Preseason is over, and not just for the National Football League. In Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Joe Biden finally stood between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and real disagreement broke out—on health care, on taxes, on Biden’s mental competence, and even, Twitter might have you believe, on the importance of record players in contemporary American parenting. The one-night, three-hour event offered the front-runners their first chance to face each other on the same stage and gave the rest of the field the opportunity to try to break out.
Politico Magazineasked 22 experts, insiders, activists and political professionals how the race shifted. The consensus: Julián Castro was too mean, and Andrew Yang was too gimmicky. A number of experts liked Kamala Harris’s direct engagement with Donald Trump, as well as Amy Klobuchar’s sharper elbows with the progressives in the field. And Beto O’Rourke’s coming for your AR-15, and several of our watchers said it’s about time.
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Most of all, this seems to be a race where the rich get richer: Most of our experts seemed to think that Biden and Warren separated themselves further from the pack. Read on for their insights.
‘There is no longer a front-runner’
Sean McElweeis a writer, data analyst and co-founder of the progressive think tank Data for Progress.
Biden’s front-runner status has been eroding over time—and this debate showed more than ever that there is no longer a front-runner. The question is when, not if, polls will match this reality.
If anything, Warren acted like the front-runner, setting the pace with answers that hit all the sweet spots for the Democratic base.
Castro landed powerful blows on Biden, but it’s likely that in the end they will hurt Biden more than they helped Castro.
Having all the candidates on the same stage made this debate worth watching, and the next should include no more than five candidates.
‘The era of small thinking is over’
Dan Lavoieis a progressive communications strategist.
“Hell yes.” The era of small thinking is over. That’s the real lesson of the Democratic debate. O’Rourke had the most passionate moment of the night when he smashed through the NRA’s political walls and declared, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.” Is that good politics? Maybe not! But, damn it, it’s a perspective that should at least be part of the conversation. From Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to cancelling student debt, big ideas and bold rhetoric are the new tentpoles of Democratic politics.
Will the debate have much effect on overall polling? Aside from small bumps for O’Rourke and Booker, probably not. The general shape of the race will likely continue, with a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders. But it’s clear that big ideas and bold rhetoric are driving the train—and if (or, more likely, when) Biden falls out of the catbird seat, the biggest and boldest candidates will rise to the top. Hell yes.
‘O’Rourke was the clear star of the night’
Sophia A. Nelsonis an author, political strategist, opinion writer and attorney.
This Democratic debate was the best to date. It was informative and engaging. O’Rourke was the clear star of the night because he was authentic and honest about guns and what he intends to do about them. He has found his voice after the El Paso Walmart shooting, and I think that Beto will move into the top tier.
Harris was lighter, funnier, and I think it served her well. She was focused on Trump like a laser beam–got off some great lines. She also did not go after anyone Thursday night. At all. I fear a Twitter storm by the president attacking her, after she compared him to the “small dude” behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, will soon follow. I expect she might get a small bump in the polls, but not much will change at the top of the field.
As for Warren, she was status quo. No drama. Biden had his best performance of the three debates so far, but he still stumbled and had way too many word salads. He needs to slow down and think before he speaks so that he commands his audience better. Booker was okay, but nothing spectacular.
The big loser was Andrew Yang. His “democracy dollars” did it for me. Klobuchar had some good one liners, but she has no constituency that I can see. Castro was mean, and too biting. Mayor Pete had a flat performance, again good one-liners at times, but not connecting. And Bernie Sanders’ voice was raspier than usual. He just comes off as too loud and too angry. And Biden pushed the liberal socialism tag on Bernie hard. I think it stuck.
Harris is winning—the veepstakes.
Jacob Heilbrunnis the editor of the National Interest.
