Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had the highest expectations, but here are the winners and losers from the CNN debate.
<Winners and Losers:
1). Joe Biden- . Biden came out totally different in the second debate. He went after Harris for her healthcare plan, took down Castro’s immigration plan, and was much more commanding. Biden looked like a strong frontrunner tonight. The stumbles and uncertainty were gone. Biden looked like a prepared candidate and somebody who could be the Democratic nominee. No one did anything on stage will knock Biden off of his standing as the frontrunner of the Democratic field.
2). Cory Booker- Cory Booker had a really good night. Booker got himself more airtime with several exchanges where he reminded Democrats that they should be working together. Booker had a great exchange with Biden on criminal justice reform. The debate was supposed to be about Harris vs. Biden, but much of it was Booker vs. Biden. The question is will it be enough to elevate Booker who has had enough support to stay out of the bottom tier, but not enough to hang with the top group of candidates.
3). Andrew Yang- Yang had a good debate as he had a few different moments where he stood out including calling out Republicans for scapegoating immigrants for problems that they had nothing to do with. Yang likely won’t be the Democratic nominee, but he appeared to be less nervous and gave a much better accounting of himself at the second debate.
4).Julian Castro- Castro had a good first debate, and he wasn’t bad in the second. He was like Pete Buttigieg was on the first night. Castro was steady, consistent, and very competent. Castro didn’t get a bounce after his first debate, and he probably won’t get one after the second, but he has had a good showing in each of the first two Democratic debates.
1). Kamala Harris- . Polling has shown Harris’ momentum slipping in the last few weeks, and much of the first hour of the CNN debate was spent with her struggling to defend her healthcare plan. Harris needed a big night to move closer to Biden. Instead, she vanished for a long stretch of the debate after struggling on healthcare. Biden and the other candidates were ready for Sen. Harris and she didn’t respond strongly to her new status in the top tier. Harris should still be in the top 4, but she didn’t gain any ground in Detroit.
2). Michael Bennet- Bennet is a very good senator, but he is not a standout presidential candidate. Bennet wasn’t memorable. He doesn’t motivate and inspire. Sen. Bennet is the perfect kind of Senator that a Democratic president would put in their cabinet, but he isn’t top of the field presidential candidate material.
3).Jay Inslee- Gov. Inslee is a one-issue candidate, who didn’t really stand out on his issue of climate change. Candidates like Inslee are needed in every primary field because they inspire conversation about issues that often get overlooked. Inslee is providing a service to the Democratic Party, as he has brought attention to the climate crisis.
4).Bill de Blasio- There is no reason for de Blasio to be running, and even less of a reason for him to be on a presidential debate stage. Bill de Blasio needs to go back to New York because he is not a presidential contender.
5). Kirsten Gillibrand- Gillibrand is a candidate who doesn’t stand out. She is one of those candidates who in a year with a smaller field, she might fare better, but there are just too many candidates, and candidates like Sen. Gillibrand can’t breakthrough. Gillibrand will need a great showing in Iowa to keep her campaign alive or she will be back in the Senate before March 2020.
6). Tulsi Gabbard- Gabbard had a standout moment when she brought up Kamala Harris’ record as a prosecutor, but she was invisible for large stretches of the debate. Gabbard is outshined by Warren and Sanders on the left, and she doesn’t create enough space for herself against the rest of the field.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association