Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls faced off Wednesday night in the first of a two-night primary debate. While the crowded stage made it difficult to stand out, some candidates managed to garner attention – although perhaps not in the ways they might have hoped.
Jason DeSanto, a senior lecturer at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law and a longtime political speechwriter, saw Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro and Amy Klobuchar as the standouts Wednesday.
“(Warren) was able tell an overarching story about her candidacy, which is hard to do, but she did it well,” DeSanto said. He praised both her opening and closing answers as conveying her passion for the issues while still connecting with voters.
“Castro is somebody owning an issue, as opposed to Warren owning the idea of a larger story and her weaving her answers together,” DeSanto said. In this case, Castro’s issue is immigration. DeSanto thinks Castro particularly distinguished himself by drawing a contrast between his own immigration policy and that of Beto O’Rourke, who DeSanto says missed opportunities and didn’t help his reputation as a lightweight.
DeSanto also thought Klobuchar performed well, with action-focused answers topped off by pithy one-liners. And, he noted, she listened for chances to jump in and make herself known. “That speaks well of future opportunities for her in these situations,” DeSanto said.
As for the second debate, DeSanto will be watching to see whether former Vice President Joe Biden appears as “tentative” as he has up to this point – and expects Biden to take the fight to President Donald Trump much more than candidates did in round one. DeSanto also predicts that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will be aiming to distinguish himself from Biden as the preferred progressive candidate in a bid to block Warren’s momentum.