Debate winners and losers, Warren on the defensive, and what we’re watching for before the next Democratic debate. Hannah Gaber, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Twelve Democratic presidential candidates took to the debate stage Tuesday evening—making it the biggest primary debate in history.
Some candidates needed to make no mistakes. Others needed to stand out from the pack to advance in a frequently diminishing field, while a few of the hopefuls still struggled to get a word in.
Here is our take on how they did:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar came out punching.
The Minnesota Democrat wasn’t afraid to criticize other candidates, in particular, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Klobuchar, who has struggled to get a word in during past debates, went out of her way to differentiate her more moderate policies from the more progressive stances. Although she’s done the same in past debates, she has never been this forceful.
One of Klobuchar’s biggest moments was calling Warren out on how she will pay for a Medicare for All plan, adding that she believes Warren is handing Republicans a gift by offering up a plan they can attack as too expensive.
“I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice,” Klobuchar told to Warren. “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream, is something that you can actually get done.”
The tactic might pay off. Klobuchar has yet to make the November debate stage and this may be the push she needs.
South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg was also ready to take some of his more progressive competitors to task on their policies.
Buttigieg used forceful rhetoric during the debate to showcase his more moderate proposals. Buttigieg, who over the past week has hit Warren on Medicare for All, did so again on Tuesday’s debate stage. He criticized Warren for not fully answering whether she will raise taxes for voters for her Medicare for All plan, claiming it is an example of why people are “so frustrated with Washington.”
“I don’t understand why you believe the only way to deliver affordable coverage for everyone is by obliterating private plans,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg, a combat veteran, was also able to showcase his experience when talking about foreign policy.
“You can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump’s policy,” Buttigieg said. “What we were doing in Syria was keeping our word.”
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Tuesday was the first night that foreign policy was talked about substantively after being ignored in the last three debates.
The topic was brought up in response to Trump’s announcement last week that he is going to withdraw troops from Syria, a move that has been criticized by Democrats and some Republicans alike. However, the president has defended the move by saying he wants to extract American soldiers from overseas commitment.
Biden said that decision is the “most shameful thing any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy.” Klobuchar also criticized Trump’s decision, questioning how “leaving the Kurds for slaughter, our allies for slaughter” would make “Make America Great Again.”
In a discussion on the disparaging income gap in the United States, all the candidates agreed that the billionaires in this country are benefiting too much from the current tax system—even if they disagreed on how to fix it.
Klobuchar quipped: ”Nobody on this stage wants to protect billionaires—not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires.”
Businessman Tom Steyer, the only billionaire on the crowded stage, commented on the income gap that “It’s absolutely wrong and it’s absolutely undemocratic and unfair.”
Sanders and Warren defended their ideas of a wealth tax, with Sanders grinning largely when asked if he believes that “billionaires shouldn’t exist,” a common one-liner for his campaign.
Warren claimed that she doesn’t “have a beef with billionaires,” but continued to argue that because billionaires have “made a fortune in America,” they should be able help “every other kid in America has a chance to make it.”
No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, it became clear tonight the candidates are not satisfied with the wealth differentials.
Yes or no: Elizabeth Warren on paying for Medicare for All
The Massachusetts senator, who boasts that she has a plan for everything, wouldn’t say if taxes will go up for the middle class to pay Medicare for All when asked to explicitly say so multiple times by debate moderators.
“My view on this and what I have committed to is costs will go down for hard-working middle-class families,” Warren stated, not committing to saying the same for taxes specifically.
She was responding to a question if she would clearly say yes or no on the issue as Sanders did for the same plan. Sanders admitted, “I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up: They’re gonna up significantly for the wealthy and for virtually everybody. The tax increase will be substantially less—substantially less—than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.”
Klobuchar jabbed that “At least Bernie’s being honest here and saying how he’s going to pay this. I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we will send the invoice.”
Warren was attacked by other moderate candidates on the stage largely on this issue, but especially from Buttigieg, who has previously said that she is being “evasive” on the issue, claimed that this was why people are “so frustrated with Washington.”
Buttigieg said, “We heard it tonight. A yes or no question that didn’t get a yes or no answer.”
The candidates who weren’t on the stage tonight
As time goes on, the qualifications for upcoming debates will only get tougher for the crowded field of Democratic hopefuls.
A clear loser for tonight were the seven candidates that didn’t grace the stage tonight.
- Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
- Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
- Miramar, Fla. Mayor Wayne Messam
- Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan
- Former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania
- Author and activist Marianne Williamson
The DNC recently released more difficult requirements candidates must meet to qualify for the November debates.
Williamson isn’t on the debate stage tonight, but she still reminded voters of her presence, tweeting as the debate started, “No, they’re not the only Democratic candidates for President of the United States,” and Delaney tweeted a picture of himself enjoying the night watching the Washington Nationals play their way into the World Series.
Tonight’s debate was a crucial moment for every candidate to make waves as these requirements additionally set up the possibility that several additional candidates may miss the stage compared to tonight’s match-up, potentially ending some campaigns.
Just how critical was tonight? Of the 12 candidates that did appear, four of them, Beto O’Rourke, Klobuchar, Julián Castro and Tulsi Gabbard, still haven’t qualified for next month’s debate. It is unlikely that those who didn’t appear tonight will be on November’s stage.
Climate change, LGBTQ rights, immigration
There were three huge topics for voters that were not discussed at length during Tuesday night’s debate.
Both the climate crisis and LGBTQ rights warranted their own town halls, but the candidates were not provided the opportunity to debate these issues.
Jay Inslee, the prior climate candidate who recently dropped out of the running for the Democratic nomination, tweeted that it was “completely inexcusable.”
Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for Rapid Response at the Human Rights Campaign, said LGBTQ voters were “invisible in this conversation.”
Senator Harris tweeted her disapproval of the lack of conversation on these topics, saying they are “too important to ignore.”
This was his debut on a debate stage and his first impression wasn’t all that impressive.
He couldn’t gain any real momentum beyond the talk of impeachment, which he has been calling for since 2017. He founded Need to Impeach, a group with the singular goal of impeaching Trump. Since then, he has pumped millions of dollars into the group.
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