Well, a lot of people last night had a good night. Which means that nobody really stood out.
To recap, here were the participants in last nights debate:
- Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
- New York Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand
- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
- New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- California Sen. Kamala Harris
- Andrew Yang
- Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
A lot of policy came through, despite the format which called for quick sound bite answers.
But the question were often framed as set-up for attacks on each other, and the candidates took full advantage of that. As they had on Tuesday night, CNN moderators framed questions built on Republican talking points and designed to goad candidates into fighting among themselves. More so than on the previous night, Wednesday’s group obliged
Everyone took their turns attacking Joe Biden (and by extension, some of Obama’s policies). In fact, Biden trotted onstage and joked to Harris: “Go easy on me, kid:, not knowing his mic was live. And they all did. This time, however, he fought back quite well — mostly. At times, a punch landed. And Bill de Blasio went after Biden so hard that it pretty much backfired. But other times, Biden hid behind Obama — which didn’t make him look like his own man.
Tulsi Gabbard also went after Kamala Harris for her prosecutorial record, and Harris’s comeback was not strong.
For me, the problem is that when some candidates said something great, they seemed weak everywhere else. Yang seemed to only want to talk about technology taking away jobs. Inslee was moving and passionate about climate change, but he only seemed to WANT to talk about that.
So who did the best?
Booker was well-spoken and solid throughout. Many thought he “won” the debate last night, and it’s not an unreasonable opinion.
Biden stood up for himself much better than before.
Castro and Harris was also consistent.
Gabbard had a good night as well, although as a candidate, she has some real problems with her foreign relation stances — which weren’t attacked. (After meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Gabbard said the dictator is not an enemy of the United States.)
I thought GIllebrand did well, although debating is not her forte. She had good lines (“cloroxing the oval office” if she became president), but they seemed a little canned
But — although Inslee and Yang had their moments. they seemed to be one-trick ponies on their issues: technology and climate change, respectively.
De Blasio and Bennet were just awful. De Blasio was too combative and without substance; Bennet was just bumbling.
Like the night before, the fights were often about moderate incremental change versus wholesale change of the way government operates — the latter had the stronger proponents.
At one point, the circular firing realized who the real enemy was and forcefully turned their sites on Donald Trump. Harris made no bones about prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law.
Opinions last night are all over the place, but the emerging one is that Elizabeth Warren was the biggest beneficiary of last — because too much blood was split.
So where are we now? Let’s see what Nate Silver thinks:
I think that’s about right. And now, Seth’s summary of both nights…