Who won the #DemDebate?

by John English

I watched most of the #DemDebate on Tuesday, and this is how I would rate how they did.

12. BETO O’ROURKE – The guy is just not ready. He couldn’t recover from the dressing-down Pete Buttigieg gave him, and his answers were hollow. And his plans (“Tax mosques!”) are just getting more desperate.

11. TOM STEYER – His strategy was to look directly into the camera for all of his answers, but he looked stiff when doing so. It reminded me of the charisma-free businessman Steve Forbes (okay, not quite that bad). He said yes I’m a billionaire and I think corporations have too much power. Please make it illegal to make wealth the way I made it. He shouldn’t be running for president. He should be deciding which better candidate to put his money behind.

10. JULIAN CASTRO – He barely made it to the stage, and he did nothing to stand out. I don’t see the point of his candidacy.

9. TULSI GABBARD – She took positions no one else on stage would, but when it came to her showdown with the only other vet on stage (Buttigieg), she wilted. And the third time she attacked Warren, it came across as a transparent attack to get herself more screen time.

8. KAMALA HARRIS – Her big move was to ask people to join her in the unserious proposal of demanding Twitter suspend Donald Trump’s account. Lead balloon. Pretty amazing to watch someone who had such a good first debate be unable to live up to it in every debate since.

7. ANDREW YANG – He’s doing great with his push for the Universal Basic Income, but when he tried to equivocate Russian meddling in our elections with other times the US has meddled in other elections, he got slapped down (again, by Buttigieg).

6. CORY BOOKER – He played peacemaker all night, trying to keep things positive, had a bunch of one-liners you could tell he couldn’t wait to use. I also see him staying put at the 2% range in the polls.

5. JOE BIDEN – He’s no longer getting front-runner treatment, and he didn’t do anything to take his #1 position back. He had his normal verbal stumblings, and when he gets less secure in his answer, he just raises his voice.

4. BERNIE SANDERS – Not a bad performance for a guy who just had a heart attack. Held his own in the debate, but I think his standings in the polls from here on out with being a reflection of concern over his health, not over his debate performances.

3. ELIZABETH WARREN – She’s the frontrunner. She took the most arrows and for the most part, handled it well. Her snideness came through on occasion, not to mention her refusing to answer some direct questions. Felt evasive. But that’s what frontrunners do. They need to start hedging and think about the general election.

2. AMY KLOBUCHAR – There’s an opening in the moderate lane with Biden fading, and she swooped in and took full control of it. She effectively dinged Warren for acting like if you don’t agree with her plan, then you’re just engaging in Republican talking points. She poked holes in arguments of many of the candidates’ fluffy answers. One could picture her debating Trump with her firm “Midwest niceness.” In a just world, she’ll see a spike in the polls after this performance. She’s certainly seen a spike in fundraising.

1. PETE BUTTIGIEG – Part of his strategy seemed to be to crush as many candidates as possible so they can narrow this race down. Yang? “Whack!” Gabbard? “Pow!” O’Rourke? “FINISH HIM!” This race has gone from Biden and everyone else to the top three, and now Pete’s made the case it should be a top-four race, and he’s the only one not in his 70’s. He’s a deft debater, with a background that the right (military) and left (gay) can appreciate. And could he out-debate Trump? Easily.

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