The most memorable part of the evening was probably Biden’s exhortation to parents to gather round the phonograph and spin some platters to educate their children, a slip that prompted many to needle Biden. Few of the assembled presidential aspirants really took on the dreaded Donald Trump, apart from Harris who showed a very strong thematic grasp in repeatedly lashing into him for soiling the presidency. She remains the most plausible running mate for Biden. If Ronald Reagan could sign on George H.W. Bush, who assailed his “voodoo economics,” then Biden can eventually suck it up and reach out to Harris.
Though there was no lone star in Houston, Biden easily solidified his place as the front-runner, absorbing the shots he took from Castro. Biden may not have quite gone from Sleepy to Joltin’ Joe, but his political vital signs look stronger than ever.
‘Dinging Biden for his age was a calculated risk that failed’
Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator, resident fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy Institute of Politics and former communications director for Ted Cruz for President.
In the third Democratic presidential debate the gloves were off as candidates delivered some below-the-belt punches in an effort to show contrast on policy.
Former Vice President Biden delivered the strongest performance, putting Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren on defense over how to pay for their Medicare For All plans. In politics, when you’re on defense, you’re losing.
Sen. Klobuchar also took it to Sanders and his Medicare For All bill, saying it’s not a bold idea, “it’s a bad idea,” making her case that she wants to be a president for “all of the country.”
The loser of the night, hands down, was former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Castro for taking a cheap shot at Biden on his memory. Dinging Biden for his age was a calculated risk that failed. You can have policy differences without getting personal.
The challenge moving forward is for Democrats to highlight divisions on policy without hindering the eventual call for unity in the party.
‘Sanders sounded like he was straining to be heard from inside an aquarium’
Alan Schroederis a professor in the school of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston. Schroeder is the author of several books, includingPresidential Debates: Risky Business on the Campaign Trail.
The advantage of a lengthy debate with limited commercial interruptions is that everybody gets a chance to have a moment. This is what happened in Houston, with murky results. In top form were Booker, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and O’Rourke, all of whom can use this event to bolster their struggling candidacies.
Warren and Harris each delivered strong responses to individual questions, but neither had a stellar night, while Sanders sounded like he was straining to be heard from inside an aquarium. Despite a strong closing, Biden did little to dispel the notion that he has lost his fastball, though he may have received an inadvertent boost from Castro’s ill-advised, mean-spirited personal attack. Biden continues to remind me of John McCain in the 2008 debates—an honorable man who doesn’t quite seem up to the fight.
A 10-person debate is difficult to pull off, and ABC deserves credit for producing an event that liberated the participants from the tyranny of overly strict timing. The less frantic pace of the discussion meant the candidates did not feel the need to interrupt the moderators and each other, which made this a more watchable debate than some. Does it change anything? Doubtful. Was it a decent debate? Yes.
‘In order for Biden to blow his lead, he needed to do something far more appalling’
Jennifer Lawlessis a professor of politics at the University of Virginia whose research focuses on political ambition, campaigns and elections, and media and politics.
What changed after Thursday night’s debate? Pretty much nothing.
The front-runners remain the front-runners, despite rather lackluster performances. In order for Biden to blow his lead, he needed to do something far more appalling than ramble from time to time or refer to a “record player.” He didn’t. To gain major ground, Warren needed to hammer home how she differs from Biden on issues beyond health care. She didn’t. And if Sanders wanted to move the needle, he needed to make the case that he’s best equipped to defeat Donald Trump. He didn’t. Put simply, none of the top-tier candidates failed miserably, but none of them delivered a stunning performance either. So they didn’t look much different to Democratic voters when the debate ended than they did when it began.
And the also rans remain the also rans, despite some clearly strong and obviously weak performances. O’Rourke emerged a second-tier victor, at least during the first half of the debate. You know you’re having a good night when virtually everyone else on the stage commends the way you’ve spoken about gun violence and the massacre in El Paso.
Castro, on the other hand, secured the title of the biggest loser. His mean-spirited remarks directed at Biden drew boos from the audience and uncomfortable looks from the debate stage. With such a solid and steady top tier, though, movement among the second tier means little. O’Rourke’s strong performance might move him up a point or two in the polls, but certainly not enough to shift the dynamics of the race. Castro may find it hard to rebound, but he entered the night as the least popular candidate on the stage anyway.
