The first Democratic presidential debate’s 10-person panel Wednesday night illuminated a variety of mindsets among the party’s campaigners.
Here, in the order they appeared on the stage from left to right in Florida, are the candidates:
Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee and John Delaney.
This was one of the most important election line-ups of the year, as the Dems began their sprints toward the November 2020 voting.
It’s a pity that NBC showed a distinct lack of preparation for the event. There were no name plates on the podiums, there was an inexcusable hot mic incident and in the post debate period, the cameras showed the candidates posing for selfies while commentators’ provided the audio from afar.
This is being written before Thursday night’s second 10-candidate panel, so it is to be hoped that NBC learned some lessons from Wednesday night.
Notably, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were the only two candidates who raised their hands when asked if they would eliminate private insurance as part of “Medicare for All” government-run health-care system championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“I think we should be the party that keeps what’s working and fixes what’s broken,” Delaney said.
But he sadly kept interrupting and trying to talk over the moderators.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s sister went on Twitter to accuse NBC of fixing the debate for Warren, it was reported after the debate.
Some of the low-polling candidates desperately needed uplifting moments to soar above the pack and gain more funding, but none of the remarks stood out to make that happen.
Booker said, “It is time we have an economy that works for everybody” after minimizing his differences with Warren’s plan to break up big tech firms.
The leftward shift in the party goes beyond economics. The debaters made clear that it includes gun control, abortion, climate change and immigration.
In spite of expectations, strong criticism of Trump’s presidency was relatively absent in the debate.
On the economy, however, the candidates accused Trump of favoring the nation’s wealthiest families and corporations at the expense of middle-class families.
Klobuchar said Trump just sits “in the White House and gloats” at people struggling to afford to pay for college.
The Democrats said that Trump’s claim that Dems are all “for open borders” is absurd.
“We have a perception problem with the Democratic Party that we are not connecting to the working class,” Ryan said. “We have to change the center of gravity from being coastal elites and Ivy League.”
Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who teared up discussing the highly publicized photo of two drowning victims, criticized O’Rourke for not pledging to repeal a section in the federal law criminalizing unauthorized entry into the U.S., which he said is being used to separate children from their parents.
Inslee, who has made the fight against global warming the centerpiece of his candidacy, reiterated his call for heavy investment in green technologies as a way to create jobs while slashing carbon emissions.
Overall, there was broad agreement in support of tougher gun controls, making healthcare more accessible and affordable and negotiating with Iran to contain its nuclear ambitions.
We’ll report later on the Thursday night panel’s discussions. The group contains more of the highest polling candidates.