7 takeaways from the 7th Democratic debate

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In this Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 file photo, from left, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg look to answer a question during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

In this Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 file photo, from left, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg look to answer a question during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

After a wild 2019, the turn of the decade has not shown any signs of slowing down the chaos that has become the new norm in American politics. Last week, six Democratic presidential hopefuls took to the debate stage in Des Moines with hopes of making a lasting impression to carry them through the upcoming Iowa caucuses. As always, I present seven takeaways from the seventh Democratic debate of this election season. 

  1. The shrinking field helps Pete Buttigeg. It makes sense to assume that the small-town mayor would shine on a debate stage with only six candidates. Buttigeg has only received more attention through the progression of this race, and he made the most of that attention last week. His night was far from perfect, but Buttigieg articulated most of his foreign policy arguments well and, after his “wine cave” debacle, managed to avoid attacks from fellow candidates.  

  2. Bernie’s night was characterized by missed opportunities. Perhaps the smaller debate stage did not help Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, whose campaign raised $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Despite this, Sanders again failed to explain how he plans to fund his “Medicare For All” proposals. He was also at the center of the evening’s greatest controversy, when Elizabeth Warren accused him of doubting the electability of women. Bernie could have saved the situation with something along the lines of “a woman is not winning this election because I am,” but his defensive approach backfired, and Warren made a fool of him.  

  3. Warren carries huge momentum into primary season. Bernie Sanders was not the only one outclassed by the clear winner of this debate. Of course, Warren’s comeback to Sanders was the highlight of her night, but she seemed at peace throughout the debate. Though Warren may be too progressive to dominate the Iowa caucuses, I certainly expect her to remain the party’s likely nominee.  

  4. Another mixed night for Joe Biden. The man currently leading in Iowa has underwhelmed on the debate stage thus far, and his performance last Tuesday continued this trend. There is not much to say about the former vice president except that he is clearly riding the Obama wave. I still believe that Biden is the party’s best hope to bring back the Trump coalition of middle and working class whites, but he must step up his game to take down Elizabeth Warren.  

  5. Klobuchar will slowly fade out. I have seen a lot of hype surrounding Amy Klobuchar’s “dark horse” potential, but I was not impressed by her performance at this debate. Her inability to remember Kansas governor Laura Kelly’s name was as embarrassing as it was awkward. Joe Biden made it this far with mediocre debate performances, but Klobuchar lacks Biden’s recognizability. Thus, it is a matter of time before the Klobuchar campaign suspends itself.  

  6. Steyer’s stare makes us all uncomfortable. I do not intend to use this forum as a means to mock any presidential candidates. But I would be shocked if I am the only one who believes that Saturday Night Live’s “Democratic Debate: Cold Open” did not hit America’s perception of Tom Steyer head-on. I am becoming concerned about how little Steyer blinks when speaking to television cameras. Though he made some decent arguments, the fact that Steyer was part of a smaller debate only made his stare more visible. As such, he struggles to inspire many Americans to take him seriously.  

  7. The elephant (not) in the room: Michael Bloomberg. Oh, excuse me… “Mike” Bloomberg. Because apparently adopting a simple nickname is the latest strategy for progressive New York billionaires trying to win working-class votes. I must give credit to Bloomberg’s television advertising and drive to remain in this race. But the simple fact remains that the election is 10 months away, and Bloomberg has not attended a single debate. His campaign’s reliance on advertising and his financial status have made Bloomberg’s White House bid eerily similar to Tom Steyer’s, which is not for the best.  

    I don’t love to get into predictions, but I will say that I anticipate at least one of the billionaires and Andrew Yang (who was absent from last week’s debate) to drop out before the February debate. The nomination is still a four-horse race between Biden, Buttigeg, Sanders and Warren. But if 2016 taught us anything, we know not to count out before the early primaries are held. 


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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