With a crowded debate stage, moderators who prioritized giving everyone an opportunity to speak and a general wariness among the candidates to attack one another, a status quo outcome is hardly a surprise.
‘The winners were hands-down the moderators’
L. Joy Williamsis a political strategist and consultant, the creator and host of the podcast Sunday Civics, and the chair of Higher Heights for America PAC.
The only person who spoke directly to the person the Democratic nominee will have to take on next is Harris. No doubt this was a deliberate tactic to engage with Trump directly after the debate. It demonstrated her willingness and effectiveness in taking the fight directly to him. Her policy proposals check a lot of the boxes Democrats want, but her campaign is struggling to expand on each of her debate performances. Those who support her will continue to do so, but I don’t know if she is increasing her base of supporters like she needs to.
The length of the debate certainly provided an opportunity for the candidates to discuss more issues and to highlight their differences. However, it is unclear if the exhaustive back and forth on the varying degrees of difference on the issues, such as their health care proposals, are significant enough to push Democrats who are still shopping for a candidate into one camp over the other.
The winners of Thursday night’s debate were hands-down the moderators, particularly Linsey Davis who asked questions about issues the most loyal Democratic voters—black women—say are the most important to them in the upcoming election. The recent Black Women’s Roundtable/Essence poll highlights criminal justice reform and affordable healthcare as their most important issues and even rate racism and hate crimes as one of the top challenges threatening the United States. Kudos to them for focusing their questions on the issues that Democratic primary voters want answers to.
Trump wins again!
David Polyansky was a senior political and communications adviser for Ted Cruz for President.
Overall, this narrowed field performed much better Thursday night than before. Most of the participants were better prepared and appeared to be much more comfortable on stage. However, it was also another night where the two leading alternatives to former Vice President Biden, Senators Sanders and Warren, kept driving the field further and further to the left while irrelevant players like Castro took overly aggressive swipes toward the front-runner former vice president—all to the great benefit of President Trump.
That being said, in the context of the primary battle at hand, it was another especially solid night for Warren, who continues to steadily improve her debate performances in a way that matches her continued climb in the polls. She is well-versed and confident, an effective storyteller, and shares the views of many of the activists who will help shape the outcome of key early races such as the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. While there were stretches when she disappeared from the stage, Warren stepped up to the plate when it mattered most.
Her performance continues to take away oxygen from Sanders, who increasingly looks a bit stale and is sounding like a broken record driving the same statistics over and over. Sanders is making a grave mistake by declining to establish more direct and meaningful contrasts with Warren now, because if her effective performances continue she may more dramatically erode his existing base of support.
Biden had some truly uncomfortable moments—from his combined answer that seemed to confuse the Afghanistan/Iraq Wars to his reference to children needing to listen to “record players” to his hard-to-follow efforts to explain the Obama administration’s immigration positioning and his role in it—but his opponents are likely to be disappointed to see the limited impact it will have on his short-term poll standing in early states. However, more and more of these types of nights could become a longer-term issue for him.
Former Congressman O’Rourke found his groove a bit and certainly had a moment with the liberal base when he delivered his “hell yes” moment regarding AR-15s. Senator Harris, who had some very strong early debate performances, was very underwhelming and seemed monotonous and almost dispassionate when she was making the case on issues, her background and candidacy.
Overall, there isn’t much reason to believe that the top-tier of Biden, Warren and Sanders is likely to be shaken up by one of the underdog challengers, but if Biden and Sanders continue to deliver stale performances, that may not be as far away as many pundits are predicting.
‘Booker performed well enough to jockey for the top tier’
Jennifer Victoris a professor of political science at George Mason University, a co-editor of theOxford Handbook of Political Networksand a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.
