Four hours of political debates can be grueling. Thankfully, our team has written analysis and commentary on each of the candidates' performances, just for you.
Night One: And We Thought the GOP Debates Were Messy
Camille: Warren did extraordinarily well opening the debate. She was charismatic and strong from a policy perspective. As a fellow debater, I can appreciate how intensively she was flowing the round.
Trisha: Warren’s ideas managed to dominate the first half of the debate because they established her own philosophies as the main points of contention. Despite not speaking nearly as much as O’Rourke or Booker, she was able to sum up more abstract policy and explain her plans far more deftly. Specifically, her ability to focus on the shift from center to leftist ideology when it came to progressivism allowed her to say “I stand with Bernie” on healthcare, while also maintaining her own presence and personality.
Surya: Understandably, Warren started the debate well with her past debate experience. She continued to stick to her message and beliefs and held an unwavering determination. Although I have multiple, MULTIPLE disagreements with her policies, she presented herself as a force to be reckoned with, and came out on top.
Camille: Booker was a star in this debate alongside Castro. Not only did he get the highest speaking times, but he was extremely passionate and brought attention to the struggles of minorities. I think he will see a rise in the polls.
Trisha: Booker may have gotten the most words in, but in comparison to Klobuchar, Warren and breakout star Castro, he did not have the depth on unique policy that was expected from him. Given the precedent he set in the past, the actual substance in his policy proposal is disappointing because he seems to have forgotten that the plural of anecdote isn’t facts. However, he does get points for delivery and command of a room but his policy did not match his presence.
Surya: Booker did an outstanding job. Once again, as with Warren, my disagreements with policy were at moments forgotten because of his extremely persuasive speaking. However, he failed to commit to either a message of policy or identity politics, while most other candidates adhered to one or the other. This debate also gave me the idea of a Warren/Booker as a duo...
Camille: Castro was a star in tonight’s debate. He effectively called out Beto on his immigration stances and pushed for repeals to Section 13.25. As a Latino-American, I believe that Castro will incentivize a lot of Latinx voters to come to the polls if he is able to make it far enough into the race.
Trisha: Until last night Castro was overlooked for candidates with a stronger following but because he stuck to his areas of strength and expertise-most notably immigration-he was able to stand out. It became fairly obvious that he walked in with a plan to make himself a household name and when he left it appeared he was successful. Hopefully he can capitalize on this momentum and push his unique policy incentives with more effectiveness.
Surya: I was not fooled by Castro’ energy. If anyone really looked closer at what he was doing, he was simply building upon other peoples’ arguments and rewording. I understand why he would stand out to most voters, but at the end of the day, his vagueness on policy can’t rival the conciseness of a Booker or Warren.
Camille: “All foam, no beer.” Klobuchar did a good job of sounding folksy and using phrases that were memorable. She had a great clapback to Inslee when they were talking about reproductive rights. I don’t think she stood out but she did well enough.
Trisha: Surprisingly, Klobuchar was able to establish herself in an arena that would have been competitive for anyone, especially a smaller candidate because she was able to think on her feet quick enough to effectively retort. Had it not been for Inslee’s comments on reproductive rights, Klobuchar’s night would have been far less productive.
Surya: I felt like Klobuchar did a much better job than I expected. Her one-liners actually stood out, and her takedown of Inslee was well-timed. Although Klobuchar is mostly centrist, she did a very good job at appealing to the progressive vote as well. I didn’t expect much since she’s a lower-polling candidate, but she had good rebuttal, which is always key.
Camille: Beto did not particularly stand out to me, and the three main things I remember him for are 1) awkwardly inserting his Spanish skills in the middle of a response, 2) being schooled by Castro, 3) speaking in a raspy Sk8er Boi voice. I didn’t see any huge flops, but he likely won’t see a rise in the polls because there are other young male candidates who have similar appeal but are more quick-witted and popular (ex. Buttigieg).
Trisha: While I was hoping Beto would remain as charismatic and organized as he was during his run for senate, he appeared unprepared and seemed to be relying on his progressive policy to stand out. However, on a stage where Warren, Yang and even Castro managed to put forth more tangible policy and remain far more progressive when it comes to healthcare and public option he was left behind. If anything, his most memorable moment was his spanish which proved a detriment not a benefit.
Surya: Beto quickly embarrassed himself. When asked a question about prgressive tax rates, he just started speaking Spanish and didn’t even answer the question. His inspecificity throughout the debate failed to score him points with voters who want real policies. Beto always attempts to hit at ethos, but it failed him in this debate.
Bill de Blasio
Camille: Even though he had one of the lowest speaking times, I believe that De Blasio made an impact because he had a lot of charisma. He has “Trump energy” with the way that he talks, and I think that this will appeal to voters who liked Trump because of his “no-nonsense” attitude.
Trisha: De Blasio came off sounding less eloquent than other more “polished” candidates, but his appeal comes from being different than Booker’s more faith-based personality and O’Rourke’s “approachable” one. He might have some hope among the non-Trump Republicans who are hoping to find a moderate Democrat, but for progressives he’s been counted out.
Surya: I agree with most that de Blasio has wild charisma and a “Trump-like” energy, however I found him to be spewing the same progressive ideologies that democrats like to hear over and over again. I admired his passion, but it may have gotten in the way of his message.
