The Thursday night showdown between the top candidates in the Democratic Primary provided very few surprises, but a lot of in-fighting and a little bloodshed was still visible on the stage.
A debate featuring Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren front and center, surrounded by Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, and Beto O’Rourke, the ABC News event was well-run and did a good job of clearly setting the candidates at one another without goading them into fistfights. The result was a lot of civil disagreement and a little bit of bitterness, all tied together with discussions of policy and the direction of the election cycle.
Here are the winners and losers of the debate. As always, this is from a neutral/objective viewpoint and not through the lens of a conservative perspective.
The Winners: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders
It should come as little surprise that the highest-polling candidates are such because they are the most talented politicians, but what makes this top three so appealing is that Warren and Sanders tag-teamed Biden and couldn’t break him. Essentially, Warren and Sanders are the same, and they showed it in the way they responded to questions. This also became the early hurdle for Biden, who actually weathered the storm very well. He did not get frustrated, and maintained his talking points without sounding robotic. Sanders, clearly thinking to rekindle the hot moment from the last debate, used the “I wrote the damn bill” line again, but to substantially less effect than last time. Biden side-stepped the line, and Klobuchar would actually later say that while Sanders did write the bill, she actually read it, and used that to score a point over Biden.
As things stand right now, Sanders is likely going to go down in history as always the bridesmaid and never the bride. He will end up endorsing Warren, who was the stronger of the two socialists on stage.
Runner-up: Corey Booker
I will say this about Booker: He was the most human person on the stage tonight. His sense of comedic timing and his East-Coast-But-Still-Somewhat-Folksy mentality played very well on a stage beset by in-fighting. Booker just naturally seems like a nice person, and one you might want to have a drink with. He doesn’t stand a chance, of course, but he is working all the right angles and in a different world, his views on charter schools (as described tonight as opposed to previous nights), the black community, and the need to work with Republicans to get things solved makes him the best candidate the Democrats have.
The Losers: Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke
These three are so much alike it’s scary. Both Castro and O’Rourke try to claim some sort of deep emotional tie to the Hispanic community, and Harris continues to try to be black as opposed to a cop. It isn’t working for any of them.
O’Rourke is still pushing gun-grabbing and talking about the problems with Donald Trump’s racism… and he does all this while being a rich, white male. If he was trying to be a walking contradiction, this is perhaps a little too-on-the-nose of him. He could very easily step aside and offer his support to a woman or person of color, but instead he chooses to run a race he has no shot at winning (which he knows, but he’s too committed to the role now).
Castro speaks very little Spanish, has been a career politician rather than a well-in-tune member of the Hispanic community and went after Biden in a very fierce and very unappealing way. I can’t say that this debate hurt Castro, considering he is only polling at about two percent, but it sure didn’t help him.
Harris is trying to hard to tell African-Americans that she’s just like them, and it’s just not working. Ever since Tusli Gabbard took some well-aimed shots at her, Harris has been very quiet and somber since then, and she isn’t looking to try all that hard to win these voting groups.
The Also-Rans: Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg
Kudos to Yang for offering Americans $1000 per month if people just signed up online and got selected. It was a bold move, but it happened at the beginning of the three-hour debate, and everyone had forgotten about it by the end of the debate. He didn’t really stand out, save for a quick exchange about the nastiness of all the in-fighting, which Castro rudely responded to.
Klobuchar had some good points, but she is just not a very exciting candidate and it still shows. Buttigieg, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to know what he wants to be when he grows up.
Overall, the debate wasn’t terrible, though at three hours long, it was a bit much.