Dem Debates Round 3: Halfway There with Half the Candidates

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

We're back at it! Our team has prepared analysis of the third Democratic Debates, which took place in Houston this past Thursday, September 12. This debate had a much smaller stage, at only ten candidates, compared to the first two, so keep reading to find out how the candidates did!

What We Loved This Time:

Surya: What. A. Night. This was my favorite Democratic Primary Debate of them all for the content, the emotions, the zingers, and the topics of discussion. The moderators asked relevant questions on topics that Americans want to hear about, from educational poverty to protectionist trade policy to delivering cost-effective universal health coverage. They also did better than previous moderators to call out candidates who beat around the bush and who were flat-out wrong sometimes. Good clash was established between candidates, making the debate interesting throughout. There were less identity politics and more policy, so I was very, very pleased.

Camille: Allocation of speaking time felt fairer on this night, as the moderators seemed to value the majority of candidates on stage. Having ten frontrunners makes it more clear as to why each candidate is unique and different from one another, whereas before many of the no-name candidates seemed to blend together.

Abigail: The battle between the top ten was definitely the most focused debate compared to the other two. From universal healthcare to immigration reform, both the moderators and the candidates attempted to conduct a goal-oriented discourse, helping audiences get a better view of which policy was most progressive, achievable, and immediate. Now that the Democrats have narrowed down in size, it becomes easier for voters to analyze which candidate will do well in a debate against our current President. This recent debate is a reflection of that. There was productive clash and a “no-nonsense” attitude upheld throughout the evening, and when the conversation strayed away from the intended question, moderators and other candidates were quick to bring it back. Overall, this was probably the most organized of the debates I’ve seen, and it looks like they will only get better.

And What We Were Iffy On:

Surya: I’m unsure whether or not it was wise of certain candidates to go after each other the way they did. Julián Castro and Joe Biden had a tense moment, while Amy Klobuchar sparred with Bernie Sanders for a bit. If Democrats want to establish unity, they need to do so by attacking the common enemy more than their teammates. However, this was not a glaring issue to me.

Camille: With ten frontrunners on stage, I expected the night to be more exciting. However, there were no breakout moments that had people talking like the previous two debates. The conversation on healthcare felt way too long. I saw no stars on the stage, and for me, this night only confirmed the idea that the democrats might be fighting for second place.

Abigail: Although this time the candidates did a great job getting to the point on topics such as healthcare and gun reform, what frustrated me was that almost everybody jumped around the subject of the trade war with China. Given the significant amount of time this issue had taken up in the debates prior to September 12, I expected those on stage to propose a clear plan on how to address this economic conflict. However, the candidates who spoke only talked about how President Trump wasn’t doing a good job of handling relations with China, instead of offering solutions themselves. I hope we get a more conclusive debate on US-China trade next time.

Commentary on the Candidates' Performance

Joe Biden

Surya: This was Joe Biden’s strongest performance, and it was just what he needed at this point in time. While so many Democrats were questioning his “electability,” he showed that he has both the defense and offense to take on Trump if nominated. He firmly stood his ground against both Warren and Sanders on healthcare and effectively defended his work done with Obama on a variety of issues. What helped him even more was praising others on stage and appearing as a unifying force for the Democratic party; I’m pretty sure that this will help him stay ahead in the polls, and makes a Biden nomination muc