Leslie Marshall: New Hampshire Democratic debate winners and losers

Friday was the last Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. There were seven candidates onstage at St. Anselm College in Manchester: Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer.

So what was my take on this debate? Below you’ll find my winners and losers for the evening.


BIGGEST WINNER: Sen. Amy Klobuchar

On Friday night Klobuchar had a breakthrough moment; perhaps because the U.S. senator from Minnesota knew this could be her last debate if she didn’t step it up — and she did.

Klobuchar’s top moments included her comments on systemic racism and what many — myself included — felt was the winning (and funniest) line of the night: “We have a president that literally blames everyone. … He blames the King of Denmark. Who does that? He blames the prime minister of Canada for, he claims, cutting him out of the Canadian version of ‘Home Alone 2.’ Who does that?!”

WINNER: Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Warren’s performance was strong and steady. She reminded many of us why she had risen (and so fast) in the polls in weeks past.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts is intelligent and had specific answers (and plans) for most of the questions posed. She also came prepared.

“Put real money into our schools,” she pleaded. “Put real money into housing. Put real money into health care. Put real money into the future of our children. That’s how we build the America of our best values.”


Warren also told Buttigieg that his answer on race was not sufficient and then proceeded to give the best answer of the night on racial justice.

WINNER: Former Vice President Joe Biden

Biden wasn’t the strongest performer on the stage, and I know many may disagree with my choice here — especially after coming in fourth place in Iowa — but the former vice president had some breakout moments.

First, he directly criticized Sanders on an issue that is of immense importance to Democratic voters: guns and the senator’s record on guns. This is something most of the other candidates forget or avoid pointing out.

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Second, Biden was at his best when he lashed out at President Trump for giving the Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address rather than to impeachment witness Lt. Col. Vindman who was fired Friday. Biden called Vindman an American patriot and asked the audience to rise in a show of support. It was passionate, powerful and quite genuine.

WINNER: The final question about Child Poverty.

That issue has not been referenced in a presidential debate since another prominent journalist, the late Cokie Roberts, asked candidates about the issue in 1999.


Sen. Bernie Sanders

By many measures, Sanders had a strong night on the stage — especially when he took on Buttigieg regarding donations from billionaires. Still, this smacks of irony since Sanders himself is a millionaire.

Sanders is also in my loser column because at this point the independent U.S. senator from Vermont has nothing new to say. We’ve heard it all by now. No matter what the question is, for Sanders, the answer always appears to be the same: Blame the corporations.


BIGGEST LOSER: Pete Buttigieg

The former mayor gave a lackluster, rather stale performance. His poor record on race in South Bend caught up with him. And Sanders really hammered Buttigieg on his support from billionaires.

LOSER: Tom Steyer

For some reason, Steyer tried to paint Joe Biden as a racist — again. It ultimately backfired for Sen. Kamala Harris and it might do the same for Steyer, who was trying to put a dent in the armor Biden has with African-American voters before the South Carolina primary later this month.

There was one other puzzling moment from Steyer. For some reason, he closed his remarks saying, “Let’s rise together,” a signature line that didn’t belong to him but rather to former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker.


LOSER: Andrew Yang

Yang did not have a good night. I find Yang very likable but he did not stand out on the stage and didn’t really contribute anything that could move the needle for him.

LOSER: Democrats

If we fail to put all our support behind whichever of these seven individuals becomes our nominee.


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