News/Op-Ed: Mayor Pete Shines, Biden Stumbles
by Tim Levine, Executive Editor
This past Wednesday ten of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates filled the stage for the fifth debate of the primary season, a rather lackluster night that saw moderate candidates come out strong.
Held in Atlanta, the debate stage was vacant this time around of former-congressman Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the race, and Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who did not meet the polling and donor requirements to qualify for the debate.
With the Iowa Democratic Caucus fast approaching, many of the lower-polling candidates needed to have a big night. For example, billionaire Tom Steyer needed to pick up momentum in this debate to show he is a force that has a path forward, but he was largely forgettable and did not do much to either increase or decrease his stock.
Remaining stagnant in the polls at around three to four percent, entrepreneur Andrew Yang was also pining to make an impression on the debate stage. However, with the lack of speaking time he was provided and a rather uneventful line of questioning, Yang suffered by not necessarily performing poorly, but not really performing at all.
Another low-polling candidate, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, also had to make her voice heard and suffered from heavy criticism from Senator Kamala Harris over her anti-party sentiments and her past record. Tulsi continued this anti-party sentiment throughout the debate, claiming the Democrats are “not the party that is of, by and for the people.” By arguing against the party, she could polarize their base of support, a base that will be necessary for a Gabbard nomination run, which looks slim to none, and certainly to beat President Donald Trump in a general election.
Although the above candidates could all be considered in their own rights “fringe” candidates, the night belonged to the more moderate candidates, with Senator Cory Booker, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Amy Klobuchar and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg all having great nights.
Senator Cory Booker used his time well to attack the front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden on his opposition to the legalization of marijuana, an important issue for the Democratic party. In one of the viral moments from Wednesday, Senator Booker attacked the former Obama V.P.’s recent support of criminalized marijuana on the campaign trail saying he “thought [Biden] was high” when he spoke to the issue.
Senator Harris was able to push past her poor debate performances and fire back at Congresswoman Gabbard, who had heavily criticized her earlier. Senator Klobuchar, meanwhile, withheld any big shots to highlight her strong electability and her wins in red and purple parts of the Midwest.
Mayor Buttigieg had the strongest performance of the night, remaining composed in the face of several attacks and largely being on defense most of the night. Having the lead in Iowa for the past several weeks, it is clear that candidates had to attack Buttigieg, but none proved effective, as Buttigieg pushed back against attacks throughout the night.
Gabbard questioned his judgment with Buttigieg’s notion that the military can assist in border operations, however, Buttigieg fired back with criticizing her meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is recognized throughout the international community as a war criminal known for regularly gassing his own citizens.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders did little to change their stock. Both had clear answers and were able to appeal to their base, but did little to set them apart and show they are clear front runners.
Former Vice President Biden had a very poor performance from the beginning that did not improve, as he stumbled and looked completely unprepared for a debate. In another viral moment, Biden boasted his endorsement from the “only” Black female senator. He, of course, meant the “first,” as he stood on the stage with a confused Harris, wondering if she had been forgotten or if Biden simply misspoke.
The next Democratic debate in December features much stricter polling and donor requirements with currently only six candidates qualified. Yang, Steyer and Gabbard are on the fringe, but with less than a month remaining, the debate stage will definitely become smaller. Candidates now are going to look for a big push going into this debate, as the Iowa Caucus is only three months away.