Evaluation of the ninth Presidential primary debate

Sean Mauro, Staff Writer

Six democratic presidential candidates ferociously sparred with one another Wednesday night at the ninth Presidential primary debate in Las Vegas.

The debate was the most hostile of the primary season thus far. Several candidates exchanged harsh verbal blows with some effectively countering, and others crumbling under the pressure.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont gave the best performance of the night overall. While Sanders’ current frontrunner status caused him to be the target of several attacks, he was able to get the best of most exchanges. This is mostly due to the fact that a large number of attacks on Sanders and his policies were based on mistruths.

Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg attacked Sen. Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan, stating that there is a “lack of transparency” on how it would be paid for. However, Sen. Sanders has explained the funding for his plan an inordinate amount of times in the past— the plan increases the current payroll tax that Americans already pay for Medicare, and taxes at a progressive rate rather than a flat rate.

“There are 149 million Americans that would lose their current health insurance under Sen. Sanders’ bill, it says so on page eight, and I don’t think we should forget that,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar stated on “Medicare for All.”

This is also extremely misleading as it implies people would lose their health insurance coverage. Sen. Klobuchar is, of course, omitting the fact that “Medicare for All” would provide full coverage for every person residing in the U.S.

The passage of the bill that Sen. Klobuchar is referring to states, “It shall be unlawful for a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act.”

Simply put, private insurers are unable to sell coverage already provided under “Medicare for All.”

Regardless, Sanders’ answer to the last question alone might’ve determined his debate victory. When the candidates were asked whether the person with the most delegates should be the nominee in the event of a contested convention, every candidate other than Sanders answered no. If the United States is truly representative democracy, this should immediately disqualify every candidate but Sanders.

“I think the will of the people should prevail, yes,” stated Sanders. “The person with the most votes should be the nominee.”

Effectively, every candidate other than Sanders endorsed subverting the will of the people and allowing the democratic superdelegates to choose their own nominee in the second ballot.

The second-best performance of the night came from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who managed to claim the most speaking time and leveled several rhetorical blows on former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Comparing Bloomberg to President Trump, Warren stated, “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Warren, who has been falling in polls over the last few months, was able to distinguish herself from other candidates, and will likely receive a much-needed boost from her performance.

The third best performance of the night was likely from Mayor Buttigieg. While being relentlessly targeted for the massive number of billionaires donating to his campaign, Buttigieg was able to level effective attacks against his fellow candidates.

Buttigieg’s most memorable and effective moment of the night was his heated exchange with Sen. Klobuchar, where he criticized her for a recent interview in which she was not able to name the Mexican president or any of his policies. Buttigieg pointed out that despite being a seasoned senator, Klobuchar seemingly lacked critical knowledge of world affairs.

“You’re on the committee that oversees border security, you’re on the committee that does trade” Buttigieg asserted. “You’re literally in part of the committee that’s overseeing these things and were not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country to our south.”

While getting the better of this exchange, Mayor Buttigieg fared far worse against attacks from other candidates. Sen. Warren accused Buttigieg of changing his views on healthcare as he takes money from the health insurance industry.

Buttigieg denied this, but his support of “Medicare for All” in 2018, and the campaign contributions of over $90 thousand he received from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries before changing his stance, appears to prove Sen. Warren correct.

Former Vice President Joe Biden performed moderately well, but not nearly as well as Buttigieg. Biden was energetic in the first half of the debate, fending off attacks from other candidates, and making critiques himself, mostly against Bloomberg.

After Bloomberg presented himself as the candidate most equipped to defeat President Trump in a general election, Biden countered, saying “NBC did a poll yesterday. It says Joe Biden is best equipped to beat Donald Trump.”

However, in the second half of the debate, Biden became less and less prominent, ultimately speaking the second least in the debate despite his solid second place polling nationally.

As Biden has been losing ground to Sanders over the last month, his debate performance needed to be extremely strong. Although he performed moderately well, he did not do anywhere near enough to regain frontrunner status.

The remaining two candidates were clear losers of the debate. Sen. Klobuchar performed the second worst, being unable to deflect attacks from her opponents.

As she fought with Buttigieg over her interview debacle, she was visibly upset and failed to counteract her opponent in any meaningful way.

“Are you — are you trying to say that I’m dumb?” Klobuchar asked her opponent. “Or are you mocking me here, Pete?”

Klobuchar’s healthcare plan, a standard public option, was also under fire as Warren characterized it as a nonstarter.

“It’s like a Post-It note, ‘Insert Plan Here.’ ” Warren said.

Klobuchar was given an opportunity to defend her plan and stated that it would “reduce premiums for 12 million people immediately.” However, Warren later followed up, stating “Amy, I looked online at your plan. It’s two paragraphs.”

Finally, in dead last place, by a colossal margin, is Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg essentially served as a punching bag for the other five candidates on stage. Time and time again, every opponent took turns obliterating him on questions of policy, knowledge, and moral character.

Sen. Warren completely devastated Mayor Bloomberg as she pressed him on non-disclosure agreements his company has with female employees. Bloomberg did little to help himself as he stated the agreements were because “they didn’t like a joke I told,” a comment that was met with groans from the audience.

In fact, several comments Bloomberg made resulted in audible groans from the audience, including him calling Sanders a communist, and stating “It just takes us a long time. Unfortunately, or fortunately” when questioned on releasing his tax returns.

Additionally, Bloomberg’s stop and frisk policy were torn apart by all other candidates as a racist policy intended to disproportionately target African Americans. Moderators also brought up his 2015 comments on the policy, where he admitted to excessively policing African American communities, stating “that’s where the crime is.”

“The policy was abhorrent,” Biden exclaimed. “And it was a fact of violation of every right people have.”

Bloomberg’s performance is very likely the worst debate performance of this election cycle. While his campaign will surely persist through super Tuesday, there is absolutely no doubt this will irreparably damage his chance at the nomination.