The standout performer at the third Democratic presidential debate was Booker. For someone who was on the wings of the stage, he was able to win more speaking time than might have been expected. According toCNN’s accounting, Booker had the third highest speaking time. He also had more than one zinger and spoke eloquently on issues of race, justice, environmentalism and others. In response to a question about his veganism, he had a great joke about translating “no” into Spanish that came off as endearing and clever.
Going into this debate, the top tier was Biden, Warren, Sanders and Harris. Debates don’t have that much long-term effect on the standings, but if we’re looking to this debate to help us see where Democrats are headed, it seems like Sanders is the most vulnerable in the top tier, with Harris also just hanging on. Booker performed well enough to jockey for the top tier, with Klobuchar and O’Rourke having good nights, too.
Comparing Thursday night to the last debate in July, the biggest difference is that Warren is much more solidly a front-runner and more clearly challenging Biden for that top spot. She’s elevated her status to a point where she’s putting more pressure on Biden than any other Democrat at this point.
The underperfomers were Castro, Yang and Buttigeig. Castro came off as too hot. Yang tried a bit too hard with a tease about a lottery-style contest to win money, and Mayor Pete had an adequate but unmemorable night.
Warren keeps dodging basic questions, but it may not matter.
Liz Mairis a Republican campaign communications consultant.
I doubt much changes after Thursday night’s debate. By rights, Warren should lose support having now shown in multiple debates that she simply will not answer basic questions like whether she’ll raise middle-class taxes to pay for her Medicare for All plan or whether she’ll ban private insurance, but my sense is the voters drawn to her either don’t care about those details or think her policy is right despite the obvious problems they present. It’s bad news when Sanders provides more detail, and is more honest, than the supposed tell-it-to-you-straight, I-have-a-plan policy wonk.
Despite Biden’s much-mocked record player comment, for my money Warren’s inability or unwillingness to address the holes he poked in her plans made him look far less geriatric and far more on top of it and her far more like Trump—not up-to-speed and just spouting whatever talking points with nothing to back it up, and at times, a little doddering relative to what we’re told to expect. That could be good for her, or bad—it worked fine for Trump, of course.
Klobuchar, Booker and Yang all had a better debate than before. Booker wins points for his “no” in Spanish line. However, I doubt that—or Castro proving less effective than normal at knifing people—moves the numbers up or down. It’s too bad because Harris continues to look not-ready-for-prime-time, and it’s hard not to think that someone else shouldn’t be sitting in fourth place given how all-over-the-map and far from buttoned-up she is. Klobuchar deserves to be outperforming her at this rate, but “deserves” isn’t much of a factor in politics.
Even the moderates are running to the left.
Michael Kazinis a professor of history at Georgetown University, is the co-editor ofDissentand is writing a history of the Democratic Party.
It was an evening of small differences, albeit stated more coherently than in the previous two collective performances (to call them “debates” is an insult to the form). One had to listen carefully to parse the differences between most of the candidates on issues from immigration to gun control to education to climate change. And the stands they took were, almost without exception, more progressive than anything Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton advocated when they were the party’s nominees.
Each of the three candidates now leading in the polls confirmed something basic about their public personas and thus their approach to the race. Biden was effective only when speaking about the family tragedies he has suffered; otherwise, he came off as defensive, uninspiring and even incoherent. I don’t look forward to hearing him explain how a record player (for the small number of Americans who still own one) will help educate our children. No one in politics stays on message as consistently and passionately as does Sanders, even when he had to fight through a fit of hoarseness. But he seemed not to recognize or care that he has failed to expand the base of ardent followers with which he began the race this year. Finally, Warren burnished her image as an agile exponent of policies intended to afflict the wealthy and comfort the economically afflicted. She will never be as eloquent as Obama or as outrageously entertaining as Donald Trump. But she continues to show her empathy and intelligence every time she takes a stage. Whether that will be enough to win the nomination is anybody’s guess.
Too many questions went unasked.
Amanda Litmanis the co-founder and executive director of Run for Something.
After all the build-up, nothing about that debate will meaningfully change the dynamic of the race. Everyone had a standout moment that will let them claim victory and raise more money; no one bombed so badly their campaigns will plummet.
