Democrats Face Off on Debate Night

Analysis: The largest democratic primary debate lineup clashed in Ohio

Photo by Saul Loeb/Getty Images
The fourth Democratic Debate took place at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019.

Richard Tzul, Staff Reporter

A dozen candidates squeezed onto one stage for an intense night of debating. 

The fourth Democratic presidential debate took place in Ohio on Tuesday evening with the leading 12 Democractic candidates duking it out on stage over a number of issues.

A lot was said in the approximately threehour debate, but there were some major highlights of the night.

The Elephants in the Room

With this being the first debate since the start of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, the opening minutes revolved around whether the Democrats endorsed impeachment; they all did. What was more insightful is no one went after former Vice President Joe Biden over his son’s jobs overseas.

Hunter Biden’s foreign work, which he has left behind, raised questions about potential conflicts of interest according to the Washington Post. It’s a talking point against Joe Biden, but it’s also a political double-edged sword for Democrats.

On one hand, it brings up a valid concern: Was Biden negligent as vice president to allow his son to become involved with a Ukranian company? On the other hand, it’s a Trump talking point. Trump argues it’s a legitimate excuse to investigate the Bidens, and by extension, an argument to delegitimize the impeachment inquiry.

Ultimately, Democrats stayed clear of what may have been a dormant landmine that could activate come the general election or as the inquiry advances.

The Top Target (Besides Trump)

While Biden was given a pass from his colleagues on stage regarding his son’s foreign business dealings, attacks concentrated on Senator Elizabeth Warren. She has emerged as the co-frontrunner with Biden. 

Attacking the top tier rival was the other double-edged sword of the night. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar called Warren out for not answering whether or not taxes for the middle class will be raised under her “Medicare for All” plan. Consequently, it gave Warren more speaking time since the moderators allotted her time to respond.

Her speaking time equated to nearly 23 minutes. That’s about six minutes more than Biden, who had the second most according to the New York Times. Six minutes may not seem like much, but it’s precious time for twelve candidates vying for air time within a roughly three-hour segment with commercials.

Additionally, Warren avoided the taxes question in previous debates according to the Washington Post.

Now with more eyes on Warren, it has yet to be seen if this can become detrimental to her.

The Underdog of the Night

A surprising standout was Senator Amy Klobuchar. She struggled to break out as she polls in single digits, but during the night of the debate, she had the third most speaking time according to the New York Times. In the third debate, she admitted to not being the “loudest person” in the room, acknowledging her soft spoken demeanor. However, she came out aggressive in this most recent debate.

When knocking Warren’s evasiveness for not answering whether taxes on the middle class are going to fund her “Medicare for All” plan Klobuchar said, “At least [Senator Bernie Sanders] is being honest here and saying how he’s going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up.” The moderate candidate slammed both progressives by referring to “Medicare for All” as a “pipe dream.” 

It was a successful night for Klobuchar’s campaign as she sharply juxtaposed her pragmatic platform with Sanders’ and Warren’s progressive rhetoric. The high might be short lived since she’s yet to qualify for the November debate.

The Return

Sanders had a lot to prove after recovering from a heart attack and returning from a campaign hiatus. While clearly displaying his conviction and passion, even eliciting laughter from the audience a few times, his body language wasn’t as animated. 

Conversely, he’s a 79-year-old man who had a heart attack just two weeks prior and then stood on stage for three hours. That’s arguably, a testament to the endurance Sanders claims to have.

The Billionaire that Wants to Tax Billionaires

Billionaire Tom Steyer pulled a page from the Trump playbook and used populist rhetoric to try to appeal to working voters despite being a member of the nation’s elite. The government has been bought out by corporations and overlooked the interest of working people, according to Steyer. He added that his administration would cut tax breaks for the wealthy imposed by Republicans.

Steyer locked strong “eye contact” with the camera while utilizing active hand gestures. His problem is that he had the least amount of speaking time with just over seven minutes according to the New York Times. As a good speaker, he may have used that time efficiently, but this is barely his first debate. 

Considering that Steyer announced his candidacy back in summer, his attempt to gain political momentum may be too little, too late.

The Rebel

The New York Times reported that Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard at some point threatened to boycott the debate, but ultimately, she attended. She still took shots at mainstream media. Gabbard singled out CNN and the New York Times, who were hosting the debate, for what she claimed was unfair coverage of her campaign. The New York Times reported that the anti-establishment candidate had the second-least amount of speaking time. Also to Gabbard’s disadvantage: she’s yet to qualify for the November debate.

The next Democractic presidential debate will take place on Nov. 20 in Atlanta.