The September Democratic Debate: A Candidate – by – Candidate Breakdown

Image via Vox

Image via Vox

Sofia Mulligan

Although there has been no agreement on the winner of the September 12 debate, Senator Warren seems to be getting consistently good reviews, while Senator Sanders uncovered mixed reactions, and former Vice President Biden had a strong start but faltered later on. Castro made some swings toward Biden that seem to have fallen flat, while Harris singled out Trump. The many other candidates were able to have their shining moments, but for the most part were overlooked while the front-runners took the stage.

Both Sanders and Warren are running their candidacy off of their vision of the country, embracing their fiercely liberal views and intentions for sweeping change. Much of the beginning of the debate was spent discussing the issue of healthcare, with Warren and Sanders once again sticking together with their plan of Medicare for All. 

Warren left the debate unscathed and exactly where she wants to be, with her polls steadily rising and no conflict or criticism from her fellow candidates. She wasn’t involved in the night’s most memorable exchanges, but no one aimed any negativity directly toward her or questioned her ability to lead the country, allowing her to define herself as a candidate with specific plans, without getting lost in the minute details of policies.

Vermont senator Sanders approached the night with a different strategy- attack Mr. Biden. Sanders targeted Biden’s main points, making the argument  that the former vice president would not be a true agent of change. Both candidates are fighting for the same group of supporters, and it is unbeknownst to viewers what will happen if Biden begins losing their support.

Mr. Biden tended to ramble on and integrate many mixed metaphors into his answers, along with clinging to the legacy of the Obama administration. An answer to a question on racial differences in education seemed to flow from institutional segregation, school psychologists, teacher pay, his current and late wives, and ended confusingly on the point that parents should keep a record player on at night for the sake of their children’s education. He then pivoted to answer a prior question about Venezuela inspiring the response “Well that was quite a lot” from fellow candidate Julián Castro.

The former vice president faced a series of attacks on his support for the Iraq war, health care policy, trade policy, and his age. Castro made persistent attempts to criticize Biden’s mental fitness, but was shrugged off while Mr. Biden attacked senators Sanders and Warren on their “Medicare for All” health care plan.

While Biden and Sanders duked it out, Harris stuck to a slew of one liners that attacked current president Donald Trump. Her most memorable saying of the night may have been a comparison between Mr. Trump and “The Wizard of Oz”, saying “He reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. When you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude.” 

The remaining candidates  needed their moments, and they tried hard for them. Castro’s attempt was his attack directed at Joe Biden, with the most tweeted line of the night, “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” However, this strike and the further instigations throughout the night may come back to bite him.

Beto O’Rourke appears to be not only loved, but a figure of admiration by his fellow candidates on stage. This followed his response to the shooting in his hometown of  El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed at a Walmart. “Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the midst of that tragedy.” Ms. Harris said. However, this praise is rather indicative of how the other candidates no longer view him as a threat to their campaign.  

Andrew Yang had a very powerful start with his promise to give ten incredibly lucky people $1,000 a month for a year, causing people to wonder if that’s even legal. However, aside from this he seemed to go overlooked for the remainder of the debate.

Amy Klobuchar had stronger opening and closing statements than in past debates , and Cory Booker continued to be an effective debater, despite his frequent use of the term “dagnabit”. 

Another standout moment was when Mayor Pete Buttigieg made a strong testimony about his coming out story and the empowerment and trust of the voters.

With the top candidates maintaining their places and numbers, and the less popular candidates getting little speaking time, it’s difficult to predict how the race for the next debate will play out.