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Dem Debates Round 2: Redemption?

Once again, our team has prepared analysis of the second Democratic Debates, which took place in Detroit this past Tuesday and Wednesday, July 30 and 31. This debate was the last that we will be seeing of some of these candidates, so keep reading to find out how they did!

Democratic debate stage on July 31. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Night One: Hands Were Thrown (by Bernie, as Always)

Marianne Williamson

Surya: It seems that Marianne is getting onto some things that Democrats would like to hear, from environmental racism to reparations to targeting health issues. She’s clearly a progressive, but she’s been incredibly unclear on policy and was dodgy answering questions that were meant to be in direct rebuttal of others. Marianne needed a breakthrough moment, but she didn’t quite get there this time.

Yukiho: People don’t take what she says that seriously but honestly, I really enjoyed her in this debate. She’s a passionate outsider, and speaks about politics in a way that people can connect with. However, even though I will agree that her Flint speech was pretty good, she is still rather vague on specific policies and lacks legitimacy as a candidate overall.

Nikhil: Williamson didn’t make an impression on anybody during the first debate, but she really attracted a lot of attention from her part on Flint. Even though her talk on Flint and reparations might have drawn her some temporary applause, she still lacked any substantive policy to make her a legitimate candidate.

Elaine: Williamson didn’t impress me during the first debates, but she got much more recognition this time around with some memorable quotes. I loved her point on environmental racism, but I just don’t think she’s offered enough policy initiatives (other than her reparations program) that make her any more viable as a candidate for the Democratic nomination. She’s all big words and not much substance.

Tim Ryan

Surya: Ryan seemed to be one of the big losers for a second time this debate. Last time, Gabbard destroyed him on foreign policy, and this time, it was Bernie, who Ryan set up to say, “I wrote the damn bill!” when discussing single-payer health insurance. Ouch. I think Ryan’s appeal as well didn’t help, seeing as he’s trying to brand himself as a progressive who’s moderate; I don’t think that would play out well for anyone. In our last analysis, I stated that I doubted we would be seeing Ryan again. I was wrong then, but I’m beginning to feel more and more correct...

Yukiho: Ryan’s last words to the viewers were him saying he hopes he captured the imagination of the viewers. My imagination was not quite captured, sorry Ryan. He didn’t necessarily do awful in this debate (with the exception of the “I wrote the damn bill” exchange with Bernie –– that was no good for him), but he wasn’t very memorable in any of the policy discussions either.

Nikhil: Just as he was in the first debate, Ryan was once again one of the biggest losers of the night. This time he got destroyed by Bernie, and Ryan’s entire message seems confusing at times. It’s incredibly hard to tell whether Ryan imagines himself as more of a progressive or a moderate, and he hasn’t done anything to stand out yet.

Elaine: Ryan pushed for a similar message as the first debate, trying to paint himself as the candidate for the forgotten middle-class voters. However, his lack of charisma and failure to put himself at the center of the debate during any of the topics have not done him much good in recovering from his major blunder during the first debates.

Amy Klobuchar

Surya: I felt that Klobuchar could have been a much stronger voice for the moderates, seeing as she’s one of the highest-polling, however she didn’t have a revelatory of any sort this time. She seems to have dropped in energy this time, while last time she was bold and took on everyone on stage. Klobuchar did well to defend her positions, but she failed to find a “sparring partner” of sorts, someone to contrast with consistently. Clearly, she wasn’t on her game.

Yukiho: I honestly disagree that Klobuchar was unmemorable in this debate. She does a good job of selling her candidacy as a moderate that can win the election in the states that matter. She’s well spoken, and good at answering the questions about her specific policies instead of dodging answers.

Nikhil: Even though Klobuchar didn’t have any memorable moment to really stand out, I felt that she verified herself as a moderate and seemed to have a really calm, understand presence. She will have difficulty fending off other moderates, but by no means do I think she lost the debate.

Elaine: While Klobuchar stood out during the first debates with her moderate advocacy while the lower-polling moderates struggled, the tables seem to have turned. She didn’t have any memorable points, in my opinion, and other moderate candidates like John Delaney seemed to outshine her when it came to rebuking Warren and Sanders. The constant anecdotes weren’t effective, either. Perhaps the issue was Klobuchar’s delivery, but they seemed stiff and scripted.

