5th Democratic debate winners and losers

GovSight’s take on the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates debate performances.

On Wednesday night, 10 candidates took the stage in Atlanta, Georgia at Tyler Perry Studios, for the fifth Democratic presidential debate. The debate was full of memorable moments, but here are our winners and losers.

Winner: Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Pete came into the debate Wednesday with something the other candidates did not: his first two polls putting him ahead in New Hampshire the nation’s first caucus and primary. For a second debate in a row, he once again hammered home that he is running to be a president for the future and that he wants to address the causes of the Trump Presidency, not the results of it.

In his first remarks of the night, Buttigieg addressed how these political circumstances have caused Americans to be failed on the issues Democrats care about the most. In his view, some of the biggest calamities of the Trump Administration have been the sidelining of climate change and gun control. The South Bend, Indiana mayor spoke with a depth and clarity about issues plaguing farmers that other candidates on the stage, seemed distant to their problems. Getting into the weeds of farm subsidies and monopolization in that industry that has hurt so many in the heartland, Buttigieg spoke directly to midwest voters that had been lost by Democrats in 2016, and more importantly for his campaign at this moment, voters in Iowa.

Perhaps his standout moment of the night however was when fellow veteran Rep. Tulsi Gabbard challenged him on recent remarks regarding sending American Military to Mexico to help fight the cartel while touting her own security experience. After deftly saying that Washington experience is failing to get the job done, he also questioned the Congresswoman from Hawaii, regarding her judgement for her meeting with Bashar al-Assad and when she responded saying she wanted to follow in the footsteps of great leaders who had met with adversaries, Buttigieg shrewdly mentioned that Donald Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un should be on that list too.

As strong Pete Buttigieg supporter Ridgley Knapp told Govsight: “I think Pete did a good job! In my opinion, his focus on the rural economy, his outreach to religious voters, and his strength as a candidate of unity rather than division shone through. It’s clear why he’s leading in Iowa: he’s a candidate who can build a new coalition to win the White House.”

It’s clear that there should be smiles in the Buttigieg camp after Wednesday night’s performance. Another strong outing on the debate stage, for a candidate on the rise.

Winner: Cory Booker

Cory Booker might as well have followed up asking Joe Biden about “whether he was high when he said that,” concerning the former Vice President’s recent remarks about not wanting to legalize marijuana with “ok boomer.” And while that moment may have been one of the marquee exchanges of the night, it certainly was not Booker’s only remark that stood out.

Booker, who early on reminded viewers that he was “the other Rhodes Scholar Mayor” on the stage, also piqued attention when discussing the importance of the black community and black vote, something he said he has “been a member of since the day I turned 18.” Stressing key issues of importance on his housing plans, just taxation, and ways to create wealth for American families, Booker was adeptly able to cut through much of the noise last night employing both charisma, comedy and straight talk to voters in a candid way that other candidates on the stage just simply could not articulate.

In an honest plea at the end of the debate in his closing statements, Senator Booker was blunt about not yet being at the thresholds mandated by the DNC for the next debate and asked potential donors to visit his website and consider giving what they can. After his performance last night, that goal might not seem as far off.

Winner: Amy Klobuchar

When asked about remarks regarding her claim that a woman of Pete Buttigieg’s credentials would not be on the stage, Senator Klobuchar chose not to take down her opponent, but rather raise the case that “women are held to a higher standard, otherwise we could play a game called name your favorite woman president.”

Stressing her case to build coalitions of Democrats across the country, from red districts to those that are “bright” blue, she drove down once again on her message of appealing to voters in the “heartland.” Often acting as a strong critique of the most liberal candidates on the stage, she once again impressed with her effective plans. One of her finest moments was when the Minnesota Senator discussed voting rights and how every 18 year old in the United States should be automatically registered to vote. She followed up with a tidbit about how if such a plan was law of the land, that Stacey Abrams would be the Governor of Georgia right now, a comment that played not only well to the crowd, but loyal Democrats across the nation.

In perhaps one of the debate’s lighter and funniest moments, Senator Klobuchar mentioned that she certainly set a fundraising record for a candidate from ex-boyfriends, and came ready with the stats to back it up. $17,000 from exs and a strong debate performance once again shows the kind of direct to voter politics that has Klobuchar looking to climb higher in Iowa.

Loser: Health Care

Remember the in depth conversation about the applications, implications, requirements, and practicality of Medicare for all on the debate stage? Us neither.

One of the key issues separating both Democratic candidates, and their voters, is healthcare. Despite a brief discussion at the beginning in which Bernie Sanders was able to use his trademark “I wrote the damn bill” comment as it pertains to Medicare for All, there was very little discussion of the transformational policy ideas.

After the short discussion of healthcare, other issues took center stage such as climate change and even surprisingly quite a lengthy discussion of foreign policy. These debates however served to show distinctions and differing visions of the candidates on other issues, but came at the expense of healthcare.

Loser: Tulsi Gabbard

When a verified twitter account of President Trump uses a clip of you from the debate unironically to promote themselves, it may just be an indicator that your performance may not have been the greatest.

Tulsi’s worst moment was when she suffered a vicious teardown from Senator Kamala Harris after the Congresswoman was asked to explain her recent spat with 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton. Harris dismantled Tulsi’s argument by raising her frequent Fox News visits, attacks on the Obama Administration, and courting Steve Bannon, ultimately claiming that the party needs someone who actually believes in it. Further along in the debate, she went after Mayor Pete, who as discussed above, handled it with confidence and poise that made Gabbard look silly for attacking him in the first place.

For what it is worth, Gabbard’s supporters were probably happy with her performance last night. She was incredibly on message with her “end regime change wars” tagline used throughout the night. Whether that is a winning strategy however, is a much more important question. At this point, it is hard to see any real possibility of that being the case. Especially after last night.

Loser: Joe Biden

Performances come and go in a moment. Biden, who has proven to not be the most adept debater, was frankly holding his own Wednesday night until one giant gaffe sent the whole night awry and once again raised questions of his constant missteps on the biggest stage.

When touting African-American endorsements, Biden mentioned that he had been endorsed by the “only black woman elected to the Senate.” While there is some debate over whether he said “had been,” it certainly was a terrible look when the camera panned to Senator Kamala Harris hands raised wondering why she was suddenly no longer included in such a description.

The moment ended up being a major stumble in what was otherwise a solid performance for the former Vice President. However, when discussing his support with African-Americans, the main driving force behind his campaign, was the worst possible way in which he could have messed up. In short, Biden survived another debate but, was far from a winner



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