Winners and Losers of the First Round of the Democratic Presidential Debate

The stage was crowded on Wednesday night in round one of the Democratic debates in Miami. While it was tough for the candidates to get that coveted screen time, here is a look at some winners and losers from the first of two nights for the 20 Democrats trying to take down President Donald Trump as they had their chance to step into the limelight.


Elizabeth Warren: It’s pretty clear at this point why Warren has moved up from being considered a long shot to being a serious contender. Her ease with being on the stage showed. On substance, she had a clear plan for the economy, trying to tie future growth to the clean energy sector as a way to bring higher paying jobs. She also had no problem saying she would be willing to stop allowing companies to provide insurance for Americans and have Medicare for all, something that progressives will love.

Bill DeBlasio: If you want a candidate that is proud to be a progressive, Bill DeBlasio is your guy. The New York City mayor scored real points in the immigration debate when he asserted that immigrants are not the enemy to the average American worker. Instead, he bellowed that large corporations are the problem. He challenged his fellow Democrats to be more progressive by supporting things like free community college, a 70 percent tax on extreme wealth and breaking up multi-national corporations.  He may lose a few points for interrupting other candidates but look for voters to pay more attention to him moving forward.

John Delaney: If you were looking for a pragmatic candidate with real solutions, John Delaney might be your best bet. The former Maryland congressman constantly tried to frame the debate in terms of real solutions instead of platitudes, understanding that Trump won the presidency by winning over American workers in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. Delaney advocated for allowing people to keep their current health insurance, pointing out how much his dad, a longtime union member, loved his health insurance. He also noted that almost no one in Iowa and New Hampshire are asking him about the Mueller report but are focused on kitchen table issues.


MSNBC: Yes, it is difficult to manage the tech on a stage with ten candidates on it but MSNBC did not or could not turn off the microphones for the moderators in the first hour, leading to an unplanned commercial right as the second hour was starting. How about one set of moderators for the entire night? Also, the microphones being worn by the moderators probably had on/off switches. Couldn’t these news professionals simply just turn them off?

Tim Ryan: The congressman from Ohio had to virtually beg for air time and, when he finally got it, the subject was Afghanistan. Tulsi Gabbard, who served in Iraq, absolutely walloped Ryan on his answer. She pointed out that the Taliban isn’t going anywhere and the U.S. isn’t making any gains there. Not a good night for one of the lesser known candidates on the stage.

Beto O’Rourke: After this debate, many people will be wondering why he was considered such a darling and an early front runner. If he wants to consider to be considered a top Democrat in the future, O’Rourke may want to consider getting out of this race now. His answers were canned and lacked substance. Julian Castro got after him on immigration policy and scored some points. Too often, O’Rourke simply ignored the question in favor of stories about people he’s met on the campaign trail.

Jay Inslee: He lost the debate tonight more on how little time he got than the substance of his answers. Very rarely do Americans pick senators to be president and more often pick governors–which should help Inslee on paper. However, Inslee was mostly ignored by the moderators in favor of senators they are used to talking to. When he did get a chance, his answers simply were not memorable.

The Jury Is Still Out:

Corey Booker: The New Jersey senator benefitted a great deal from getting a lot of time from the moderators but fellow Elizabeth Warren was much more dynamic.

Julian Castro: He shone  in a lot of ways but changing illegally crossing the border from a criminal offense to a civil one is a policy position that Republicans–and his fellow Democrats– will hammer him on.

Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota senator was solid, but not spectacular. She did nothing to move up in a crowded pecking order.

Tulsi Gabbard: She has an interesting story as a soldier that served in Iraq and did well on foreign policy questions. But she also got little time and did not say anything on domestic policy to distinguish herself from her fellow Democrats.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on who won and lost debate the first round of the debate. Email me at

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