Debate roundtable

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Who won the debate?

Harry Zehner, Opinion Editor: 

Bernie sounded like he smoked a pack of cigarettes immediately prior to going on stage, and he barely spoke, so definitely not him. Warren really embraced her folksy populist style, which comes off as much less frumpy than Bernie’s. She also let Bernie take the heat on Medicare-for-all. Warren looked down-to-earth, smart and, as much as I hate this word, presidential. She took the gold medal for the night.  

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @joebiden on Instagram.

Ashton Stansel, Contributor: 

I think Warren had a great night.  Sanders seemed off, and in turn Warren seemed to fill the progressive-left gap.  The surprise of the night, to me, was the performance that Castro put up.  He was bold and aggressive, and he came off as knowledgeable and dedicated, rather than like he was just reciting talking points and plans.  They definitely won the night.  

Carson Swick, Contributor: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren put up solid performances, but neither seemed to put up that “statement” performance you would expect from a frontrunner. Although I doubt his campaign will take off, Cory Booker’s rational, fact-based arguments were quite impressive for someone polling in the single digits. He even spoke favorably of charter schools, which demonstrates that he is not heavily swayed by the rhetoric of the party’s progressive wing. 

Who lost the debate?

Harry: The pro-gun control lobby. Beto’s rant about taking away AR-15s and AK-47s played perfectly into the NRA’s hands, who have been trying to convince their members that the Democrats want to take away their guns. The video clip of Beto will be used for the foreseeable future to fearmonger and cater to the NRA’s manic base. Other notes: Biden was extremely weak, Yang’s gimmicky giveaway was bizarre and Bernie inexplicably refused to talk for large portions of the debate.  

Ashton:  I was once again incredibly underwhelmed by Joe Biden.  Between referencing record players and seeming nearly incoherent when it came to his health care policies, as Castro correctly pointed out, he did not seem presidential.  I also think Mayor Pete struggled more than prior debates, though he wasn’t awful, and Yang and Klobuchar unsurprisingly disappeared into the woodwork.   

Carson: Three years removed from a relatively strong showing against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders seems like a different politician. His grouchy lectures about health care reform and other far-left ideas do not carry the same eloquence as Elizabeth Warren’s proposals. As I see it, Bernie’s days are numbered and any chance the progressives have at the nomination lies with Warren. Also, Beto O’Rourke’s “take your AR-15” line is nothing more than the cry of a defeated candidate on his way out the door. He was applauded for this bold statement, but no one seems frightened by the Texas congressman. 

 Did your opinion of anyone change after the debate?

Harry: No. Warren is still the most likely nominee, especially once Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Booker and Klobuchar drop out. Kamala Harris did attempt a pretty obvious message change, attempting to pivot towards Trump. It was a bizarre move for someone who sits in fifth place in the polls. I still think she has little to no chance, unless Biden unexpectedly drops out.  

Ashton: Not really. The most surprising performances were Harris and Castro; Warren may have won the debate, but that’s not a surprise anymore.  I’ve never been a huge Sanders fan, but I do think his performance was the exception not the norm.  Overall I think the front-running trio, with the exception of Warren, had a bad night.  I also do not think Harris’s performance was good enough to make people forget her very bad recent press.  

Carson: I always thought of Andrew Yang as a uniquely charismatic political figure. He strays away from the mainstream issues, and his campaign website lists hundreds of policies that are seldom talked about. However, whatever slim chance Yang had at the nomination vanished on Thursday night. His “big announcement” turned out to be nothing more than a carnival raffle, and his “Asian doctor” joke demonstrated that Yang was out of touch with the audience of social progressives. If Yang had centered his campaign around his online proposals instead of the flawed “freedom dividend,” he could have contended. 


Harry Zehner is the opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at harry.zehner@uconn.edu.

Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ashton.stansel@uconn.edu.

Carson Swick is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at carson.swick@uconn.edu.

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