With the 2020 presidential election less than a year away, the 10 remaining Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump took the debate stage once again on Wednesday night in Georgia. This debate, characterized by the audience’s laughter and more unification among candidates than we have seen previously, seemed to be business as usual. However, I present five takeaways to show it was anything but a typical political discourse.
Pete Buttigieg may actually have a chance.
In just a few months, the little-known mayor of South Bend, Indiana has become the ultimate dark horse in this race. An MSNBC poll earlier this week showed Buttigieg leading in Iowa, and Buttigieg’s ability to present himself as a politically moderate Washington outsider has enabled him to compete with the frontrunners. Although the mayor’s night was far from perfect, his creative answer about his own wealth was a signature moment.
This was the chance for a frontrunner to make a statement. It did not happen.
While Buttigieg capitalized on the increased scrutiny he faced during this debate, the three candidates polling ahead of him nationally (Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders) appeared to lose some ground. Of the three, the longtime progressive Sanders put on the best performance, clearly demonstrating that his heart attack scare is behind him.
Warren’s night was mixed, which is a low point by her standards. She continues to struggle to explain how the nation will pay for her “Medicare for All” proposals, and her bizarre call for increasing participation in the military did not help her cause.
And I continue to question how Joe Biden is still in this race. Turn back the clock five years and the former vice president would win the nomination easily. But a 77-year-old man who forgets that Kamala Harris is in fact a senator does not exactly inspire many voters.
Kamala Harris remains consistently inconsistent.
Unlike Joe Biden, I will not forget about Ms. Harris, who put up another strange performance. Her assertion that President Trump “got punked” by North Korea was cringeworthy. She seems to resort to attacking the president when made uncomfortable in a debate, which ultimately will not distinguish her from a crowded field. I predict that Harris will drop out of this race in fifth or sixth place.
Trailing candidates are loud and proud, but they will not stick around.
The failure of the frontrunners to dominate this debate left the door open for the longshot candidates to make some noise. Once again, Cory Booker and Andrew Yang put up memorable performances. Booker’s comeback to Pete Buttigieg’s attempt to cater to black voters was beautifully executed, while Yang’s “first phone call with Putin” got the audience roaring. Still, Yang’s foreign policy proposals as a whole seem uninspired, which will hurt him in the long run. And for whatever reason, Booker just cannot deliver that breakout moment.
Even Senator Amy Klobuchar threw herself into the limelight by praising Nancy Pelosi’s ability as a woman to “beat” Donald Trump. Unfortunately for her, the only woman with a chance at the nomination is Elizabeth Warren. Klobuchar is correct that a woman could beat Trump, but it certainly will not be her.
The man in the White House is the real winner of this debate.
And it is not even close. For almost the entire second half of this debate, the only thing most of the candidates seemed interested in was taking jabs at Donald Trump. From Kamala Harris’ “punked” remark to the various references to the president’s Twitter account, the subject of “The Donald” would simply not go away. As Trump has taught us, any form of press can be beneficial in the digital age.
Also, the candidates’ collective disdain for the president shows a glimpse of party unification. Unification is an important principle for the Democratic Party to consider, since its candidates have been quite divided up until this point. The story of a moderate (Biden) wedged between a pair of progressives (Warren and Sanders) atop the polls looked favorable for the party’s left wing. But with the rise of Pete Buttigieg as a more inspiring moderate, the future direction of the party remains uncertain. Republicans remain overwhelmingly supportive of President Trump, which is something no Democratic candidate can boast about at this point in the race.
The conclusion of the fifth Democratic debate has left the door wide open. As I see it, four candidates (Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren) still have realistic hopes of winning the party’s nomination, but I would not have included Buttigieg on this list several weeks ago. Only six candidates have already qualified for the sixth debate in California next month, and only time can separate the contenders from the pretenders.
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Carson Swick is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Carson.firstname.lastname@example.org