Pete Buttigieg

Surya: Another master of question-dodging, Buttigieg once again left me unimpressed. I always look for a candidate who’s strong on specifics and knows their policies back to front, even if I don’t always agree with them on everything. This is perhaps why the South Bend Mayor didn’t find much appeal with me. Not only was he vague on literally every single one of his policies, but he was asked a question on climate change and decided to start talking about his experience as a veteran. Buttigieg is one of those candidates who has a list of one-liners that he has to interject everywhere, even at the most useless of times, and plays on identity politics rather than policies.

Yukiho: Buttigieg is a good speaker, but that’s all that I got from him tonight. He’s a vague politician with pretty words –– I was left wondering exactly how he was different from the rest of the candidates policy wise, and what he was exactly for. He was definitely one of the more prominent moderates on the stage that night, but he wasn’t outstanding or anything.

Nikhil: Even though it may be an unpopular opinion, Buttigieg was my favorite candidate and the biggest winner of the night. Throughout the entire debate, he constantly asserted himself as a voice of reason above the constant arguments of the rest of the pool. He seemed like a more unifying, passive voice. At times, this made Buttigieg lost in the background of the debate, but the times that he spoke resonated and were really well thought out. For example, talking about vision versus age and how Democrats must find the right policy seemed inspirational and motivating.

Elaine: Buttigieg has a soft spot in my heart, mostly because I think he’s one of the best speakers on that stage. His attempts to unify the Democratic candidates and draw them away from trying so hard to win the election and towards “the right policy” were well-received, though he seemed to get lost in the weeds at certain points. His turn on the age point, explaining why a younger candidate might be more advantageous rather than a weakness, was the right move. Honestly, I also appreciated that he didn’t run over the response times very much.

Bernie Sanders

Surya: I think Sanders was one of the clear winners of this debate, with moments from “I wrote the damn bill,” to his hand-waving match with Hickenlooper. In all seriousness, Bernie failed to deliver in the last debate, so his aggression in this debate was a much-needed improvement. However, I don’t believe Bernie proved that he has much common ground with moderates and independents this time, which may hurt him in the primaries when trying to get votes from traditionalists.

Yukiho: Sanders is known for his push for Medicare-for-all. So it was no surprise when the healthcare conversation was the highlight for him this debate. Warren definitely outshined him, but Sanders did a pretty good job keeping up as the other prominent progressive on the stage that night.

Nikhil: Bernie’s performance in this debate was a significant improvement in terms of speaking style from his first debate. However, most of the time, he still felt outshined by Warren. It will be interesting to watch the race between the two of them in the upcoming weeks. Compared to Warren, Bernie’s content and delivery seemed extremely repetitive with the constant mention of Canada. Moreover, his health care explanation was a little confusing at times, but his response to the criticism of his health care policy with “I wrote the damn bill” was definitely a social media highlight.

Elaine: Sanders certainly held his ground against attacks from the moderate candidates, notably Delaney. The moderators frequently set up direct arguments between him and Delaney or Ryan, during which he continued to unapologetically push his Medicare for All and free college education; his energy bounced back from a lackluster first debate. He could’ve eased a bit on the reverence of Canada, though.

Elizabeth Warren

Surya: Warren’s decision to not directly attack Bernie was wise, seeing as in this debate they proved that it’s them against the rest. One of the farthest-left of the group, Warren emphasized what she’s always been for: taking on corporatism and making radical changes as soon as possible. I can easily see her rising in the polls, but I didn’t rather appreciate how she kept saying the same things over and over against Delaney while he was bringing new arguments to the table each chance that he got. Warren has a debate background, and thus was able to sound convincing, but voters should seriously consider the real impacts of her policies, rather than just agreeing with what may sound nice.

Yukiho: My favorite winner of today’s debate. Policy wise I’m not as aligned with her, but I have to admit she and Sanders controlled the narrative of this debate very well. In fact, she definitely did a better job than Sanders this debate. She is passionate, well-spoken, and stands out as a progressive that is not willing to sacrifice her beliefs. Calling out the moderates that want to past realistic policy, Warren remarked : “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” A favorite quote of the night.

Nikhil: Heading into the debate, many people predicted there to be a huge Warren vs. Sanders clash. Instead, the debate turned into a moderate vs. progressive battle, and Warren managed to separate herself from Bernie in explaining the progressive agenda during the night. She also had a few memorable punchlines, specifically the one against Delaney. Warren was one of the clear winners of the debate, and if she continues with her passion, she can separate herself from Bernie, despite their similar agendas.