More generally, it’s concerning that not a single question was asked about abortion, child care, the gender wage gap or LGBT issues. And especially considering the debate was in Texas, where Democrats are only nine seats away from flipping the state house, no one brought up voting rights, gerrymandering or democracy reform. In fact, we’ve gone three debates now without a single question on how candidates are going to un-rig the system, which they’ll need to do if they want even one of the policy proposals they’re debating to have a chance at making it through Congress.
‘Castro drew some blood in the place where Biden was already weakest’
Seth Masketis a professor of political science and director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver, specializing in political parties, state legislatures, and campaigns and elections.
The overall dynamic of this debate was one of Biden going after his most immediate threats (Warren and Sanders), with those further down the popularity ladder taking shots at him. Castro drew the deepest cut with his digs on Biden’s age, and Biden kept confirming Castro’s critiques with some rambling statements. Castro drew some blood in the place where Biden was already weakest.
Overall, it was helpful to have all the main candidates on the same stage and to have winnowed the field down substantially. It gave skilled but less popular candidates like Klobuchar, Booker, O’Rourke and Castro a chance to have voters hear them. Buttigieg, Warren and Sanders showed the same skills they’ve been demonstrating all along. Despite Sanders’ gravelly voice, I didn’t see much to change their positions.
Harris didn’t have a particularly great night. She was the most aggressive in attacking Trump, apparently trying to draw his Twitter fire. (That could pay off!) But beyond that, her answers were uneven. Yang, meanwhile, promised a game-changer by offering voters money, and not only was that legally dubious, but it was forgotten five minutes later.
I’m doubtful this debate contained much to substantially change the race. There were no moments as visceral as the Harris-Biden exchange from the first debate, and the effects of that on the polling evaporated after a few weeks anyway.
Klobuchar and O’Rourke won, unless Castro made Biden sympathetic.
Michael Starr Hopkinsis a Democratic strategist, who most recently served as current Democratic candidate John Delaney’s national press secretary.
Castro’s attacks on Biden didn’t come off as calculated or strategic; they came off as mean. He came off as unlikeable and insensitive. Biden certainly didn’t help his electability argument, but Castro managed to make him a sympathetic figure. Tim Ryan tried a similar attack on Biden and it backfired. It’ll be interesting to see if the implicit but obvious attacks on Biden’s mental state have unintended consequences.
If anyone had a winning night, it was Klobuchar. She took back the moderate lane and made herself an alternative choice. She still faces a daunting, uphill battle, but Thursday night was the type of night that her campaign needed. She sounded reasonable and like the adult in the room. The more that Biden slips, the better her chances are to break out. In a crowd of screaming candidates, she’s the hall monitor that we may actually need.
It amazes me that O’Rourke isn’t doing better in the polls. The optics of a Beto versus Trump general election would be fantastic for Democrats. He’s charismatic, empathetic and Kennedyesque. For whatever reason, that hasn’t translated into polling numbers. But Americans shouldn’t write him off yet. He’s running a Bobby Kennedy style campaign that could catch fire under the right circumstances.
Democrats made the job of Republican ad makers very easy. O’Rourke’s line about taking away assault rifles, the immigration debate as a whole, and Castro’s attacks on Biden will undoubtedly be road tested over the next couple of weeks. Playing to the base is important, but it could make for an extremely difficult general election. If I’m sitting in the RNC right now, I’m excited about the rhetoric coming out of the Democratic party. It may play well on Twitter, but I’m not sure it’ll work in places like Florida or Ohio.
For whatever reason, people aren’t buying what Harris is selling. A campaign that started out with a bang will likely end with a fizzle. Harris comes off as disingenuous and over-prepared in the debates. She’s much better at making an emotional connection in person; unfortunately, that hasn’t translated to television.
