Democratic Debate Part Eleventy Billion: Winners and Losers

Typically Redstate senior editor Joe Cunningham would be bringing our faithful readers his breakdown of debate winners and losers, but he decided to save his sanity and bow out for the evening. So, as Editor-at-Large that leaves me to pick up and carry on. So here you go…your November 20, 2019 Democratic Primary Debate winners and losers as I see them:


Winners: Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang.

MSNBC went full “woke” with their production of Wednesday night’s primary debate. They held the event at Tyler Perry’s historic Atlanta film studios – a seeming nod to the Black community although they perplexingly left out nearly any mention of Black voter issues – and they had an all women panel of moderators, led by Rachael Maddow. Again, there was a perplexing lack of questions surrounding the issues you’d think most Democrat-voting women would be curious about…outside of the sacred abortion questions.

Tulsi Gabbard continues to have a consistently strong and forward stance when it comes to her platform. She’s got a really great team around her and it shows. She is always prepared to confront the head of the class and in this debate that was Pete Buttigieg who is starting to sneak into the top tier. Their sparring on military issues produced a few stinging barbs on both sides. In the end, Gabbard seemed to have all of her responses carefully practiced and ready to go – another sign that her team is well researched and well-prepared. Here’s the exchange.


Gabbard continues to look more and more impressive each time she takes the debate stage. She’s a winner tonight in that respect, but that doesn’t mean she’s on the way to winning.

Mayor Pete is also a winner not only for holding his own in his heated exchange with Gabbard but for just being on the stage at all. He gets a win tonight because every time he is on that stage he increases his visibility. Also he is admittedly very-well possessed on stage and cuts a fine figure for such an inexperienced politician. He definitely has a bright future in their party, it just might not be as their President.

Cory Booker had a pretty decent night and the Atlanta audience seemed keen to support him. He made some jokes, drew some applause and generally seemed affable and level-headed. This is probably his best performance yet. And speaking of performances, Booker’s girlfriend actress Rosario Dawson was spotted in the audience. Rumors have been swirling that the Booker campaign has not been pleased with her absence from his events. It looks like they may have resolved their contract dispute personal issues now that the race is getting closer and Booker is starting to run out of money. Good showing for Booker tonight and we will no doubt see him move on to the next debate stage.


Elizabeth Warren will continue to be viewed as a debate winner as long as she doesn’t go all Sleepy Joe any time soon. She’s the woman to beat and while her views may be very polarizing, she knows her base and she doesn’t ever stray from her platform. And as for Yang…well, there’s no need to really take him seriously as a threat to the top tier but that doesn’t mean his presence isn’t refreshing. The #YangGang was there in full force and while not all of his ideas are solid ones, some of them are and he’s able to communicate them in an irreverent way that can be endearing. He’s even got jokes! He’s a winner, but only from the likability standpoint. Yang can’t win but he’ll win some fans along the trail.

Losers: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders Tom Steyer, Kamala Harris twice over, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and the entire MSNBC moderator panel. 

Biden is still the front runner, and he had a couple of lucid moments where it was clear he was the only one who actually understood the significance of the debate location. However, he gave what is now becoming the typical Biden performance – a little bit of statesmanship and a whole lot of confusion. His hallmark “moment of cringe” came when he spoke out in favor of the Violence Against Women Act and then went on to remark on the need to “keep punching and punching” until they got it through the house. When the audience reacted with disbelieving laughs he scolded them. “No, I’m being serious”, he said with seemingly no clue about why they were laughing. Biden leads the pack but he’s still not owning the stage when he needs to.


Tom Steyer…why are you here?

Amy Klobuchar did an adequate job but really got lost in the shuffle. She’s actually a fairly reasonable candidate which is probably why she’ll be folding soon after Iowa. I’m only putting her on the losing side because she just was unable to find a way to rise above the din tonight.

Mayor Pete is on both lists because even as he’s winning he’s still losing. If he makes it to that final stretch he will absolutely need to address his problems with Black voters and right now he’s just ignoring it. That will bite him in the rear and sooner rather than later.

Kamala Harris needed a very strong showing tonight as her campaign is dangerously close to folding. If she can limp into Iowa she may see a bump there but it would have to be a strong one. My husband calls her “that annoying vice-principal everyone hated in high school” and I think that is the most apt description I’ve ever heard. Her refusal to hit hard at Buttigieg also seemed to indicate that perhaps she’s seeing the writing on the wall and looking to align herself with top candidates for future cabinet positions. Harris was insincere, lecturing and just plain annoying tonight.


Bernie did his Bernie thing. Nothing new, everything old. In another setting he might have seen his typical audience enthusiasm but this is Atlanta and Black folks don’t take kindly to crazy old white men yelling at them about socialized medicine while their concerns are wrapped up in things like police brutality and an education system that is failing Black students.

And that brings me to MSNBC panel. They were fine. They asked all the typical questions but that was what was so odd. A panel of four women…in Atlanta…you would have thought they’d use the opportunity to hammer home some women’s issues and certainly spend more time on issues that affect their Black voting base but none of that happened. It was standard pablum. Nothing notable or even very interesting came out of mouths when quizzing the people who hope to lead the nation one day. I will applaud Maddow for forcing a few candidates to answer the questions they were trying to wriggle out of. Otherwise it was flat, boring and grossly disappointing considering the promise of such a great setting and an all-female panel.

If you’d like to see more of my thoughts as I was watching in real time, check out my debate thread on Twitter.

So that’s that. See you on the next stage, hopefully a few bodies lighter.





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