Tonight’s Democratic 2020 primary debate: the big winners and losers

Tonight’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate saw a dozen candidates take the stage together, making for a lengthy and at times chaotic debate. Plenty of the candidates put in strong performances but got lost in the shuffle. Here’s who won and lost the debate.

Winners: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. It’s not about the strength of their performances tonight. It’s that for all the back-and-forth tonight, nothing happened during the debate that’ll change any votes. The polls will look the same tomorrow that they did yesterday. By definition that means the two frontrunners “won” because no one gained any ground on them tonight.

Sideways: Bernie Sanders. On the plus side, he looked and sounded healthier tonight than he did before his heart attack. The trouble is that even before his health became an issue, the polls made clear that Bernie was losing supporters to Warren. He needed to win tonight’s debate in order to stop that slide – and it didn’t happen.

Loser: Tulsi Gabbard. She threatened to boycott the debate, citing the latest conspiracy she’d made up about the DNC, but ultimately relented and ended up participating. She’d have been better off if she’d stayed home. Her talking points on Syria were identical to the rhetoric coming from murderous Syrian dictator Assad, raising more questions about her connections to the guy. Gabbard also kept weirdly calling on Warren to join her in supporting this or that nonsensical policy, in such robotic fashion it sounded like Gabbard was working from a script. Democrats already despise and distrust her, and tonight’s debacle will only make things worse for her.

Honorable mention. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris all put in solid performances tonight. Unfortunately for them, none of them stood out in a way that’s likely to improve their low poll numbers. The good news for them is that they didn’t knock themselves out of the race tonight. The bottom line is that this debate was spirited and served to educate viewers on a number of issues, but it didn’t change anything about the primary race.

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