, moderated by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos (Mikey Day), and, “for optics,” David Muir (Alex Moffat) and Linsey Davis (Ego Nwodim), kicked off with a question about how candidates were feeling following the chaos at the Iowa caucuses.
“I’ll be honest, losing Iowa was a real kick in the nuts,” said Sudeikis’s Biden. “But I’m not worried at all, because by the time we get to South Cackalackee, Joe Biden’s gonna do what Joe Biden does best: creep up from behind.”
Biden finished a distant fourth in Iowa, and indicated at the real-life New Hampshire debate that he didn’t foresee doing too well in the nation’s first primary, either.
“I took a hit in Iowa, and I’ll probably take a hit here,” the real Biden said on Friday.
The moderators then asked a question referring to the unclear outcome in Iowa, where both Buttigieg and Sanders claimed victory.
“I still can’t believe all this mess happened in Iowa because of an app,” said David’s Sanders. “Hey. I have an idea for an app. It’s called No Apps! No apps, no computers, no gadgets, no gizmos.”
McKinnon’s Warren, who finished third in Iowa and is hovering around third in the most recent polling for New Hampshire — two days out from that state’s primary — said she was “very confident” about her odds in that state.
“I tend to really connect with New England moms who own big dogs and rock a fleece vest seven days out of the week,” she said.
Noting that she represents an adjacent state in Congress, she continued by urging the state to “come on over and sit on momma’s lap.”
The moderators then interrupted the sketch to present a word from the debate’s sponsor: Mike Bloomberg 2020.
“Try Bloomberg,” was the tagline. “He’s not as short as Trump is fat.”
Former New York Mayor Bloomberg who entered the race in November — and has been rising in national polls — has traded sophomoric insults with Trump in recent weeks about his height and the president’s weight. He has also been attacked by his fellow Democrats for having spent more than $200 million on his campaign — a fact that David’s Sanders latched onto.
Decrying billionaires, David’s Sanders admitted that he does take private planes himself, but added, “I do that for my fellow passengers. Believe me, you don’t want to sit next to me on a plane.”
The round of questioning then transitioned to how candidates would do among African American voters.
Notably, IRL Pete Buttigieg has continued to poll poorly among black voters. His record as mayor includes the controversial firing of a black police chief as well as anger over how the former mayor handled the death of a black resident at the hands of a white police officer. And he was most recently criticized by activists for an answer he gave at the real New Hampshire debate in which he appeared to blame gang participation for the disproportionate arrest rates black people face compared to white people in his hometown of South Bend.
.@LinseyDavis on racial disparity in marijuana arrests in South Bend: You called it "evidence of systemic racism” … weren’t you the head of the system?— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2020
Buttigieg: “Systemic racism has penetrated to every level of our system and my city was not immune.” https://t.co/Rhy9aOaDTU pic.twitter.com/j8NgS1CS77
SNL’s Buttigieg admitted that he is not popular among people of color.
“They’ve been referring to me as Mayo Pete, but I assure you I’m not that spicy,” he said.
Davidson’s Steyer jumped in to say he’s “100 percent for reparations.” When the moderator asked what that looks like, Davidson pointed to an incredulous Kenan Thompson sitting in the audience, saying, “I don’t know, but that guy’s with me!”
Then it was time for closing statements. Dratch’s Klobuchar wondered aloud why she was not doing better, before offering a new campaign slogan: “I’m here, I’m square, get used to it!”
McKinnon’s Warren pointed to the question of her electability.
“I know a lot of people like me but they worry about if I’m electable. I have a great solution for that: Elect me,” she said. “You can trust this face — this is me on Facebook, LinkedIn, IG, and michaelscraftstore.com.”
But it was Jost’s Buttigieg who wrapped up with perhaps the most successful plea of the night.
“I know that I sound like a bot that has studied human behavior by watching 100 hours of Obama speeches,” he said. “So let’s get #whiteobama trending, and please, please not ironically.”
Ironically or not, that phrase was, in fact, trending by Sunday morning.