The seventh Democratic debate on Tuesday marked the final debate before the Iowa caucus takes place and the race officially gets underway. It was befitting of the night that the debate was held in Iowa, which was no doubt a deliberate choice on the part of the DNC. Among the storylines which soaked up the most media attention in the leadup to the debate was a report that at a 2018 meeting between Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Sanders told her he thought a woman could not win the presidency in the United States. After Sanders publicly denied the report, it set the stage for a contentious argument on debate night over what really happened at the meeting. Moreover, questions abounded over whether this story was deliberately leaked by the Warren campaign in the leadup to Iowa for political gain — as the meeting had taken place at least a year and a half prior to the debate — and whether one of the two was playing fast and loose with the facts. Overall though, it was a fairly uneventful debate with no clear winners of the night.
The Democratic Party seems to be scrambling to find an alternative to Biden before the imminent implosion of his campaign. Both former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and businessman Michael Bloomberg have entered the race at an unprecedentedly late juncture. While uncertainty and apprehension are gripping elements of the party, the debates seem to have bored the public, as the viewership has been trending steadily downwards since the first pair of debates in June. The lack of excitement and even disinterest or rejection of the party that this may represent is a worrying sign for the Democratic party, who will need to drive up turnout in November of 2020 to secure the White House and even win a majority of seats in the Senate (although the odds do not appear to be in their favor for the latter). I hold the belief that Democrats ought to whittle the field down considerably, both for a chance at greater interest and viewership and in order to maintain more focused and substantive debates.
Trendlines in the RealClearPolitics average of polls show Elizabeth Warren on a continuous rise since the September debate at the expense of almost everyone else in the field. This surge has brought about more media coverage, but also increasing scrutiny coming from the remaining candidates. The night largely ended up as a vetting of Warren, which she mostly passed, but not without a few contentious moments. Each candidate’s grade reflects the extent to which their performance on the night is likely to help their chances in the primary.
The third Democratic debate was scheduled for after Labor Day, a time many consider to be an inflection point in attention paid to the race. It was the first single-night debate, with all the candidates congregating on stage to dance to the tune of the moderators’ questions and crowd reactions.
As with the first night, I will grade how much the candidates’ performances contributed to their campaigns.
Continuing the series on candidate debate performance grades and analysis, I will provide my input as to how much the candidates contributed to their campaigns on the first night.
With the first democratic primary debates behind us, each candidate will be pressing to spin their performance favorably, no matter how middling, lackluster or even self-evidently superb their performance may have been. Now that the campaign is underway and candidates are being scrutinized by voters and moderators alike, I will be sharing my own post-debate takeaways. The ranking system is based on who did the most to improve their chances and — especially for the lesser known candidates — get their name out.