Prior to the two days of the opening rounds of the Democratic presidential debates, Jeffrey Engel said the initial head-to-head of the candidates would in no way prove helpful in determining who should become the next U.S. president.
“They are, however, going to help demonstrate who should not,” said Engel, the founding director of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History.
“Between now and December, candidates will knock each other off, one by one, until the real fight begins when it’s down to the final four,” Engel said.
The whittling appears to have already begun, at least according to pundits who tuned in to the two nights of debates that were held in Miami on June 26 and June 27.
After two hours of questions, impromptu barbs and prepared talking points, a tentative picture has emerged of the initial winners and losers, Real Clear Politics reported, before exclaiming, “Kamala Harris has arrived.”
Harris answered questions of whether she was up to the challenge as she pummeled front-runner Joe Biden about civil rights.
She pushed the former vice president to explain his record on federal busing, which he opposed as a young senator from Delaware, and his association with segregationists, which he has defended as necessary for compromise.
“I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris told Biden. “But I also believe it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.”
CNN named Pete Buttigieg as another of the winners, saying the South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s performance was more akin to a senator or a governor who had been at this for a long time and a co-front-runner in the race.
“His outspokenness on why Democrats need not cede religion to Republicans was powerful,” CNN analysts wrote. “His answer on the officer-involved shooting in his hometown was clearly well rehearsed, yes, but it was about as a good an answer as he could give on such a difficult issue. Buttigieg has lots and lots of natural political ability — and it shone through.”
A number of debate watchers said Biden and Elizabeth Warren were among the losers and, of all the candidates, MSN analysts described Marianne Williamson as perhaps the biggest loser.
“If you think we’re going to beat Donald Trump by just having all these plans, you’ve got another thing coming, because he didn’t win by saying he had a plan,” Williamson said during the debate.
However, MSN noted that later in the debate, when asked about what she would do if she could accomplish only one thing as president, she said it would be “calling the leader of New Zealand to talk about making America great for children again — or something along those lines. It wasn’t entirely clear what she meant. Bizarre.”