Winners, Losers From the Democratic Debate

Biden had the good night he needed, analysts say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2020 2:17 AM CST
Updated Feb 26, 2020 6:44 AM CST
Winners, Losers From Democratic Debate
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, SC.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Tuesday night's Democratic debate in Charleston, SC, was a raucous affair—so much so that Vox declares chaos to be the only true winner. In the last debate before the state's Saturday primary—and Super Tuesday—candidates desperate for speaking time talked over each other and shouted at each other as the CBS moderators struggled to restore order. How the seven candidates fared:

  • Joe Biden. The former vice president was among the winners, analysts say. South Carolina is a must-win for him, and he "kept his hopes alive with one of his strongest debate performances," writes Niall Stanage at the Hill. Biden—"sharper and more vigorous" than in previous debates—sought to portray himself as someone with the political and strategic chops to get things done rather than merely talk about aspirations," Stanage writes.
  • Bernie Sanders. This was not the senator's strongest debate performance, but facing a barrage of attacks from rivals, he held his own well enough to be considered a winner. "As the primary’s commanding frontrunner, Sanders’s chief objective Tuesday night was to exit with only mild bruising and limited blood loss. And he met that goal," writes Eric Levitz at New York. "The sheer messiness of the proceedings ... allowed the Vermont senator to escape without suffering any viral humiliation or headline-worthy blow," he writes.

  • Elizabeth Warren. The senator made it into most lists of debate winners with a performance considered strong, but not the game-changer she needs. "She was dominant in last week's debate "but she did not replicate that performance, and some strategists criticized her decision to once again focus on Mr. Bloomberg instead of the front-runner, Mr. Sanders," writes Maggie Astor at the New York Times. "But she did have several strong moments, and commentators praised her ability to cut through the free-for-all onstage."
  • Pete Buttigieg. The former South Bend mayor received mixed reviews, though Chris Cillizza at CNN ranks him among the winners. "He found several occasions to make direct contrasts with Bernie Sanders—most notably on the dangers for Democrats of nominating a democratic socialist and the differences in their health care plans—which is a win in and of itself," Cillizza writes
  • Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar had a reasonably good night, analysts say—but not on a par with her New Hampshire debate performance, and probably not good enough to keep her campaign alive for much longer. "Klobuchar had a good night," Geoffrey Skelley writes at FiveThirtyEight. "She looked competent and knowledgeable about a host of issues. She also made some appeals to the African-American community, which were very important given her almost nonexistent support among that voting bloc."
  • Michael Bloomberg. The former New York City mayor turned in a slightly better performance than last week—but it wasn't enough to keep him out of the losers' column. "Bloomberg did little to make an affirmative case for himself, even on the electability front," writes Aaron Blake at the Washington Post. And he offered mealy-mouthed rebuttals to some of the attacks against him, including again downplaying the women who complained about their treatment at his companies.
  • Tom Steyer. "The commentariat didn’t have much bad to say about Mr. Steyer," Astor notes at the Times. "But the hard truth was that they didn’t really have much to say about him at all."
(More Democratic debate stories.)

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