Four takeaways from the fourth Democratic debate

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On Oct. 15, a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls took the debate stage in Westerville, Ohio. As is the case in any political debate, some candidates performed much more impressively than others. As this debate fades into the rear-view mirror and the attention shifts to the upcoming November debate, I present four things I have gathered from last week’s debate: 


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to students and staff at Roosevelt High School, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.  Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to students and staff at Roosevelt High School, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall.

Elizabeth Warren is the clear frontrunner. 
Warren’s stock has only grown in recent months, and as long as she portrays herself as the “idealist” candidate, it will continue to grow. There are two true idealists in this race: Warren (with her progressive vision of Medicare For All) and Andrew Yang (with his call for universal basic income). Unlike Yang, Warren has effectively sold her proposal to a wide audience of voters; this was on full display in last week’s debate. Warren was treated like both an idealist and a frontrunner by both the moderators and her fellow candidates. Seven other candidates, more than half of the entire field, attacked one of Warren’s proposals at some point during the debate

Additionally, Erin Burnett clearly articulated the rules of this debate: Candidates would have 75 seconds to answer moderator questions, 45 seconds for responses and rebuttals, and 15 seconds for clarifications. Both Burnett and Anderson Cooper interrupted Warren when her time expired; however, she was allowed to continue speaking while other candidates were immediately silenced by their interruptions. This was a clear play to the debate’s ratings, as well as the Democratic Party itself. It’s almost as if the moderators were suggesting that Warren must be the nominee because a certain someone has been rather uninspiring lately. 

Joe Biden’s campaign should be down-spiraling. 
And yet somehow it isn’t. Biden still sits atop most polls alongside Warren, but don’t let that mislead you. His performance last Tuesday was mediocre at best, and his few strong moments were massively overshadowed by classic Biden gaffes. His momentary promise to eliminate the capital tax confused everyone. Although Biden corrected his slip-up, mistakes like this are going to keep him from running away with the nomination in spite of his status as a former vice president within a very popular administration. 


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in the Queens borough of New York.  Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in the Queens borough of New York. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.

Bernie’s back; Beto’s buried. 
Less than two weeks removed from hospitalization for a heart attack, Bernie Sanders put up a solid performance. Instead of his usual mumbling, Sanders came across as a focused man on a mission in this debate. He defended his “billionaires should not exist” quote brilliantly, and he even managed to amuse the audience with a witty comeback to Cory Booker’s “medical marijuana” comment. I would go as far to argue that Sanders’ age is becoming less of an issue than Biden’s, despite the fact that he is older than the former vice president. Although Sanders will likely remain behind the leaders of this race, Biden and Warren will certainly Feel the Bern on their heels. (The borough of Queens already is.)

On the other hand, it was a rough night for Beto O’Rourke, whose views on gun control made him popular with the far left. However, when this subject is not mentioned in a debate, O’Rourke has little to distinguish himself from other candidates in a crowded field. As of now, he has not yet met all of the qualifications for next month’s debate in Georgia. O’Rourke’s slim chances in this race depend on the gun issue, and unfortunately for him, it is not mainstream at a critical time. 

There is no room for LPM’s in this race. 
What I like to call the “low-polling moderate” candidates. While my acronym may be new, this concept is not. These are candidates who stand little to no chance at the nomination; but do hold a bit of influence over the undecided viewing audience. The two most prominent LPM’s at this debate were Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard.  

Booker took the opportunity created by a discourse between Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke to assert that the Democrats have only one chance to make Donald Trump a “one-term president.” While this statement was met with applause from the audience, it seemed to mean little to the other candidates onstage, who proceeded to return to fighting just minutes later. 

On the other hand, Tulsi Gabbard hoped to employ a moderate philosophy, but she does not have the experience (and thus, credibility) of the leaders in the race. Her misguided answers regarding Syria and the role of mainstream media in America echoed those of a small-state Republican rather than a Democratic presidential hopeful. 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of John Lovretta/The Hawk Eye via AP.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.


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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