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Winners and Losers from the January Democratic Debate

The January 14th Democratic Debate was hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. The debate featured 6 candidates: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer. The moderator panel consisted of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip and the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel. It was hosted in Iowa, where the first primary is expected to start in early February. This was the last debate before the first primary. Here are the Winners and Losers from the January Democratic Debates.


Bernie Sanders (Winner of the Night)– Sure, Sanders had a couple of mild stumbles when he flat out pronounced that he never said a woman couldn’t be president and he refused to reveal his healthcare cost, but nonetheless, the Senator’s performance was definitely one of the strongest on stage. 

Sanders was able to pull at all of the top dogs on stage. He told Joe Biden that no matter how sorry Biden felt about voting in favor of the war with Iraq, the damage had already been done and the results were devastating. He emphasized his majorly clean voting record when asked about commander in chief, a crucial point in the middle of the US-Iranian conflict. He attacked Warren over trade and told her that her plan wasn’t sufficient. 

Sanders re-emphasized his commitment to climate through his opposition to major trade deals such as the USMCA, a trade deal that would ease pressure from everyday workers. Sanders held firm to his beliefs that trade had to help solve the climate crisis, and wouldn’t back down, bringing up his emphasis on the climate throughout the debate. He pulled off an incredibly consistent and eye-catching performance. Sanders, who has struggled to gain the same kind of attention as he had in 2016, might have finally regained it with this debate.

Elizabeth Warren– There’s no questioning that this was a top performance by Warren as well. When she said that “the men on this stage have lost ten elections combined” and she and Amy had lost “none,” she definitely garnered the biggest cheers from the audience. Her ability to discuss plans with ease was a highlight. Warren didn’t back down from any issue: she knew what she wanted to do in healthcare, in childcare, in Afghanistan, and in trade. Warren was eloquent and well-spoken, she had clear direction that definitely landed her a spot on the winner’s list. 

She fell short of Sanders due to her inability to hold him accountable. Warren moved on rather quickly from the topic of empowering women, not even choosing to question Sanders when he said that he had never told her he didn’t think a woman could be president. Warren also faced some backlash from most candidates who agreed that there needed to be at least some troops in the middle east to continue serving as anti-terrorism blockades. Her inability to respond was definitely a major flaw in policy and didn’t come at the right time (with the Iran crisis in everyone’s minds.) 

Anyone Who Wanted To Know the Difference Between Warren and Sanders– The progressive alliance is finally over after six debates jammed with agreements. The clash between Warren and Sanders finally boiled over Tuesday Night and viewers were finally able to see what the difference between these two seemingly identical candidates was. Turns out, there were multiple things. One of the biggest divides was on the new trade deal, the USMCA. Warren said that this deal was an acceptable deal. Sanders countered it by saying that the environment wasn’t mentioned at all. Warren then said that it was at least a good transition deal. Sanders took the last shot and told Warren that the deal would hinder the passing of a much better deal, one which included both workers’ rights and the environment. 

The candidates clashed again and again, on women’s rights, and ultimately on Healthcare, which was a major shock of the night. When called out for wanting to take Americans off the private sector, Warren denied that this was part of the plan she had shared with Sanders. On the other hand, Sanders said that eliminating the private sector was the best decision he could make. 

The Debate: Although the last few debates have been candidates flat out agreeing with each other, this debate was actually heavily policy-focused. The moderators kept the candidates on task with the topics. There was meaningful discussion and plans described for nearly every issue. Anyone who turned on the debate from home or watched in real-time walked out understanding the core issues of the candidates. It was a big win for a party whose debates have turned more into qualification competitions than real discussions. 


Candidates of Color: No candidate of color was able to qualify for the debate and the lack of diversity showed itself on stage. All six candidates who qualified were white and there were no questions on diversity or race issues in America for any of the candidates. It was the biggest issue on the stage and every single person tried to toss a cloth over it. In a party increasingly relying on a minority base for support, the absence of any discussion on modern-day discrimination was extremely alarming.

Climate Change: Sure, the issue was “discussed” Tuesday night, with several candidates bringing up Australian fires, among other global warming issues, but the candidates focused more on sparking attention than they did on any policy. In a debate heavily centralized around policy, candidates were unable to provide any on one of the most controversial issues. The debate on climate change was alarmingly shallow and showed that the candidates didn’t really know what they were doing with their plans. Terms such as “the Green New Deal” were tossed around but for the most part, the issue was lightly trodden over. 

Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota Senator witnessed tons of flops during Tuesday’s debate, including trying to name drop the Kansas Governor during a women’s rights segment and subsequently forgetting her name. Overall, her performance was a lot worse than other debates. She consistently went overtime and wouldn’t stop when the moderators halted her. She made no major improvements in her policy. Unlike other debates, Klobuchar was unable to create a connection with her audience. The Midwest has been one of Klobuchar’s biggest focuses. She was in the Midwest and barely roused the audience at all. She lacked any show-stopping breakthroughs and the performance definitely won’t help her in the primary. 

Tom Steyer: The billionaire was awkward and out of place. He tried to connect to his voters by saying that climate change was his number one priority but then didn’t discuss the issue once during his closing statement. His attempts to justify his qualifications for being Commander in Chief included being an “outsider looking in.” In other words, Steyer claimed that he would offer a new perspective because he was an outsider like “Obama”  and “Barbara Lee.” Arguments like these were confusing because both Obama and Lee had been involved in representative government and weren’t really outsiders. Steyer’s plans weren’t thought out well. He took a major focus to the economy but struggled outside of it, failing to provide any good policies elsewhere. He spent most of his talking time bragging about his accomplishments. 

Closing Statements: For how good some of the closing statements have been in the past, this debate saw some of the most mediocre closings ever. Candidates like Tom Steyer talked about random things like sports teams, website plugs were thrown everywhere, and Joe Biden spent the entire minute flaunting his ability to “lead by example.” There was a lot of ego-inflating and left a promising debate on a disappointing note. 

Featured Image via MSNBC @ 3:49

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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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