The first debate after the puzzling and contentious Iowa caucuses and just a few days before the New Hampshire primary, Friday night promised to be a showdown between Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom claimed victory in Iowa.
But, at least for the first half hour, they stayed away from directly attacking each other. Instead, divisions between progressive and moderate Democrats were highlighted during an impassioned discussion of healthcare policy, and, now that he has a win under his belt, pretty much everyone attacked Buttigieg’s experience and electability.
As the field narrows down ahead of the primaries, we tracked the candidates’ performance in the debate, ahead.
Bernie Sanders has a resonating moment on criminal justice.
Bernie Sanders was an easy target at the New Hampshire debate, given his performance in Iowa. He spent most of the first part of the debate defending his signature policy, Medicare for All, against Biden and others who attacked it for being too expensive and impractical. But other questions surrounded Sanders’ lead: “Is anyone concerned about the Democratic socialist on top?” (No one took the bait on that one except Amy Klobuchar.) Asked about jabs from Hillary Clinton at Sanders (of all things), the candidates deflected. “I like Bernie okay!” quipped Klobuchar. Biden actually came over and hugged Sanders.
Sanders dominated the conversation about racial disparity in criminal justice by demanding that the United States end the war on drugs, end cash bail, and dismantle the private prison system — an answer that took other candidates quite a roundabout way to get to.
Sanders had the longest speaking time of any of the candidates at just over 20 minutes, according to The New York Times.
Are Klobuchar and Bernie flirting— Liz Plank (@feministabulous) February 8, 2020
Pete Buttigieg defends his experience, and record on race.
One of two self-declared winners of the Iowa caucuses, Pete Buttigieg came to head with the question of his experience — yet again. “If you are looking for the person with the most years of Washington experience under your belt, you’ve got your candidate, and of course, it’s not me!” Buttigieg said, as the split-screen showed a grinning Biden. One of the conflicts on stage — and in this race — seems to be between those with decades of political experience (Biden, who knows world leaders by name) and those with virtually none (Yang, Steyer). The former mayor was again asked about his record on criminal justice in South Bend, Indiana, for instance the huge racial disparity in marijuana arrests, to which he answered that drug arrests were lower than average in the rest of the country. (The internet fact-checked him.)
Buttigieg had the third-most amount of speaking time, at 18 minutes 28 seconds.
Elizabeth Warren stands up for abortion.
Relatively quiet for the first part of the debate, Elizabeth Warren made powerful statements on corruption, endless war, and gun violence. She had an applause-worthy line on abortion: “I’ve lived in an America where abortion was illegal, and rich women still got abortions. If we are going to protect our rights, it’s going to mean that we can’t simply rely on the courts. It is time to have a national law to protect the right of a woman’s choice.” She also brought in her two-cent wealth tax when addressing racial disparities. She was in the middle when it came to speaking time, with 15 minutes 54 seconds.
Looks like Elizabeth Warren's message of "let's unite against Trump" is having an influence on the rest of the field.#DemDebate— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) February 8, 2020
Joe Biden asks, “What about the past was so bad?”
Joe Biden‘s night kicked off with a few low blows to Iowa lead Buttigieg. (Later in the night, Buttigieg actually came to Biden’s defense on the subject of Trump trying to investigate his son Hunter Biden.) He’s spent a lot of time touting his record and experience so far, asking, “What about the past was so bad?” referring to the achievements of the Obama administration. He had the second-highest speaking time with 19 minutes 38 seconds.
Amy Klobuchar: “59 is the new 38.”
Amy Klobuchar‘s first stand-out moment was calling BS on Sanders’ Medicare for All: “I keep listening to the same debate on Medicare for All but it’s not real. Two-thirds of Senate Democrats aren’t on the bill. It would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in four years. I will build on the Affordable Care Act — not blow it up.”
I keep listening to the same debate on Medicare for All but it’s not real. Two-thirds of Senate Democrats aren’t on the bill. It would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in 4 years.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) February 8, 2020
I will build on the Affordable Care Act—not blow it up. #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/ETx5cD1gfj
In another heated call-out, Klobuchar critiqued Buttigieg regarding the age-old (pun intended) experience debate. “59 is the new 38!” she told him. She echoed Biden when she said, “We have a newcomer in the White House and look where it got us.” She was in the middle when it came to speaking time, with 16 minutes 32 seconds.
Andrew Yang: “And you get $1,000…and you get $1,000…”
“It’s great to be back on the debate stage! I’m so excited, I want to give everyone $1,000 a month,” he started, citing his signature policy on universal basic income. He didn’t talk a lot (lowest speaking time by far at 8 minutes 5 seconds), but he did go on plenty of tangents, including, memorably, by suggesting that “buying power” and not policy is the answer to curing racism.
It is amazing that Andrew Yang said we can eliminate racism by giving people of color "buying power." As if buying power will prevent me from being killed by racist cops. #DemDebate— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) February 8, 2020
Tom Steyer: “We gotta win.”
“We gotta win — we are in deep trouble, and we keep not talking about the facts!” It looks like Tom Steyer definitely came out to play tonight. In one fell swoop, he called out every candidate on the stage and told them that everyone needs to be accountable for dividing the Democratic party. It seems that Steyer was very focused on the race conversation, bringing it up at nearly every turn. When criminal justice in the context of racial disparities came up, Steyer was first to say that he was in favor of reparations. He also made sure to tout himself as the climate change candidate, again. He had the second-lowest speaking time, at 13 minutes 53 seconds.
So, who won the February Democratic debate in New Hampshire?
Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar had standout performances tonight. Klobuchar continues taking a clear, moderate path and has begun to shine as a presidential candidate, rather than just a senator, and Sanders was the clear frontrunner of the night. On the flip side, Yang was fairly quiet (and occasionally off-topic) and Buttigieg’s response on criminal justice was lacking.
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