Camille: Delaney flopped in this debate because he barely spoke and he did not have any clear breakout moments. I also think he was becoming too repetitive when he kept saying “real solutions, not empty promises.” Sort of cliche.
Trisha: Delaney was all but forgotten when he walked in and the sentiment was exactly the same when he left. Of all the candidates he has been in the race the longest, and it definitely showed because he did not have any one line or policy that made him different from anyone else on that stage. His rebuttal for Medicare-for-all at best served to counteract the face value of Warren’s argument but overlooked any actual depth or complexity.
Surya: As a centrist, I tend to align more with Delaney. However, the lack of speaking time he was given was simply not enough. I would have wanted to hear him speak, but MSNBC didn’t treat him like a real candidate. I’d say the failure is on the network’s part, considering their bias is moving ever-farther left, and it seems they’ve decided to leave behind moderates/centrists.
Camille: Gabbard was well-spoken and emphasized her experience as a veteran, but didn’t add much else to it. I felt like I was waiting for the “so what”. Unlike Booker, who was able to tie his personal experiences to policy initiatives, Gabbard seemed like she was pandering to veteran voters. She also appeared too robotic and rehearsed, and I don’t think she will garner a significant amount of support for the next debates.
Trisha: Gabbard seemed to be ready for every question that could have been predicted, especially when it came to the deployment of troops and while her personal time in the army makes her hard to argue with when it comes to the military, the scope of her experiences remains too limited for her to use anecdotal evidence as her primary backing. She has received an upswing of support following demonstration of knowledge surrounding key policy areas, but not enough to rival other similar candidates like Klobuchar.
Surya: Gabbard was perhaps the MOST vague on all policy. Her shining moment really was correcting Tim Ryan on military policy. Otherwise, I don’t have much to say about her because she didn’t inform us enough on how she’ll solve problems.
Camille: Yikes! When he said that the biggest threat to the security of the U.S. was Donald Trump, I think he got some cringes from anybody with common sense. There are bigger fish to fry. Most notably, he had the lowest speaking time, and is the most likely to not make it to the next debates.
Trisha: Much like the audience, he seemed fairly surprised he was on the stage at all and his lack of coordinated structure in policy and rebuttal displayed it. Considering his defining moment was mansplaining womens’ rights with three women on the same stage, I won’t be surprised if his poll numbers are lower than his speaking time.
Surya: Inslee had me deterred from the start. However, he managed to pull himself together a bit at the end. He had a major downfall when Klobuchar corrected him on who’s really fought for the right to an abortion, hurting his potential with female liberal voters.
Camille: Ryan seemed timid and quiet the entire time and did not make an effort to get more speaking time even though he was clearly falling behind. I predict that he will not make it to the next round of debates.
Trisha: Honestly, it could have been worse but considering Ryan barely spoke it will be extremely surprising if he makes it into the next round. His inability to speak about anything of substance came back to hurt him when every other candidate was fighting for speaking time (i.e. De Blasio interrupting) and he was not even using the allocated amount.
Surya: Where to begin? The poor guy seemed like he was about to break down at every question. He also doesn’t seem educated enough on issues that democrats care about. Also, Gabbard absolutely destroyed him on Middle Eastern policy. I only see Ryan’s poll numbers going down the drain after this debate.
Night Two: Expectations Were Not Met
Camille: Bernie did not have any major slip-ups that I recall, and performed well. Like Warren, he did not have any breakout moments but will remain at the top of the polls due to his popularity.
Surya: Bernie just kind of seemed… there. I feel that although he stuck to his message and didn’t slip up, he didn’t match Kamala’s energy or that of Warren’s/Booker’s the night before. He did, however, fail to win on the single-payer debate against those supporting a public option. He simply let Kamala do that work, and frankly, it simply left him in the dust.
Abigail: I expected more from Sanders. He isn’t showing the traditional energy that his supporters have seen throughout the campaign, and he’s relying on a lot of rhetoric but not a lot of actual substance.
Nikhil: Bernie didn’t do anything special, but at the same time, he didn’t mess up enough to make him fall in the polls. All in all, Bernie more or less cemented his spot as a frontrunner with this debate.
Camille: OOF! Biden was a dead man after Harris came for him on the segregation issue. He should have either defended that busing is a bad idea (ex: it is an inconvenience for families who have to bus their children) OR admitted that he was wrong. Biden had everyone attacking him and he failed to say the right things.
Surya: I disagree with other members of AYCE as to just how badly Joe was hurt in this debate. I thought he recovered well from the busing debate. He made clear of his support on the states’ initiative there, and also cited his track record of fighting for civil rights and working with Obama to make progress. His defense of voting for the Iraq war also strong, stating he wouldn’t have voted for it if the AUMF were in place at the time. It could have been worse if perhaps someone pointed out his support of the 1994 Crime Bill. However, Joe is really trying hard to appeal to the Left. His traditional centrism is really being lost, and that may not work out well. Progressives most likely will be skeptical, and his centrist base may not be too enthusiastic of this shift.
Abigail: Joe is done. Kamala literally dragged his reputation across the stage and chugged it out the window.
Nikhi: RIP. Biden got completely attacked by Harris, and she brought up enough skeletons from Biden’s past that his position leading the polls may be vulnerable as of now. The next few weeks will show us whether or not Biden is actually strong enough to withstand these attacks and win the nomination.