Elaine: Wow! Warren dominated the debate, controlling the moderates versus progressives narrative. She chose to side with Sanders, and the two of them defended themselves smoothly. Her calling out of Delaney for being focused on what we can’t do was especially memorable. Warren continues to be a strong contender for the nomination, and her energy and enthusiasm make her a crowd-favorite who could very well overtake Sanders.

Beto O’Rourke

Surya: Beto still failed to stand out, but did a relatively better job than last time. He and Delaney seemed to take sides against the others, while showing that goals of those like Sanders/Warren were attainable with strong private sector improvements as well. His introduction of his $5 Billion climate plan and the suggestion to turn Texas into a battleground state really stood out and may give him some better chances

Yukiho: He did okay. His answers are good. His pitch for his candidacy is that he is a president that can win states like Texas –– so he is trying to portray himself as that electable moderate. But he doesn’t stand out among the moderates, and also needs to do a better job convincing the viewers of why he is the best moderate to win Texas when he didn’t win it in 2018.

Nikhil: O’Rourke was completely left behind during the first debate, and the voice, spark, and ideas he seemingly had during his Senate race were absent from this debate as well. O’Rourke is remaining stagnant in the polls, if not dropping, and his performance in the debate has done nothing to help his case. It’s already probably too late for O’Rourke’s campaign.

Elaine: Once again, O’Rourke disappointed on the stage. This debate was his chance to recover from a declining national presence after the first debate, and although he has already qualified for the third and fourth debates, he hasn’t gained any more traction with voters. I honestly forgot he was there for most of the debate; he was awfully quiet.

John Hickenlooper

Surya: Hickenlooper may have gotten a bit over-aggressive with Bernie, but it brought a new discussion which the last debate lacked: who’s electable? Hickenlooper’s claim that big government isn’t the solution to everything perhaps rang true with some moderates, but may have lost him a ton of progressive votes. The way he pointed to his past successes as a governor helped, but I don’t see him rising too much in the polls.

Yukiho: A pragmatist! Hickenlooper had some interesting interactions with both Sanders and Warren that were pretty heated that probably played in his favor for the centrist viewers. His push for an evolution not a revolution on the topic of healthcare put him at the front of the moderates attacking the progressive two (Sanders, Warren) of the night.

Nikhil: Hickenlooper tries to emulate Sanders stance on popular issues, particularly social reform but overwhelmingly falls flat. With a much different demographic the appeal isn’t the same. His calls for an urban agenda change further substantiate critics who continue to state that he’s out of touch with the American reality. In all honesty, he’s yet to prove himself relevant.

Elaine: Hickenlooper rehashed his moderate stance, going after Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and the decriminalization of illegal border crossings. He emphasized that the policies of the progressive candidates, like Warren and Sanders, will hand the ballot to Trump because they won’t be able to pull the center to the Democratic side. He also spent a lot of time emphasizing his successes in Colorado as governor and mayor of Denver. Overall, he didn’t particularly stand out but also didn’t do any damage to his standing.

John Delaney

Surya: On a purely policy-based analysis of what was said, Delaney absolutely smacked everyone on everything. He did an awesome job of bringing attention to himself, and his message of being progressive in a moderate manner was much better-delivered than what Tim Ryan attempted. For example, on the healthcare debate he noted that Medicare-for-All is too extreme, while a traditional public option doesn’t go far enough to ensure universal coverage. He emphasized a balance of the public, private, and non-profit sectors in all aspects of political debate and noted his experience and background in all three. This was a winning night for Delaney.

Yukiho: He did a good job tonight. He did a good job handling the moderate narrative against Warren and Sanders, especially his line about pushing for realistic policy over impossible promises. He was not one of my favorite moderates in my mind going into tonight's debate, but definitely came out as one.

Nikhil: Delaney really boosted his relative standings during this debate, and most, if not all, of his policy explanations were in depth and really easy to understand. Even if you disagree with his views, Delaney was successfully able to convey exactly what he believes in, especially with a private public balance in terms of Medicare. Delaney stood out and made a name for himself in this debate; the night was a real win for him. Delaney was one of the few candidates that actually made nuanced arguments, not vague generalizations.

