South Carolina Debate Winners and Losers: Experts Weigh In

Analysts generally thought he did well in the debate, but they were divided on how much it might help him.

“Smart of Pete to keep hammering away on down-ballot races.” — Jesse Lehrich, former foreign policy spokesman for Hillary Clinton

“‘How can we deliver a revolution if you can’t support a rule change?’ Killer line from @PeteButtigieg to @BernieSanders.” — Frank Luntz, Republican consultant and pollster

“Good debate for Buttigieg. I doubt his hits on Bernie will hurt Bernie, though.” — Laura Belin, Iowa Democratic commentator

“So the youngest guy on the stage has the most thoughtful and comprehensive answer on the threats we face. Imagine that.” — Jen Psaki, former spokeswoman for Mr. Obama

Ms. Klobuchar drew praise for bringing up the coronavirus epidemic, and for encouraging viewers to visit not her own website, but the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But in a debate in which candidates seemed to be screaming over one another more often than not, she did not seem to break through very much.

“Klobuchar’s answer on coronavirus was very strong … and driving viewers to the CDC site really drove home the seriousness of the situation.” — Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and former Democratic National Committee spokesman

“Amy Klobuchar’s success at positioning herself as a pragmatic moderate is interesting. … In low information environments, female candidates are perceived as more liberal than men, though Klobuchar’s candidacy shows that voters respond to candidate messaging.” — Erin Cassese, political psychology expert at the University of Delaware

“All the blah blah blah from candidates who have next to no black support. @amyklobuchar keeps touring winning ‘the middle’ of the country and she means white voters like her Uncle Dick. She doesn’t mean Philly, Detroit, Milwaukee.” — Aimee Allison, founder of She the People

As is inevitable for a front-runner, Mr. Sanders fielded a lot of attacks on Tuesday, and his responses did not always land. More than once, the audience booed him, which seemed to surprise him and throw him off his stride.

Still, he parried other attacks well, and strategists noted that given his position in the race, he could weather a less-than-stellar performance.

“Bernie just got booed for the second time tonight. This is his worst #DemDebate so far — he’s not reading this audience. He’s not listening.” — Frank Luntz

“Tonight just underscores how big a missed opportunity last week was for all the candidates who ganged up on Bloomberg and left Bernie alone. Bernie is on the defensive and struggling to turn it around. And the audience reaction is catching him off guard.” — Mo Elleithee

“Bernie is the most likely nominee. No one who needed a home run achieved it, though there were more effective attacks on Bernie since Bloomberg was ignored more.” — Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University

“At the end of the day @BernieSanders once again escapes relatively unscathed from a contentious debate while still enjoying the most speaking time.” — Anna Sampaio, professor of political science and ethnic studies at Santa Clara University

The commentariat didn’t have much bad to say about Mr. Steyer. But the hard truth was that they didn’t really have much to say about him at all.

“In the battle of the billionaires … Tom Steyer is so much better on the debate stage than Mike Bloomberg is.” — Mo Elleithee

“Thank you @TomSteyer for speaking up about #CyberSecurity and protecting the integrity of our elections.” — Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Committee chairwoman

“Steyer had good moments but I didn’t hear a compelling case for his candidacy.” — Laura Belin

Expectations were high for Ms. Warren going into Tuesday’s debate, given both the high stakes (she is behind in the polls and in delegates) and her dominant performance at last week’s debate.

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. But she did have several strong moments, and commentators praised her ability to cut through the free-for-all onstage.

“The @ewarren ‘strategy’ befuddles me. This is about winning and not sure where she is trying to gather votes. A feather duster on Bernie, who is going in for the kill against her with rallies in Massachusetts.” — John Weaver

“So far Warren is the only candidate hasn’t lost their cool and stayed focused.” — Karen Finney, Democratic consultant

“Warren is the only candidate who can fundamentally cut into Bernie’s base & she understands exactly how to do it.” — Jesse Lehrich

“‘This is a moment to choose hope over fear. This is our moment.’ @ewarren gets in one of the few clear, calm and uninterrupted responses before the #DemDebate break.” — Kelly Dittmar

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.