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Winners and Losers from the December Democratic Debate

The December 19th Democratic Debate was hosted by PBS and Politico. The debate featured 7 candidates: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. The moderator panel consisted of PBS’s Judy Woodruff, Amna Nawaz and Yamiche Alcindor and Politico’s Tim Alberta. Here are the Winners and Losers from the December Democratic Debates. 

Watch the full Democratic Debate here:

 

Winners: 

Andrew Yang (Winner of the Night) – It’s true that Yang didn’t get to talk much at all tonight, but when he did, he had the audience cheering. Yang, who has previously struggled in questions outside of the economy, brought himself into center stage with new and improved answers in categories such as immigration and foreign policy. His opening statement set him apart as soon as the debate kicked off, as he proposed ignoring impeachment.

Yang said that Democrats were hiding behind impeachment and ignoring the real reasons why Trump was elected. He criticized many of the candidates on stage for failing to see that the reason Trump became president in the first place was because of massive job loss among families, showing candidates that democratic ideals weren’t working for ordinary people and that impeachment was just a mask from reality. He said that instead of trying to impeach Trump, Democratic efforts should be placed on getting to the root of the issue: why Trump was elected to begin with.

The biggest highlight? Yang was able to really connect with the audience, something that the other candidates struggled with tonight. Being the only minority candidate on stage, Yang was quick to point out while honorable, being alone was a “disappointment.” His camaraderie towards the other candidates shone through when he remarked that he “missed” Cory Booker. He connected himself even more through sharing his immigrant backstory, disability experience and even garnered laughs from the audience when he remarked that men couldn’t be left alone for too long. And Yang didn’t just relate to the audience tonight, but he had the numbers to support himself in all of his policies. His relatability gave him the top spot on tonight’s list. 

Pete Buttigieg – It’s true that Buttigieg was probably the most attacked candidate on the stage today, but it’s also true that he held his ground well. The mayor got into arguments with both Klobuchar and Warren over his funding and experience. To Klobuchar, he re-emphasized the impacts of his contributions to the small town of Southbend, which was the smartest move he could have made at the time.

Klobuchar reverted to talking about herself after she realized that Buttigieg wasn’t budging. As for Warren, Buttigieg didn’t just hold his ground but drilled into hers as well.  Warren, who poked fun at Buttigieg’s “wine cave fundraiser” saw the tables instantly turn when Buttigieg brought up that he was the only one on stage without a millionaire or billionaire status, poking at Warren’s record of similar behavior (collecting donations from the upper class). With this accusation, Warren was silenced and had nothing else to say. 

Joe Biden – Sure, Joe Biden didn’t have the best night. But it’s better than every night he’s had so far. For once, he wasn’t slammed and didn’t make any large blunders. When he debated with Sanders over foreign policy, he was able to hold his ground and he didn’t have to reference Obama (he did here and there, but it wasn’t constant). If nothing else, it’s a massive improvement from his debate performance in November, which is all he really needs to hold himself up in the polls. 

Climate Change – After six long debates where the issue was quickly brushed over, Politico’s Tim Alberta brought Climate Change into the spotlight tonight. Candidates were asked about clean energy, a greener job market, relocating families away from danger zones, and climate change priority. Viewers of the debate were finally able to gain a sense of the differences in the candidates’ climate change policies.

Many of the candidates were willing to classify climate change as an “existential crisis.” Furthermore, many brought up solid plans for what they would do once in office, with multiple candidates hoping to re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement on the first day of the election. Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang, the two more economically well-versed candidates on stage, honed in on removing blue-collar workers from toxic industries and turning them towards a greener cause, proposing climate solutions that wouldn’t damage the economy. 

Tim Alberta – The moderator’s focused and specific questions brought specificity to a relatively general debate. His attention to detail and respectful tone kept this debate from spiraling out of hand, as many previous ones have. He asked about things from nuclear energy to disabilities, questions that stirred up the stage and turned it away from things we’ve already heard before.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Tom Steyer – The billionaire made a name for himself today, especially in climate change and the economy. His ability to tie these two hot-button issues together allowed him to execute a strong, passionate delivery. Furthermore, his answer to a China foreign policy question was particularly interesting: Steyer proposed working with China despite any human rights concerns. This was extremely different from the rest of his field, who were all quick to attack the country. 

Amy Klobuchar – While the Senator put on an impressive performance tonight, there were also a few times when she dodged questions or harshly interrupted other candidates mid-speech. She established a strong climate change plan on the stage and was able to provide other good talking points, but fell short of the winner’s list because of her weak response to Buttigieg. 

Losers: 

Elizabeth Warren – Apart from being creamed by Buttigieg, Warren just didn’t live up to her debate expectations today. She dodged a good majority of questions. When asked about whether or not she would close Guantanamo, Warren answered that Guantanamo was bad but then never answered if she would close it. She constantly interjected into conversations that didn’t include her with little to no relevant information and relied heavily on emotions and personal anecdotes. Her attempt to be more relatable included “selfies,” which didn’t really seem to impress anyone in the audience. This would have to be classed as one of her worst debates. 

Bernie Sanders – It’s not that the Senator did bad, more that he was very repetitive. Sanders, who came out of the debate with the most speaking time, didn’t establish any solid speaking points. His main focus was that the middle class was being ripped off and that the top three richest people in America had more money combined than the lower 50%. During a race question, he brought up climate change, which almost made it seem like he didn’t know how to answer the race question. It just seemed like Sanders had lost his train of thought for this debate. 

The End of the Debate  PBS and Politico tried something new for the Holiday season, asking the candidates to either give a gift to each other or forgive one another. It sparked some interesting but shallow remarks from everyone. Yang gave away his book. That was the only physical object given away to the candidates. The other candidates took some inspirational quote routes, choosing to give away a chance for peace and unity, among other abstract concepts. Worst of all, the candidates who “forgave” were both of the women on the stage, apologizing for growing too sensitive and hot-headed. 

After the mediocre (to say the least) give and forgive session, the candidates’ ending statements were wildly uninspiring. Many ended with website plugs. It wasn’t the most exciting way to cap off the debate, that’s for sure. 

Judy Woodruff – Apart from asking generic questions and receiving the same stereotypical responses, Woodruff also surfaced with a rough start. After repeatedly asking Andrew Yang to share his opening statement while pointing at Tom Steyer, she left many questioning if she even knew who the candidates were. 

Timing – At the beginning of the debate, the moderators went over the timing rules in great detail. They were violated by every single candidate, at least twice. The biggest offender may have been Elizabeth Warren, who went over an impressive three minutes during her statement about her wealth tax. When the moderators tried to cut off Joe Biden, he merely remarked that everyone else had abused their timing privileges and that it was “his turn.” 

Healthcare – There was little to no progress on healthcare tonight. The topic received the same generic responses it had for the last five debates. There was the wrestle between a public and private option, and not much else. Voters were still left confused over the difference between Warren and Sanders’s plans. Overall, the topic was strangely brushed over. Except for disabilities, which were touched on for the first time. Alberta brought up a question asking how candidates would handle the needs of disabled Americans. Warren and Yang, who have both had experience working in Special Education (Warren as a teacher and Yang as a father), shared moderately detailed plans about the issue. Warren got the most praise on this question by mentioning IDEA full funding, among other accommodations.

Featured Image via PBS NewsHour

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Joanna Hou
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Joanna Hou is a 16 year old high school student based in San Diego, California. She is passionate about current events, law, and politics. She is an avid writer, journalist, and musician (euphonium and flute). In her spare time, she enjoys reading and boba. Instagram: joannah_11

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