Elaine: Delaney, who might not have won the big debate against Warren and Sanders, certainly won in terms of the attention that he brought to himself during this second debate. From the first debate, we didn’t know much about him other than his moderate stance, but here, he came out and made a name for himself by actively going after progressive policies. Clearly, the moderators were also eating up this tension, constantly directing questions and rebuttals to Warren and Delaney or Sanders and Delaney. His constant attempts to continue speaking and get in an answer to questions not immediately directed at him probably show his desperation to get attention, knowing full well that he has not qualified for the fall debates yet.

Steve Bullock

Surya: I was, quite frankly, surprised by Bullock. He promoted himself well, but had one tiny problem: he seemed like a Republican, which is a major no-no for liberal voters. He emphasized his experience in governing a red-state, but only maintained that red-state appeal. Bullock also was not very specific on policies, and I doubt that stating that you’re a gun-owner to Democrats across the nation is a very wise move. We’ll see how this goes for him.

Yukiho: I liked his performance. Called himself a progressive, but is rather moderate comparative to Warren and Sanders. In fact, one of his first lines was about how he can win elections in red states. Not being at the first debates definitely hurt him at first but by the end of the night, I gathered that he is a candidate with a moderate take on healthcare as an anti-Medicare-for-all, and an anti-corporate corruption pro-union candidate that can succeed in the states that matter. Oh, and he’s definitely different from those like Warren on foreign policy which was seen by his back and forth discussion with Warren on nuclear first-strike (Bullock is for, Warren is against).

Nikhil: Bullock provides a nice moderate between Biden and Warren for those conflicted as he embraces moderate policy in healthcare and immigration, refusing outright decriminalization but supporting less restrictive Obama era policies. His answers when it comes to foreign policy specifically nuclear programs sought to do too much and ended up communicating that he lacks knowledge on complex policy that far left voters prioritize. If he continues to effectively use his time however, there is no telling how far he could go.

Elaine: For someone who’s already behind, having not qualified for the first debates, Bullock established himself pretty well during his first time on stage. He, like the other four moderates on stage, labeled progressive policies as “wish list economics.” Bullock came out with a strong opening statement, introducing himself as a “pro-choice, pro-union, populist Democrat.” Early morning polls from the day after the debate didn’t show a bump for Bullock, however, so it may be too late for him.

Night Two: So Kool-Aid is Political Now?

Michael Bennet

Surya: Bennet is known for some fiery Senate speeches, but for the second time he failed to live up to his name. I enjoyed listening to his ideas on a public option and his defense of premiums being lowered through its implementation, but otherwise he didn’t stand out enough for me to remember much else.

Yukiho: A moderate that wasn’t outstanding tonight. He’s alright, just very little talking time. All I gathered is that he is a typical public option moderate on healthcare, and a candidate that is anti-decriminalizing the border. My favorite moment of the night for him was when he gave a pretty good speech on racial divides in the education system.

Nikhil: Bennet’s generally moderate voice was lost in the debate tonight. It wasn’t that the time he spoke was bad, he just didn’t get a lot of time to speak. He had a few memorable moments, for instance, talking about the importance of education. However, the rest of his time could easily be forgotten.

Elaine: Bennet got lost in the weeds from the beginning and never resurfaced. He’s consistently moderate, but in a field of strong progressive voices, as well as Biden, a quieter moderate isn’t going to get the attention he needs to get to the next debate. His point on how education can solve the root cause of many social issues, being a former superintendent, was noteworthy, though.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Surya: I thought Gillibrand could have done much better, but she really let herself down. I was expecting the same energy that she brought at the last debate, but she was unsuccessful at truly standing out. She mostly said the same things over and over about being a mother. Gillibrand attempted to go after Biden like Kamala did last time and have a moment that left the crowd wild, but when Biden said he was wrong she just accepted his answer and left him unchallenged. Unfortunately, the identity politics didn’t work out this time.

Yukiho: Gillibrand was very good tonight. Her healthcare answers were interesting –– not very interactive with the rest of the proposals, all I got was that she cares about healthcare (which doesn’t help. all of them do). However, on topics like criminal justice, race, gender –– she was outstanding.

Nikhil: Gillibrand stood out tonight with her answers about criminal justice and her plan for middle-class workers. This led to a very strong start, but the way in which she attempted to attack Biden like Harris did in the first debates was a massive fail. She had her highs in the debate, but she could have done a lot better.

Elaine: Gillibrand came out strong, pointing out the tough facts about corporations and the life of the middle-class worker. The wage gap question played right into her field, with her strong emphasis on women's rights. Despite being a strong speaker, her polls have been quite stagnant, and I doubt she’ll make it to the next debates either.

