Who Won the Fourth Democratic Presidential Debate?

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A Brief History

On October 16, 2019, we take a critical look back at last night’s Democratic Presidential Debate among the 12 major candidates still remaining in the race for the Democratic nomination for President.  (Click link for full transcript.)  No earthshaking news this time, and no candidate was either blown out of contention or latched onto a rocket of success in the next poll, but we believe there were some definite winners and losers.

Digging Deeper

Loser, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

As the co-front runner this time around, she was not immune to attacks from the other candidates, though the attacks she suffered were mild compared to what they could be in a general election.  Once again, Warren refused to answer the question as to how she would pay for health care for everybody (“Medicare for all”) and refused to say one way or another if the middle class would see their taxes rise under a Warren presidency.  This single sticking point may well be the most injurious to her campaign, as the vast throng of working class Americans are keenly interested on whether or not their taxes will rise.  While at least 7 of the other 11 candidates attacked Warren in some way, she torpedoed herself when she said she would like to pull ALL US military out of the Middle East, a patently ridiculous statement that will not go down well with our many allies in the region and with many American voters, not to mention other politicians, even in the Democratic fold.  Democrats have yet to attack Warren on her many occasions of claiming to be Native American (not claiming a minute portion, which she may have in her, but actually putting “Native American” as her main race on various application forms for schools and jobs) and taking the false claim a step further, posting a recipe in a Cherokee cookbook that was plagiarized!  Finally, when pressed by fellow candidate Senator Kamala Harris about whether or not Warren agreed that President Trump’s Twitter account should be canceled, Warren steamrolled over the question and gave irrelevant answers that were really talking points, although Harris asked the same question multiple times.  Warren’s avoidance of directly answering questions was painful to watch!

Winner, former Vice President and Senator Joe Biden.

Okay, Joe did not light up the stage, but with his closest competitor falling on her face he did not have to.  We expect his solid, though unspectacular performance to meet expectations of his base, and predict he will put some distance between himself and Senator Warren in the next round of polling.  Biden could have slammed President Trump for having his family involved in government business and foreign entanglements, while The Donald so harshly criticizes Biden for the foreign entanglements part though Biden’s son has had no government role.  Apparently, the idea is for Biden to defend his son, Hunter, while avoiding attacking Trump’s family, therefore appearing more “presidential” and classier compared to the vulgar and shockingly base President.  Failing to land that particular knockout blow certainly cost Biden a potential big applause moment but may help his campaign in the long run.  Biden also forcefully reminded Warren that he personally assisted her in passing the law that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an achievement Warren tries to claim as her own, when of course, any major legislation requires many others to design and campaign for passage of the legislation.

Winner, Mayor Pete.

Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, once again showed he belongs on the stage with the Washington insiders.  He once again came across as classy, smart, knowledgeable and under control, deftly sending jabs toward Senator Warren and in maybe the best “gotcha” moment of the debate, to former Congressman Beto O’Rourke when he snapped at Beto, “I don’t need lessons from you in courage, political or personal!”  (The line was in the context of debating gun control proposals, of which O’Rourke has assumed the mantle as the most enthusiastic gun grabber in the bunch.)

Winner, Representative Tulsi Gabbard.

Like Mayor Pete, Tulsi has the gravitas of being a military veteran of our War on Terror.  Merely getting to qualify for the debate is a major win for the Hawaiian member of Congress.  Although Buttigieg rebutted (this is almost a pun!) her stated desire to put an end to our “endless wars,” we think most Americans would likely agree that ending these endless pits of money and lives would be a good thing for the USA.  Gabbard comes across as intelligent and savvy, practical and down to Earth, while retaining a perceived feel for the common American.  She does not come across as a Washington insider or professional “politician,” with the word politician in quotes meaning the negative connotation of the word.

Winner, Bernie Sanders (sort of).

Sanders failed to break any new ground in this 4th Democratic Debate, but the fact that he was there and in apparently good health is a major accomplishment so soon after suffering a heart attack and having stents placed in his heart arteries.  Otherwise, Sanders failed to land any major punches, though he defended his record and viewpoints well enough.  After this debate he has survived to continue to campaign and has a decent war chest of money to do so with, so he is still in the race despite nearly being kayoed by his cardio problem.

Winner, Andrew Yang, businessman.

Yang did not baffle his opponents and most of America by promising to personally give a bunch of Americans $1000 per month for year as he did in a previous debate, but he did continue to speak clearly and forcefully, presenting his opinions in clear and easily understood terms.  He again gave the impression of being capable and competent, a worthy candidate for the Big Job despite not having prior experience in government.  While some may see his lack of government employment as a deficit, many others will see it as an asset.  (It got Donald Trump elected!)

Loser, Senator Kamala Harris.

Despite helping Elizabeth Warren look foolish by beating the Twitter for Trump question to death, Harris showed none of the fire and zingers that got her a big boost in the polls earlier in the campaign.  She has fallen into the mediocre part of the pack, and that is exactly what her performance in the 4th Debate seemed like, mediocre and pedestrian.  Harris did nothing to set herself apart or drive up her favorable rating.  She obviously needs to show more enthusiasm and fire in a debate to regain her lost ground.  With the rise of Buttigieg and Yang it seems the anti-old person vote (Sanders, Biden and Warren) is shifting away from Harris.

The Rest of the Pack.

While each of the other candidates is certainly qualified in many ways to compete for the Democratic nomination for President, the obvious question is, “Why are they still in the race?”  There does not seem to be any realistic chance any of the rest of this crowd can actually win the nomination, although if somehow they did, indications are they may well be able to beat the incumbent President.  Of course, A LOT can change between now and the next debate, let alone now and the Convention.

Question for students (and subscribers): Who do you believe was the big winner and the big loser?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Riddle, R Frederick.  2020 Candidates & Issues: A look at the 2020 Presidential Race. T&R Independent Books, 2019.

Schenker, Jason. THE DUMPSTER FIRE ELECTION: Realistic Dystopian Expectations for the 2020 Presidential Election. Prestige Professional Publishing, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA of U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard at a Youth Voice Presidential Forum, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  This image was originally posted to Flickr by Phil Roeder at https://flickr.com/photos/88876166@N00/48782251402. It was reviewed on  by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.