Some are calling Tuesday night’s fourth Democratic presidential debate the Elizabeth Warren Show. The senator from Massachusetts commandeered much of the debate time compared to the other candidates.
Richard Pineda is director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. He says Warren’s dominance during the three-hour debate was mostly good for her.
“She’s getting a tremendous amount of airtime,” Pineda says. “You don’t necessarily need a knockout punch at one of these debates, you just need to be the person that gets a lot of attention.”
But Warren was just one of 12 candidates on the stage.
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s stance on gun control started a heated exchange between him and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. O’Rourke has proposed an assault weapon buyback program. But Buttigieg, a former U.S. Naval Reserve officer, questioned whether O’Rourke’s approach would reduce deaths from gun violence quickly enough.
“That got Mayor Pete probably one of the big lines of the night about not taking direction from Congressman O’Rourke on courage, political or personal,” Pineda says.
In a departure from Julián Castro’s approach during the last debate, the former San Antonio mayor was less combative with the other candidates. Pineda says he could be trying to set himself up for a possible vice presidential candidacy. It could be Castro’s best option given his consistently low poll numbers.
The candidates delved into contentious topics, but not immigration, which Pineda says was surprising. He suspects candidates avoided the topic because none has a strong strategy for dealing with Republican attacks.
“That’s troubling to me,” Pineda says. “Republicans will probably use immigration as the big wedge issue for 2020. … I’m not sure that the Democrats have a handle on what to do or how to respond.”
Debaters also shied away from talk of the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Pineda says that could have been a way to avoid drawing attention to fellow candidate, and former vice president, Joe Biden, who’s caught up in that inquiry after the president accused him of improper dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president.
Bernie Sanders performed well, Pineda says, especially after having heart surgery recently. And Amy Klobuchar had some strong moments, especially when she challenged Warren, Pineda says. But ultimately, he says that encounter mostly benefitted Warren.
Written by Caroline Covington.