Julian Castro

Surya: I honestly couldn’t tell whether Castro wanted to even be there in the first place. He seemed very bored with everything and lacked the energy he had last time, but he stuck with his message quite well and perhaps played well to his base; however, he may have much more trouble reaching out to other Democrats when progressives are dominating the race.

Yukiho: Castro did fine –– not as well as he could have, but definitely didn’t lose tonight. His exchange with Biden on immigration was an interesting one –– Castro implied that he learned from the mistakes of the past while Biden has not. He’s a moderate on healthcare, similar to Buttigieg’s Medicare-for-those-that-want-it and honestly candidates like Buttigieg are doing a better job in the debates of being favorable by the audience.

Nikhil: Castro once again came into the spotlight in the immigration debate, and in this, he outshined Biden. However, there seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm or in general, just speaking time, from Castro during the debate.

Elaine: Castro did well for how often he got to speak. Like Booker, he’s a good speaker, which brought him some laughs and more attention. However, Biden’s attack on his silence on immigration during the Obama administration certainly called into question how devoted he is to the central issues of his campaign.

Cory Booker

Surya: I was quite surprised to see everyone calling Booker’s night a success, while I simply thought he was quite average. If anything, he stood out in the last debates when he was slamming all the evidence he could on the table. However, this time he just did what most others did; go for poor old Joe.

Yukiho: Booker did really well tonight. Booker is really good at interacting with the people on the stage and the proposals that the other candidates are presenting, whereas a lot of the other candidates seem to be focused more on the pre-prepared speeches and the rhetoric and fluff. It’s a good quality and sets him apart from a lot of the other candidates.

Nikhil: The debate was a clear win for Booker. He was successfully able to attack the frontrunner Biden's rhetoric regarding Obama era policies and his relative positive attitude was somewhat contagious. Booker’s content regarding immigration and criminal justice really stood out, and with just his natural speaking style, he can go far in the race.

Elaine: Booker’s great rhetoric made him a star tonight. He spoke well on many of the debate topics by keeping a positive spirit, at least relative to the other candidates who seemed pretty mopey about the state of affairs with Trump. His attack on Biden’s inconsistent associations with the Obama administration showed how much attention he paid to the other candidates’ answers.

Joe Biden

Surya: If you want to see what a human punching bag looks like, just watch some highlights from this night where almost EVERYONE wanted to get a hit on Joe. Biden’s candidacy has been shaky from the start, from announcing that he was running later than most others to having his past come back to haunt him. Out of every single person who attacked him, only Harris really seemed to score a punch. Most were praising Biden after the debate, but tonight I realized just how progressive the Democrats have become, which makes me wonder just how accurate those polls are...

Yukiho: Oh Biden! Biden definitely got a lot of the heat tonight –– it seems like a lot of the candidates recognize his good polling rates and are out to make sure he doesn’t stay in the lead. Biden definitely spent too much time defending his past and his legitimacy as a candidate –– but this time is well-needed, considering that people have a lot to say about his past. Overall, Biden could have done a lot better. He was outstanding in the wrong ways, especially considering that Biden wasn’t really fully answering a lot of the callouts by the other candidates.

Nikhil: At the end of the night, I honestly felt kind of bad for Biden. I don’t think there was one candidate on stage who didn’t take their turn going after Biden; however, at the end of it, no matter how much everybody else tries to take him, it seems that Biden will remain the frontrunner for the foreseeable future. Biden’s past could continue to come back to haunt him. Booker successfully pointed out how Biden has regularly flipped when defending Obama’s policies, and most of Biden’s time was spent just defending himself. Even though he got an extraordinary amount of speaking time, Biden will face difficulties if he is just continuously teamed up against by every candidate available.

Elaine: That opening statement though! Biden has successfully surpassed the low bar he set for himself during the first debate. He came much more prepared and fought off numerous attacks from all sides. However, he still seemed flustered at points and torn between supporting President Obama and defending himself from the more poorly-received results of the Obama administration. He got an awful lot of speaking time, as well as Harris, compared to many of the other candidates. In the future, Biden needs to figure out how to establish his credibility and integrity quickly so that he can start talking policy.

