And then there were 10: recapping the September Democratic Debate

by Curtis Haring

Last night we saw the third Democratic presidential debate and, as the field narrows, it is time to take a look at how the ten candidates faired. Let’s break it down in reverse order of popularity (just to be different) according to the opinion of one not-so-humble Democrat.

Former Housing Secretary Julian Casto

Castro probably raised the most eyebrows when he openly attacked the current front runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, asking if he had “forgotten what [he] said two minutes ago” in relation to Biden’s health care plan while promoting Obamacare. The moment has proven divisive among Democrats, with some (such as Senator Klobuchar) stating that these were tactics similar to what candidate Trump employed during his run for office, while others feel that this is reflective of the increasing frustration between old-guard Democrats and younger Gen X and Gen Y voters who are looking for a change in the system.

Senator Amy Klobuchar

The senator from Minnesota continues to advance her play as “the Anti Donald Trump,” repeating on several occasions that she is just a midwesterner with practical ideas to America’s problems. In all, she gave a solid performance and it sounded as if she is running more for a VP or Cabinet position at this point.

Congressman Beto O’Rourke

Hailing from Texas, the site of the recent high profile El Paso shooting, O’Rourke played to the home-town audience in his calls for sweeping changes to gun control – advocating in no uncertain terms that he wanted to forcefully buyback assault-style weapons such as AR-15’s. Though the plan clearly appealed to those in the crowd and many that feel that something needs to be done on gun control, such a play would no doubt hurt his chances with moderates and anti-Trump conservatives who sour at the idea taking away guns.

Senator Cory Booker

Senator Booker had a difficult time distinguishing himself from the field Thursday, coming across as more liberal than the moderates on the stage but less left-leaning than the hardliners. In what was perhaps a presidential debate first, Booker had to explain that though, he himself is a vegan, he isn’t going to take away American’s hamburgers (this being the current state of affairs, apparently). Booker explained that he is instead advocating for more sustainable solutions to food production and that overgrazing can lead to severe environmental damage.

Andrew Yang

Yang continued to sound like a hybrid of every first-year political science student combined with the r/politics page on Reddit. In particular, his idea of “Democracy Dollars” where citizens are allocated $100 to donate to candidates as the only means of campaign finance reform prove that Yang may be big on ideas, but short on how the political process actually works and what policy reform actually takes.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

The South Bend, Indiana mayor gained brownie points with many as he retold his account of coming out but largely failed to stand out on any particular policy points in Houston. One area where Buttigieg stood out was his attacks on President Trump and trade war policy decisions, stating that Trump “clearly has no strategy” on how to deal with the ongoing tariffs and their effect on the American people.

Senator Kamala Harris

Senator Harris spent the first half of the debate playing defense as she was forced to explain her stances on criminal justice when she was the Attorney General of California but was able to pivot in the second half when she spoke of the importance of education in both her life and the life of all Americans. Harris also drew giggles when comparing the president to the “really small dude” behind the curtain in the Wizzard of Oz.

Senator Bernie Sanders

We saw peak-Sanders last night as the Senator from Vermont came strong, continually reinforcing his desire to see a form of democratic-socialism take hold in the United States. He also played his greatest hits concerning wealth redistribution from the top 1, 0.1, and 0.01% of earners in the country and Medicaid for all. Sanders probably didn’t gain any new voters, but he did a great job sticking to his platform.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Warren probably had the best performance of all on stage last night – assertive without appearing aggressive, thoughtful without appearing staged, passionate without appearing hyperpartisan. Warren doubled down on her educator persona by having a plan for just about everything thrown at her, from education, gun violence, the environment, and the economy, Warren truly came off as the policy wonk of the night.

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Love him or hate him, you had to feel bad for Biden last night. Being the frontrunner always means that you have a target on your back – and boy, that target was bigger than the broadside of a barn (heck, he even got heckled by the audience during closing remarks). Biden continued to lean heavily on the work he did under Obama while simultaneously trying to distance himself from stances he held much earlier in his political career. As the night wore on, Biden sounded outdated on issues related to education (let’s play records to our kids at night) and downright aggressive on the aforementioned race issues. It is doubtful that Biden gained new supporters with the performance, but he probably hasn’t lost any either.

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