Surya, Elaine, and Camille weigh in on the October 15, 2019 Democratic primary debates.
What We Liked
Surya: I can’t say this matched up to the last debate, but it was fun to have 12 candidates on stage at once. Many would have predicted this to be hectic, but it surprisingly worked out quite well. We got to hear different viewpoints with Gabbard and Steyer on stage, along with new clashes between different candidates. We also got to see more debate on some topics which often got blindsided. Overall, pretty good.
Elaine: This debate may have been less “fun” with the lack of cringe-worthy Spanish and snarky soundbites, but I enjoyed the clash and engagement on nitty-gritty policies from each candidate. I also think that CNN and NYT did a much better job of directly addressing many topics that have been neglected in past debates, such as automation, the opioid crisis, big tech and pharma companies, and abortion. Watching everyone go after Warren instead of Biden was also quite entertaining.
Camille: This was probably my favorite debate. Lots of clash. I liked that the Focus Candidate on this night was Warren. It was nice to see a different person in the spotlight; watching Biden stumble and gaffe in the previous debates made me wince. I thought that the focus on Warren made more candidates stand out, since her policies are much easier to contrast with because of their progressiveness. It was an exciting night.
What Was Not-So-Liked
Surya: Speaking time has always been an issue with these debates, but this time I took more fault with some blatant rudeness. Buttigieg and O’Rourke really went after each other, while some candidates were a bit disrespectful toward Warren. If Democrats really want to appeal to the majority of Americans, they shouldn’t be displaying such attitudes. Personally, I thought it was unproductive and disappointing.
Elaine: The distribution of speaking time was quite skewed, with Warren getting twenty-three minutes compared to Steyer’s seven. However, as primary debates go, this one went smoothly. However, I wasn’t a fan of the last question where candidates had to talk about an unlikely friendship that they have. It just didn’t seem like a productive use of time and didn’t give us any important answers that would inform voters’ choices.
Camille: They were unfair when it came to speaking time allocation, but this is typical of televised debates.
Surya: I felt bad for Biden for different reasons this debate; it seems like he was almost an afterthought. The last couple of times Biden was on the defensive, but this time he didn’t get to directly spar with anyone. It also is a poor show of strength to be asked about one’s fitness to serve and to answer with low energy. Although he avoided attacks, there wasn’t much attention on Biden this time.
Elaine: Compared to Biden’s past performances, this debate was a good one for him. He wasn’t under attack from all sides as he had been in the past three debates, and he didn’t have any big gaffes as he usually does. For the most part, his answers reaffirmed his moderate stance and didn’t help or hurt him. However, I didn’t like his trying to take credit for Warren’s role in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Camille: Biden lucked out on this one. With the attention on Warren, he was able to lay low and avoid attacks from all sides. I thought that his responses to the question about his son were politically strategic insofar as they diverted attention away from himself and towards Donald Trump, but I saw through them as deflections. He did not directly address the question at hand. I must give him some credit though -- this is the first debate in which Biden didn’t have any major gaffes, like the record player comment from the previous debate. Biden will likely remain the top contender for the Democratic party.