Kamala Harris

Surya: Harris wasn’t nearly as much of a target as Biden, but she certainly attempted to hold her own. In the last debate no one really attacked her because of the confidence she projected, but this debate was much more confusing in comparison, throwing her off of her game. Her newly-released healthcare plan was attacked by Biden as “confusing,” and she didn’t provide the statistics to show otherwise. And boy oh boy, did her past come back to haunt her as well when Gabbard decided to slam Kamala and only Kamala. Harris couldn’t deny those claims, and the only thing she could come up with afterwards was calling Gabbard an “Assad apologetic.”

Yukiho: I think I expected more from Harris tonight. Harris took a hit on her prosecutorial record, Gabbard really called her out on that one. Harris did not do as well as she did in the first debates, but definitely wasn’t one of the losers on the stage tonight.

Nikhil: Harris definitely didn’t lose this debate, but she took a huge step down from the first one. She was called out on the hypocrisy of her time as a prosecutor and didn’t really have any responses to that. Moreover, she wasn’t able to defend the attacks on her health care plan. Harris has established herself enough where she won’t fall in the polls from this, but by no means did the debate help her.

Elaine: Tonight, Harris felt what it’s like to be one of the big shots, with another long debate with Biden as well as some sharp attacks from Gabbard. She seemed unprepared for others to question her integrity, and her weak response certainly raised some eyebrows. Nonetheless, her standing is pretty safe, for now, and she didn’t shoot herself in the foot tonight, so we’ll be seeing plenty more of her.

Andrew Yang

Surya: I’m a fan of Yang’s fiscal policy (specifically his Freedom Dividend of $1,000/month for every adult), so understandably I was a bit disappointed with his performance, seeing as he only directly mentioned it very little. I understand why he made this this move, though: he needs more progressive appeal. This is why he spent the night focusing more on social policy, which received loud applause. He didn’t directly clash with any other debaters, which makes for questionable electability. I’m intrigued to see where this goes for him, but for a man who runs his candidacy on math, I found too little of it tonight.

Yukiho: Yang stays true to his platform. However, I don’t think tonight’s debate did enough for him. His answers and implications are good, yes, but he has a way of presenting his answers that makes it so that the other candidates don’t actually interact with his UBI policy proposals, which leaves the impression to the viewers that his policy isn’t important enough to have a large discussion/ clash over. He also doesn’t do enough of a clarification on how we are going to pay for UBI –– he needed to do a better job explaining value added tax, the actual math behind his policies, and why taxing companies like Amazon won’t trickle down to the consumer. He lags behind on foreign policy, his immigration responses are fine, but overall it just seems like the moderators and the other candidates don’t take him seriously, which delegitimizes him as a candidate.

Nikhil: Yang’s policy ideas really stood out, but once again, he had the least speaking time. However, Yang may need to change a lot of his strategy regarding the debates. Every one of his policies or answers are directly tied to his Freedom Dividend; even though the idea itself is worth considering, it leaves little room for interaction with any of the other candidates. Moreover, at times, his answers seemed a bit repetitive and that he was using the Freedom Dividend as a get out of free card to questions he simply didn’t have another answer to. Moreover, his explanation of the UBI, specifically the value added tax he claims will pay for it, needs to be explained a lot more clearly for the average voter to actually understand. Even after going past these issues, Yang’s foreign policy platform is nonexistent, or at least very weak. He’s a very likable guy and his jokes, for example about liking math, will draw him attention. However, in the future, he will need better explanations and more credibility.

Elaine: Personally, I think Yang stood out in this debate. He still had the least speaking time at eight minutes, compared to Biden’s twenty-one, but he used those few opportunities well. Every answer he gave was tied back to the Freedom Dividend, the policy that brought Yang his strong online following and distinguishes him from the other candidates. His first few answers were particularly successful, explaining why businesses and families both benefit from Medicare for All and pointing out that immigrants are being used as scapegoats when in reality, the jobs being lost are going to automation. His responses to climate change and the wage gap made sense to those who have read up on UBI, but in the future, he’ll need to flush out these ideas and make the public more receptive to the connection there. Ending the night with a memorable closing statement, Yang has a good shot at qualifying for the fall debates, where he will hopefully get the chance to break down his policies in more depth.

