Except for one somewhat heated exchange between Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the anticipated fireworks failed to ignite at last night’s Democratic debate – the last before next month’s Iowa caucuses.
The six candidates chose to play it safe for the most part, and direct their fire at Donald Trump, rather than at each other.
Given that the stage was now parred down to only six, and that this was the last live debate before the primary season begins in earnest, most expected to see more of a battle in the small venue at Drake University in Des Moines.
Instead, we saw a gathering of ladies and gentlemen who politely disagreed on a number of issues, but who did not turn the debate into a wrestling match.
The closest it got to the anticipated brawl was an exchange between Sanders and Warren over his two year old quip to her that a woman could not become president. When moderator Abby Phillip of the Des Moines Register asked Sanders flat out if he had said it, the Vermont senator said, “he did not.” It turned into a game of “he said she said,” when Phillip then turned to Warren, who said, he did.
Warren then continued with her best moment of the night, and probably of the debate, saying that the only candidates on that stage who “never lost an election,” and had “beaten a Republican incumbent in the last 30 years,” were indeed the women – referring to Senator Amy Klobuchar and herself.
The line wasn’t just a zinger that will be quickly forgotten, either; it’s an effective pushback against the idea that she is too liberal to beat Trump. It was one of many moments were Warren seemed to shine above the rest of the candidates.
Frontrunner Joe Bidden had another mediocre debate performance, stumbling over lines, and seemingly forgetful.
Other standouts included Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar who deftly answered questions in ways designed to appeal to a broad swath of voters.
Overall, with the debate being far more sedated than anticipated, it probably failed to move the needle appreciably between the four candidates who are in a practical deadlock at the top of the pack, Bidden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg.
Just as in the previous debates, the real winner of last night’s was President Donald J. Trump. One out of those six will most likely be the nominee to go up against the president in November, and not one proved they had the moxie to defeat him.