“Beto and Booker stood out to me in a negative way. The two of them just seem so unfit to run in this presidential election. Neither of them are actually clear on their plans and they each tend to latch on to what other candidates say. This is especially true of Booker,” said Cuttle. (Photo Credit: Mei Lamison/Achona Online)
“Beto and Booker stood out to me in a negative way. The two of them just seem so unfit to run in this presidential election. Neither of them are actually clear on their plans and they each tend to latch on to what other candidates say. This is especially true of Booker,” said Cuttle.

Photo Credit: Mei Lamison/Achona Online

Breakdown of the Democratic Presidential Debate

October 23, 2019

On Tuesday, October 15, the top 12 polling Democratic candidates took to the debate stage for the fourth time to fight for the 2020 party nominee. The event, located in Columbus, Ohio, was both broadcasted and coordinated by CNN and the New York Times.

The presidential hopefuls include Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders, businessman Tom Steyer, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and businessman Andrew Yang. 

“I really felt like this debate per usual did a bad job at giving everyone a fair amount of coverage,” said Sam Cuttle (‘20)  

To qualify for the debate, candidates needed, “to attain at least 2% in four separate Democratic National Committee-approved polls and receive contributions from at least 130,000 unique donors, including at least 400 donors from 20 different states.” 

Topics discussed ranged from impeachment, to universal health care, gun control, to unlikely political friendships. 

“Some of these questions asked seem so pointless; they do not belong in a primary debate. Why are we discussing Ellen and George Bush’s friendship before climate change, immigration, housing, etcetera,” said Chloe Moussa (‘20). 

Here are each candidates highlights

Elizabeth Warren: 

Warren, being the frontrunner of this debate, faced multiple attacks from multiple opponents. Both Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Biden, Harris, and Klobuchar named Warren’s policies (specifically her wealth tax plan) “unrealistic” and “vague.” 

O’Rourke called Warren’s plan “punitive.” In response, Warren said, “I’m really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I’m punitive.”

“I have made clear what my principles are here: Costs will go up for the wealthy and for corporations and for hard-working middle-class families, costs will go down,” Warren said.

Throughout the debate, Warren made it clear she supports an impeachment inquiry, even though a possible inquiry may take her off the campaign trail. She said, “…sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry.”

“I would say Warren stood out to me the most. One, because I felt like the other candidates were quick to attack her. Two, she is the most realistic with her plans and ideas,” said Cuttle. 


Joe Biden: 

Almost immediately Biden address him and his son’s accused relations with the Urkanian government. “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that’s what we should be focusing on,” Biden said.

Although Biden had only recently announced his support of the congressional impeachment proceedings, he was quick to accuse Donald Trump during the debate. He said Trump was the “most corrupt president in history.”

He did credit himself for his past position as Vice President. “I’m going to say something that is probably going to offend some people here. But I’m the only one on this stage who has gotten anything really big done,” Biden said. 

The statement was quick to offense Warren and Sanders. 

Biden was vague on his policy during the majority of the debate. He did however mention plan of expanding Obamacare in response to Warren and Sanders universal healthcare plan. 


Bernie Sanders: 

Sanders started off the night with his catchphrase, “as the one who wrote the damn bill,” when responding to a question relating to universal healthcare. 

The Vermont Senator, who had recently suffered a heart attack, addressed concerns relating to his health. “We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people,” said Sanders. 

In response to the statement, Booker joked that “Mr. Sanders also supports medical marijuana,” to which Sanders responded “I’m not on it tonight,” promting a laugh from the audience. 

Sanders made it clear he supports impeachment proceedings multiple times during the debate. “Mitch McConnell has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate,” said Sanders, speaking about the topic of impeachment,” said Sanders. 

In the second hour, Sanders commented on Trump’s recent order to take U.S. troops out of Syria. “Turkey is not a U.S. ally when they engage in another mass slaughter,” he said forcefully in the second hour of the debate,” he said.


Pete Buttigieg:

Buttigieg spent majority of the night attacking his opponents, sparking arguments with O’Rourke, Warren, and Gabbard. It was clear the Mayor was attempting to appeal to more moderate Democrats. 

When addressing gun control and a mandatory buy-back program, Buttigieg named O’Rourke’s plan improbable. He said, “Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this.” 

When O’Rourke attempted to rebuke his claim, Buttigieg said, “I don’t need lessons from you on courage.” 

Buttigieg claimed Warren’s healthcare plan would “obliterate” the private health insurance. He then imagined his own alternative plan, “Medicare for all who want it.”

When asked about the withdrawal of troops from Syria, Buttigieg said, When I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it. And our enemies knew that. You take that away, you are taking away what makes America America. It makes the troops and the world a much more dangerous place.” 

The response evoked an argument with Gabbard, the only other verteran on stage. 

Gabbard said the situation was “yet another negative consequence of the regime-change war that we’ve been waging in Syria.” However, placed the blame on “both parties” as well as “the mainstream media.” 

Buttigieg immediately responded, “respectfully, Congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence. It’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.”

Gabbard then said, “Really, what you’re saying, Mayor Pete, is you would continue to support having troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time, to continue this regime-change war?” 

To which Buttigieg replied, “Part of what makes it possible for the United States to get people to put their lives on the line to back us up is the idea that we will back them up, too. I would have a hard time today looking at an Afghan civilian or soldier in the eye after what just happened over there, and it is undermining the honor of our soldiers. You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.”


Kamala Harris:

Harris’ most notable moment occurred during the healthcare portion of the debate.