Tulsi Gabbard

Surya: Gabbard is more like Buttigieg wherein she loves to talk about her values, but never really points to paths for solutions. I can’t recall hearing a single detailed policy from her the entire night, save for “Let’s bring home our troops.” Gabbard seems to be making waves for talking on issues which aren’t widely focused upon, but whatever she says seems to have bipartisan appeal. Of course everyone agrees that things need to be fixed, but we don’t agree on how to fix it. One thing we can all agree on, though, is that Gabbard was far from holding back against Kamala. It’s always nice to have dirt on your opponents, isn’t it?

Yukiho: Gabbard tends to stick to rhetoric over substance when answering a lot of questions, but she did do pretty well, especially during the foreign policy debates. Today’s debate put her down as a memorable candidate and one to look out for. Calling out Harris was definitely helpful for Gabbard but she could have done more to promote her candidacy instead of being remembered for the one that called out the other candidates on the stage.

Nikhil: Gabbard’s spotlight moment was calling out Harris’ hypocrisy, but apart from that it was a good night for Gabbard. She managed to call out one of the frontrunners and continued to showcase her strength in foreign policy. However, she’ll definitely need to improve in explaining economic policy if she wants any chance.

Elaine: Gabbard shined tonight, calling Harris out for her prosecutorial record. She’s clearly done her research. She also stuck to her strong points, such as foreign policy. She connected many of her answers back to her military service or to her home state of Hawai’i. She clearly isn’t as strong or experienced in other areas, though, such as the economy and social issues, and the narrow range of topics on which she can engage will limit her and prevent her from getting to the next debates.

Jay Inslee

Surya: Inslee certainly improved from the last debate, and his glasses were certainly a nice touch; however, they weren’t very helpful. If he’s remembered for anything, it’s climate change; thus, it’s good not to compromise oneself on the issue, then. He tried to say that no one else was ambitious enough, perhaps forgetting that some candidates are co-sponsors of a little thing called the Green New Deal (you may have randomly heard of it about a million times). Inslee’s failed attack on Biden didn’t help either when he realized they actually agreed. Overall, not a very important night, or at least one that wasn’t important enough.

Yukiho: Inslee was disappointing in today’s debate. Didn’t interact enough with the rest of the candidates, didn’t stand out. His entire pitch for his presidency is that he will care the most about climate change and prioritize it, which could resonate a lot with viewers that view climate change as the most important voting issue.

Nikhil: Inslee started his campaign running on climate change, but his key issue was not successful in his rhetoric tonight. He attempted to bring up climate change, but was simply just off on some of his points. There also just wasn’t much interaction with Inslee. He hasn’t been doing well in the polls, and it seems he may be reaching the end of his presidential relevancy.

Elaine: Inslee’s selling point from the beginning of his candidacy has been climate change, but we didn’t hear much from him on the issue other than during the question specifically on climate change and in his closing statement. He didn’t engage with the other candidates very much, delivering a lackluster performance. Looks like this will be the last that we’re seeing of him.

Bill de Blasio

Surya: De Blasio made it seem like he walked onto a random stage and started asking everyone what was going on. It was foolish of the Mayor to ask what Joe Biden was going to do about everything, rather than speak on what his own plans were. De Blasio also comes off as a little too aggressive and angry, which I believe works against him. Although he has a very long shot at the presidency, he seemed to take Biden on headfirst, which I actually think was compromising for the former VP. I’ll think of tonight as De Blasio’s kamikaze attempt: sacrificing his campaign for the detriment of others. Not too good for “party unity.”

Yukiho: Didn’t see much of him today, because he didn’t talk much. When he did, it was either an unmemorable moment that didn’t make his policies stand out from the rest of the candidates, or an unmemorable moment of him going after Biden.

Nikhil: De Blasio started off extremely aggressive, from his opening statement to his attacks on Biden. Questioning Biden on Obama era deportations seemed really successfully, but at the end, De Blasio didn’t do anything to help himself. In fact, it ended with him being criticized for not firing Officer Pantaleo. The debate probably hurt De Blasio, but at the same time, De Blasio successfully used the debate to hurt others.

Elaine: De Blasio certainly started with a gusty opening statement. From the get-go, he attacked both Biden and Harris, arguing that he can get things done while Biden takes donations from the wealthy and Harris refuses to restructure society. He persisted in questioning Biden on whether he supported the deportations that occurred during Obama’s administration, refusing to let him get away with a non-answer. However, de Blasio came under fire for not firing Officer Pantaleo, the officer people argue is responsible for Eric Garner’s death. From there, he never quite recovered, and with the second-lowest speaking times, we probably won’t see him in the fall.


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