Tonight’s Democratic 2020 primary debate, which featured three of the five most popular candidates along with a number of also-rans, was an odd and at times frustrating affair. If people tuned in to hear Elizabeth Warren face off with Bernie Sanders, they instead largely got Elizabeth Warren facing off with John Delaney. If they tuned in to hear Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, they tuned in on the wrong night. Still, tonight’s debate was illuminating in some ways. Here are the winners and losers.
Winner: Elizabeth Warren. She won her debate last time around, but because she wasn’t on stage with any other top-five candidates, and most of the fireworks happened during the other debate night, she got very little credit for it. She won her debate again tonight, and because she was finally on stage with other high profile candidates, she’ll get credit for it this time.
Sideways: Bernie Sanders. Warren has been climbing in the polls over the past month, partly at Bernie’s expense. Tonight was his chance to show that he could hang in there with Warren, and it simply did not happen. Bernie got in some good moments, and he didn’t hurt himself tonight. But he needed a win, and he didn’t get it.
Sideways: Pete Buttigieg. If Kamala Harris was the clear winner of her debate last time around, Mayor Pete earned honorable mention. He did well enough tonight, but he was hurt by not being on stage with Harris and Biden.
Loser: John Delaney. He’s the candidate who’s only famous for being so obscure. He needed a big opportunity to go head to head with a high profile candidate, and he got that tonight when he somehow ended up going directly up against Elizabeth Warren for a prolonged amount of time. But she steamrolled him to the point that it was almost comical. It’s time for him to drop out.
Winner: Kamala Harris and/or Joe Biden: Everything that happened during tonight’s debate will be promptly forgotten once Biden and Harris have whatever fireworks they’re going to have tomorrow night. Whoever comes out on top of that battle will be seen as the big winner of the overall debate, at the expense of anyone who did well tonight. This random-draw debate format isn’t helping anyone.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report