With a field of just six candidates on the stage, everyone got time to talk, but some candidates shined while a few stumbled at the CNN Iowa Democratic debate.
1). Joe Biden – After a rough first couple of debates, Joe Biden has gotten better with each debate performance. Biden absolutely shined on the foreign policy questions. The debate did nothing to hurt Joe Biden’s status as the top Democrat in the race and the candidate who is most likely to amass the most delegates. Biden is the candidate who looks the most general election ready, and he is benefitting from the Democratic candidates not attacking each other. Biden is still in the running to win Iowa, and if he wins Iowa, he will be tough to stop.
2). Elizabeth Warren – Sen. Warren had the moment of the debate when she answered the story about Bernie Sanders telling her that a woman can’t win the election. Warren answered perfectly. She took the attention off of herself and put on the inherent sexism of the question. Warren has her policy plans and ideas. She is at her strongest when talking about her plans. The Warren and Sanders campaigns seem to have realized that there isn’t room in the race for two progressives to challenge Biden. Warren avoided public attacks on Sanders, but there is a simmering Civil War within the progressive movement.
3). Pete Buttigieg – Buttigieg was able to play several roles in the debate. No candidate benefitted more from the increased space on the stage. Buttigieg was able to use his military experience, play the role of the younger candidate, and that of the political outsider. Polls show some slippage for Buttigieg in Iowa, but he is right in the thick of the primary, and he reminded voters who want a change from the 70 something candidates of why they should vote for him.
1). Amy Klobuchar- The Iowa debate is probably the last one that Klobuchar will qualify for. She isn’t impactful enough to be a top tier candidate, and that was obvious in the debate. The race is moving forward and winnowing down. Sen. Klobuchar is the candidate who is in Iowa or bust mode. If she doesn’t finish in the top tier in Iowa, her presidential campaign will probably be over.
2). Tom Steyer – Steyer has maybe made his last appearance on the debate stage. Steyer still has not formulated a clear reason for why he is running. Steyer is spending millions of dollars to qualify for these debates. Steyer doesn’t belong on the presidential debate stage anymore as the expiration date on his campaign has arrived.
3). Bernie Sanders – Sen. Sanders was having an OK debate until Elizabeth Warren delivered her answer on the story about his statement that a woman can’t win the election. Sen. Sanders’s answer wasn’t bad, but he was totally steamrolled by Warren’s answer. Sanders isn’t going to be able to shake off the women can’t win story with a single answer. Bernie Sanders has an Elizabeth Warren problem. She has put a ceiling on his progressive support. Sen. Sanders seemed to slip back into his 2016 rhetoric, and as Trump is looking at a new war in the Middle East, his talking point on the Iraq War sounds increasingly outdated. Sen. Sanders has a substantial amount of core support, but he needs to win early, or this primary could quickly get away from him.
For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.
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