She was the first candidate to bring forward women’s reproductive rights; a hot topic issue due to recent heartbeat bills

“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle and not nearly one word with all of these discussions about health care on women’s access to reproductive health care, which is under full-on attack in America today. And it’s outrageous. There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive health care, and it is not an exaggeration to say women will die. Poor women, women of color will die because these Republican legislatures in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with their bodies. Women are the majority of the population in this country. People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives,” said Harris. 

Similarly to her opponents, Harris endorsed the idea of impeachment. She thinks the inquiry will move quickly. “As a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it,” she said.

Harris fought with frontrunner Warren multiple times throughout the night. The Senator stressed the idea of having Trump’s twitter account removed and was frustrated when Warren would not support the statement. Warren said, “I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter, I want to push him out of the White House.” 

The California Senator also expressed the need for gun control during the debate. “I’m done,” she said. “And we need action. And Congress has had years to act and failed because they have not had the courage.”

However, Harris failed to address any specific policy or plans she would conduct to solves these issues if elected. 

“I noticed that a common thread in many candidates was that they drastically changed the topic, often to climate change or reproductive rights. I wonder what topics the candidates may not be able to speak about because of this unnecessary organization,” said Laura Caroline Jung (‘22).


Cory Booker:

In addition to Harris’ statement, Booker followed in addressing reproductive rights. He said, “We are seeing all over this country women’s reproductive rights under attack. God bless Kamala. Women should not be the only ones taking up this cause and this fight.”

Like all other candidates before, Booker mentioned his support of impeachment and his opposition of Donald Trump. 

“You know, we’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president, and how we talk about each other in this debate really matters,” Booker said. 

When describing allegations of Trump Putin relations, Booker said, “the moral leadership of this country into a dumpster fire.”

While these statements produced cheers from the crowd, Booker did little during the debate to differentiate himself from his opponents. Like Harris, he mentioned little specifics of policy and plans. 

Booker did continue to “preach love,” cutting off candidates who were attacking one another.  “You cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and women. Love is not sentimentality, it’s not anemic. Love is struggle, love is sacrifice,” he said. 

“Cory Booker definitely stood out to me during the debate – especially when he managed to steer the conversation away from the candidates attacking each other and each other’s plans, to more conductive discussions of major topics. He was able to bring up the issue of reproductive healthcare that was being grossed over even after Kamala Harris brought it up,” said Kara Petitt (‘20).


Amy Klobuchar: 

Klobuchar did not receive much screen time during the debate. She did, however, spark applause from the crowd when bringing up the opioid epidemic. 

Klobuchar joined her fellow opponents in support of the inquiry. When asked about its importance, she said “I just don’t want to screw this up.” 


Andrew Yang: 

While most candidates spent their first few minutes of speaking time address the need for impeachment, Yang encouraged Democratic voters to focus on the “economic problems that paved the way for Trump’s win in 2016.” 

Yang spent the majority of the debate focusing on his one major policy plan: universal basic income. His“Freedom Dividend” plan provides $1,000 per month to every American adult above the age of 18. 

He faced backlash from almost all candidates, most notably frontrunner Warren. The Massachusetts Senator said, “I think the thing closest to universal basic income is Social Security.” 

She then asked to “see the data.” To which Yang quickly replied, “I have the data.”


Beto O’Rourke:

“I really like Beto O’Rourke for many reasons, but especially because he emphasizes gun control. In my opinion, gun regulation is one of the most important issues currently affecting our age group,” said Tess Ricco (‘20). 

O’Rourke’s most notable moment was him and Buttigieg’s heated argument on gun control, as previously mentioned above. 

“Let’s decide what we are going to believe and what we are going to achieve. And let’s bring this country together in order to do that. Let’s … not be limited by the polls and the consultants and the focus groups,” O’Rourke said.


Tom Steyer:

This debate marked Steyer’s stage debut, as he entered the primaries later than any other hopeful.

He immediately mentioned his Need to Impeach” campaign, noting that he supported the idea of impeachment long before any of the other candidates on stage. 

Rather than attacking his opponents, Steyer took a similar approach to Booker. He said every Democratic candidate was a “more decent and patriotic than the criminal in the White House.”

Though he had limited screen time, Steyer advocated for a tax on the wealthy, an end to Trump’s tax cuts, and an increase of the minimum wage.


Julián Castro: 

Castro did not receive as much attention compared to the other Democratic candidates. 

His most memorable moment was in a dispute against O’Rourke’s mandatory gun buyback plan. 

The former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro brought to light a possible consequence of the buybacks. Under the proposed policy, police officers would go door to door to collect firearms. Communities of color, which commonly face police violence, could fall victim. 

“In the places I grew up in, we weren’t exactly looking for another reason for the cops to come banging on the door. “I am not going to give these police officers another reason to go door to door in certain communities, because police violence is also gun violence, and we need to address that,” Castro said. 

Castro promises a complete reform of the police force if elected to office.


Tulsi Gabbard: 

Gabbard received the least amount of screen time out of all candidates, and is currently polling last out of the 12 that participated in the debate. 

While every other presidential hopeful favored impeachment, Gabbard disagreed, stating that impeachment would only “divide the country further.” 

She called out past democrtic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton with her statement, “when I look at our country, I don’t see deplorables. I see fellow Americans.” 

Her focus revolved completely around foreign policy. She used the phrase “regime change war” nine times

“During the debate Gabbard was constantly contradicting herself. She’s literally an Assad apologist and refuses to acknowledge his role in the killing of thousands of his own people,” said Moussa.

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