November 20th marked the fifth time in which the Democratic presidential hopefuls faced off in a televised event. The debate, which was hosted jointly by MSNBC and the Washington Post, was held in Atlanta and featured ten of the candidates. This group included Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. While many of the talking points and topics were repeats of past debates, this one did offer further insight into some of the major candidates as well as some lesser-known players.
Undoubtedly, the winner of this debate was Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor. Buttigieg was praised across almost every major news outlet. This was not, however, a success in terms of phenomenal talking points and incredibly moving moments. Instead, Mayor Pete had one goal: don’t mess up. With his polling numbers on the rise in key states and his attempts to appeal to minority voters, keeping up his momentum was key. A perfectly average performance was one aspect. Another was betting that someone will do worse than you. It’s safe to say that he has done enough to keep his position, for now.
This was also another solid night for Elizabeth Warren who, like Mayor Pete, was focused on maintaining her position in the polls keeping her base invigorated. It can be hard to stand out with many candidates. However, Warren’s positions have been consistent and solidly formed, which helped her tremendously. Her only struggle lies in economics. While Medicare-for-All and the wealth tax are not outright objectionable, some people raise concerns about how to pay for the former and the necessity of the latter. Cory Booker challenged her on the wealth tax but Warren successfully countered his objections. In doing so, she proved a very solid platform. He struggle now lies in getting more outside interest into her campaign which has seen a decrease since Buttigieg’s rise.
Joe Biden’s performance was less than spectacular on Wednesday night. Aside from multiple slip-ups and wording mistakes, Biden faces the uphill battle of showing voters that he is more than just Obama’s VP. His gaffs show him in a less than favorable light, however, they never seem to affect his polling. He still holds a lot of influence and power over the Democratic party and it is unclear as to what, if anything, will eventually take him down. For now, Biden holds a lead in most polls, though, his power has been lessened, giving way to other popular alternatives like Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg.
This debate, while interesting, was fairly unremarkable when it comes to content and new information. For the most part, those who have watched even a little of any debate will get a good idea of each major candidate’s platform. This is the purpose of these early debates and in that, this one was no different. The only thing that has slightly undercut this are the impeachment hearings which took place the same week. While there were no definitive conclusions made during these hearings, by the time of the next debate there will surely be more information and advancements which will provide important talking points for many candidates. The next debate is December 19th in California.