There weren’t many “moments” to come out of the debate. Mayor Pete’s summary about coming out of the closet was moving and authentic. It resonated. He hit the nail on the head when he said that the most successful candidate will be the one who figures out “What’s worth more to you than winning.” Buttigieg hasn’t had a lot of big moments recently, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one playing over and over on Twitter and cable news. So much of this race has been about policy, but what sticks with voters are emotional connections.
The ‘second tier’ candidates are a serious threat to the front-runners.
Beth Hansen is a Republican political strategist and the former campaign manager for John Kasich.
Considering the stakes, and the colorful personalities on the stage Thursday night, it was a surprisingly reserved debate.
What changed? As much as I am sorry to see pragmatic voices like Rep. Tim Ryan, Gov. Steve Bullock and former Rep. John Delaney not represented, Thursday night’s debate was a format that allowed several candidates from the “second tier” of polling to shine: Buttigieg, Booker, O’Rourke, Yang and Klobuchar. All stood out in separate ways, but all made it clear they are in the race for the long haul and will seriously contest the the field’s more radical policy proposals. Tough call on who helped themselves the most, but I’m going to say Mayor Pete (with a close second to Klobuchar).
Who won? Biden for being strong and steady. Nothing happened Thursday night that will disrupt his front-runner status.
Harris’s trajectory didn’t change, which she needed this debate to do.
In an evening marked by civility and calls for unity, Castro misplayed his interaction with Biden over what he could and could not recall.
Finally, a shout out to the final round: The quintessential job interview question,What was your biggest mistake and how did you overcome it?, initially had me rolling my eyes. But allowing enough time for extended responses brought out a personal side of the candidates that had been missing in debates so far. Winners on this question were Biden, Warren, Buttigieg and O’Rourke.
Biden won, but so did Obama.
Douglas Schoenis a political analyst, campaign consultant and former adviser to President Bill Clinton.
Front-runner and former Vice President Biden emerged the winner of the night, coming off sharp and prepared as he fended off attacks from Senators Warren and Sanders, his fiercest progressive challengers. Biden prevailed particularly during the tense discussion over health care, going on the offensive against Warren and Sanders for the hidden costs associated with their health care plans. When asked about whether taxes would go up under her Medicare for All plan, Warren dodged, saying costs would go down, but not explicitly saying whether taxes for middle-class families would increase. Biden was quick to go on the attack against Warren, saying “this is about candor, honesty,” adding “there will be a deductible—in your paycheck.”
Aside from Biden’s preparedness, what struck me most was the strength of Biden’s core message of restoring, protecting and rebuilding the Obama-Biden record. The former president remains a very popular figure not just among African Americans, but among the Democratic Party as a whole, regardless of previous misgivings expressed by candidates on the left about Obama’s record. While progressives like Harris and Warren seemed to take aim at Obama’s legacy during the last debate, stunningly, both made it a point Thursday night to tout the former president’s achievements.
Ultimately, given Biden’s recent plateau in most national and early-voting state polls, his strong—though not perfect—performance was a much-needed display of strength and preparedness and reminded us all why he held his front-runner status in the first place.
More distinctions drawn, but without a difference.
Atima Omarais a political strategist and former president of the Young Democrats of America.
The smaller group of candidates on stage allowed for candidates to distinguish their message more clearly, but there was no clear breakout star of the night. Former Congressman O’Rourke was a more energized candidate, using the two shootings in August, one in his hometown, to talk honestly about the issues of gun violence and white supremacy. Also in this debate, Senator Harris shifted to attacking Trump more directly as opposed to Biden or others on the stage, perhaps an acknowledgement that Democrats like it when she turns her prosecutorial training toward the Republicans.
My favorite moment was listening to the candidates talking about resilience by drawing on aspects of their identities, whether it it was Harris talking about running for office as a black woman and being told to wait her turn or Buttigieg wondering if coming out of the closet as a gay man in a socially conservative area would end his career. Both statements are grounded in a reality of their experience known well to the constituencies they represent, but it was a remarkable and frank reflection before a larger TV audience.
