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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.