Here’s How The Candidates Distinguished Themselves

Quick thoughts on each of 10 Democratic contenders in night one of the second debate.
Elizabeth Warren distinguished herself, as usual, for her ideas. She was helped by debate moderators who seemed to like asking the other candidates to comment on Warren’s proposals. Her attack on John Delaney is likely to be talked about tomorrow: “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for President of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”
After a largely unmemorable first debate, Bernie Sanders came out swinging this time, not hesitating to call out his debate-stage rivals and even the moderators. For a significant, early part of the debate, he and Warren together defended their ambitious health care plans. Notably, he and Warren did not turn on one another, as many pundits predicted.
Tim Ryan didn’t get much time, and his efforts to distinguish himself as a guy from a Trump-voting state didn’t come to the forefront. He did draw one of the many rebukes Sanders was dishing out: At one point, when he questioned whether Medicare For All would deliver certain services for senior citizens — “you don’t know that, Bernie” — Sanders replied, “I do know it, I wrote the damn bill.”
Beto O’Rourke continues to struggle to gain traction after his initial burst of attention. He did, however, seem to come prepared to talk policy on such issues as health care and reparations, perhaps in an effort to combat what some have claimed is a lack of depth.
Tonight was many viewers’ first introduction to Steve Bullock. He was given a lot of time and staked out his territory as the One Guy On The Stage Who Won Statewide In A Trump State.
Amy Klobucher stood out among the more moderate candidates, distinguishing herself with a denunciation of the NRA. She attempted to frame herself as a champion of the working class, speaking of her Iron Range upbringing
John Hickenlooper was in many ways upstaged by new entrant and fellow governor Steve Bullock. He didn’t get much time, but, with the time he got, it seemed clear he had pivoted away from attacks on Democrats to his left. He said he “respects” Warren and Sanders. What Hickenlooper had pivoted to was less clear.
John Delaney adopted the posture of debate pit bull right from the start, calling out Sanders and Warren by name. Moderators seemed to frame him as the token centrist, playing him off various candidates to his left, which had the effect of giving him the major-candidate treatment (he’s tied in the polls with de Blasio.)
Pete Buttigieg didn’t do much to help or hurt himself this time around. We noted his references to, and the question he got about, his relatively young age. (Given the opportunity by a moderator, he declined to criticize Sanders’ age.) He also, as part of a conversation about countering the gun lobby, laid out some changes he’d seek to democracy: ending the Electoral College, making Washington, D.C., a state and changing the number of seats on the Supreme Court.
After being accused of being too wacky back in June, Marianne Williamson was on firmer ground tonight. Sort of. Her self-help style wavers between a breath of fresh air on the debate stage and weird. She did get some big applause lines, notably when talking about environmental racism in Flint.
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