At last, a debate that felt like a dinner table instead of a pool hall.
Charles Ellisonis a political strategist and talk-radio host.
It’s a bit more manageable and tolerable when you’ve got a fully seated dinner table versus a crowded, noisy pool hall. That’s, perhaps, the biggest change as the Democratic pack is now slimmed down to then-there-was-10. Refreshingly, it was all condensed into one night, with candidates now able to crystallize policy points and platforms as opposed to sharpening their snark and snaps at each other in “ooh-ooh pick me” desperation to stand out. We got a clearer picture for the first time of where they stand on a wide range of specific issues. Interestingly, everyone—except Castro—got some unofficial memo to leave elder statesman Biden alone and let him go down on his own. Sanders just shouted. Silent recognition: both are old. Overall, however, this was a more poised debate.
The big problem here is that TV debate formats still suck. This one was better than previous debates, and maybe that’s because it had the luxury of a now smaller stage. Yet dedicated one-issue debates are preferred and essential as opposed to the drive-thru menu style. Tragically and dangerously odd: moderators and candidates rushed through climate change and didn’t mention a thing about environmental justice—while at an HBCU in post-Harvey Houston. HBCUs got shout outs but no plans on how to leverage them. Democrats are still getting duped into an immigration rabbit hole they can’t handle. This was a debate that had lots of talking points but no creativity and not much vision; when education finally came up, the biggest idea was “pay teachers more” until Cory Booker saved the discussion with “it takes more than that.” And, oh yeah, no one cared to ask or bring up voting rights.
‘I hope the women thinking about running for office right now were as inspired as I was’
Stephanie Schriockis a political strategist and president of EMILY’s List.
For the first time this cycle the top candidates held one stage and gave voters the opportunity to compare each candidate for themselves, without media spin. I’m proud as a Democrat of what I saw Thursday night and the real and interesting policy debate. I’m particularly proud of the three women on stage, who showed that they not only have a message that will move this country forward but that they also have what it takes to stand up to Trump. The question of resilience was a great one, and I hope that the women thinking about running for office right now were as inspired as I was, especially by Sen. Harris’s decision not to hear people telling her no.
Voters want solutions. That’s what Democrats gave them.
Jesse Ferguson is a Democratic strategist, former official in Hillary Clinton’s campaign and former IE executive director of the DCCC.
These debates are crystalizing the differences between the two parties and the choice facing Americans in 2020. Democrats are debating policies, plans and planks that would improve people’s lives. In a country that’s so hungry for substance and solutions, that’s exactly what the Democrats are offering. Pundits will decry whether we’re moving too far to the left or too far to the center. And, sure, sometimes the debates get too wonky and too nuanced, but all of that’s OK, because people are gaining confidence that Democrats are looking for answers. People don’t need to remember all the details—or even agree with all of them—but they’re seeing that we have something to offer their lives.
In the same week that’s been dominated by the president using a sharpie to draw himself a hurricane or inviting and disinviting the Taliban to celebrate 9/11 at Camp David, what could be a better contrast than Democrats spending three hours on network TV actually debating solutions to the problems people are talking about around the kitchen table? People will offer unending silver bullet political strategies for Democrats to defeat Donald Trump, but one of the clearest may well be that people are tired of a presidency that’s all about self and ready for a party that’s got some solutions, tired of an administration dominated by ego and ready for a candidate that’s offering ideas.
‘This was not a debate that will live in history’
Larry J. Sabatois the founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and is a contributing editor atPolitico Magazine.
Nothing much changed that I noticed. The candidates solidified the support they already had, for the most part.
So much for all the firm predictions of the vicious battles that would be waged between Biden and Warren, or Warren and Sanders, or the front-runners and the backrunners.
This was not a debate that will live in history. One reason is the awful format. Sit the candidates around a table, four or five at a time, with a trained facilitator, and have conversations about subjects that matter—such as the climate crisis that ABC apparently felt wasn’t critical enough to discuss except in passing.