2020 Democratic debates
January 17, 2020

There's a brand new way Democrats can make the debate stage next month.

The Democratic National Committee announced requirements to qualify for February's primary debate Friday, saying the donor threshold will remain steady, with candidates needing at least 225,000 unique donors. Candidates will also, as before, need to hit at least five percent in four qualifying national polls or seven percent in two polls of New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina voters. But there's now a third path that candidates can take to replace the poll requirement: If they win just one delegate in Iowa, they're in.

This could open a path for candidates such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who hit the donor requirement but didn't have enough qualifying polls to make January's debate. The Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and the next debate is Feb. 7 in New Hampshire. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 15, 2020

It was a "dull," "plodding" Democratic debate in Iowa this week in which none of the six candidates came away looking particularly good, according to MSNBC's Morning Joe.

The panel on Morning Joe weighed in Wednesday on the latest Democratic debate, and Joe Scarborough once again didn't come away feeling great about it.

"Nobody looked good on the debate stage last night," Scarborough said, noting that "everybody" he's been talking to has come to the same conclusion. "It was probably everybody's weakest performance."

Analyst John Heilemann, meanwhile, concluded "it was a dull and plodding debate" that didn't fundamentally change the race and for the most part will "quickly fade from memory."

Later, Scarborough concluded the "whining and whimpering" Democratic candidates are "still not ready for prime time," which should "send a chill up Democrats' spines." He was particularly bothered by the focus in the debate on the 2018 conversation between Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Warren has claimed Sanders told her a woman couldn't be elected president in 2020, which Sanders denies.

"Our government, and everything that we have believed that it was striving to be, is at risk, and Democrats are debating what somebody may have said on the telephone two years ago," Scarborough said. "Kids are watching the show this morning, so I can't tell you what I think that is. I'll just say, that's messed up." Brendan Morrow

January 15, 2020

As the Democratic presidential candidates were glad-handing one another after Tuesday night's debate in Des Moines, Tom Steyer ambled into a very intense-looking conversation between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who had not accepted Sanders' handshake. The Daily Show captured the moment with one emoji and a Wizard of Oz gif.

"At the end of the debate, you sort of ended up in the middle of this" moment between Warren and Sanders, CNN's Anderson Cooper prompted Steyer after the debate. "What occurred there?" "Look, I was just going up to say good night to Sen. Sanders," he said. "And I felt like, 'Okay, there's something going on here, good night, I'm outta here.'" Cooper asked more directly, "But what were they arguing about?" And Steyer insisted, "I really wasn't listening."

If you think that sounds unlikely, you aren't alone. "What? How can you not hear Bernie Sanders?" asked CNN's Gloria Borger. "They were talking about getting together or something. I really didn't listen," Steyer insisted. "It was one of those awkward moments where I felt like, 'You know, I need to move on here as fast as possible.'" When Borger asked if he "really didn't" listen, Steyer stuck to his guns: "The last thing I wanted to do was get in between the two of them and try and listen in. That was not my goal, and I didn't do it."

CNN's Chris Cuomo still wasn't buying Steyer's story. "As a reporter, I know that he knows what they said," he said later in the night. He and his panel agreed that Warren had hit debate gold when she pivoted from the he said, she said dispute with Sanders to make her case that a woman can be elected president. Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called it the "best moment of the night, clearly," and former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said that Warren "makes a very, very persuasive case" that the U.S. will elect a woman president, rebutting what's "frankly" the "biggest argument against her right now." Peter Weber

December 20, 2019

Who won Thursday's Democratic debate? It depends how you measure.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) got the most speaking time, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) coming close behind — all at around 20 minutes. Former Vice President Joe Biden talked for just 15 minutes, oddly low given his consistent lead in the polls, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer each got about 11 minutes with the mic.

Meanwhile, a new FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos survey finds two significant wins for Klobuchar, who "gained a little over 4 points in the share of respondents who said they were considering voting for her," more than double anyone else's gains. She also posted the best pre- and post-debate comparative gains in respondents' average rating of candidates' chances to beat President Trump. Still, relative improvements like Klobuchar's are not the same as an overall lead, and in that Biden, Sanders, and Warren dominated the night.

The debate's losers are easier to identify: Buttigieg and Steyer had the worst evening, the Ipsos survey showed, each coming away with higher unfavorable ratings and minimal gains among prospective voters. In fact, Buttigieg was the sole candidate whose net favorability declined.

The next Democratic debate is scheduled for January, and once again the polling and fundraising requirements for participation will be raised in an effort to narrow the field. Bonnie Kristian

December 20, 2019

Thursday's Democratic debate saw Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sparring with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg over high-dollar campaign donations, and scrutiny of Warren's position followed her to the spin room.

Though she has held closed-door fundraisers in the past, Warren pledged not to woo wealthy donors with private events and other special access in her primary race, a policy she says she'd continue in the general election, and has rejected outright contributions of more than $200 from executives at certain finance and tech companies. "I saw what it is that [such donors] expect in return," she told a skeptical CNN panel after the debate.

"I don't sell access to my time, so whether you give me $5 or whatever is the maximum, I'm not spending my time doing call time; I'm not spending my time doing private conversations," Warren said, arguing not that billionaires' money is somehow tainted, but that it shouldn't be permitted to shape her campaign. She pushed back on the suggestion that this is, ironically, an "elitist" purity test, saying she'd never ask fellow Democrats to "unilaterally disarm" in a race against a Republican but does plan to hold her own candidacy to a higher standard.

Read The Week's Ryan Cooper on why that standard should be widely adopted for Democrats to escape the big money stranglehold. Bonnie Kristian

December 20, 2019

There is apparently a not-insignificant number of people who are both so interested in the 2020 Democratic race they spent the Thursday night before Christmas watching a three-hour debate on TV — and also don't know that former Vice President Joe Biden, the longtime frontrunner, had a stutter, even after a much-discussed recent article about it in The Atlantic. That list includes former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Biden said in Thursday's debate that he has a long list of people he or his wife call every month to check in on, using as an example a kid who has sought his advice on how to overcome a stutter. He illustrated this by stuttering.

Sanders tweeted, then deleted, a textual representation of a stutter expressing her confusion about "what Biden is talking about."

Before Sanders deleted the tweet, Biden responded, explaining that he's "worked my whole life to overcome a stutter" and is honored "to mentor kids who have experienced the same." Sanders replied that she "actually didn't know that about you," apologized, and said she "should have made my point respectfully."

It is nice to see people apologize when they make a mistake. It's also unclear what her "point" was, after you strip away the mockery. Peter Weber

December 19, 2019

The Washington Post is publishing a series of reports, based on government documents, detailing U.S. efforts to mislead the public with rosy assessments of a stagnant war in Afghanistan over three administrations. Moderators of Thursday's night's Democratic presidential debate asked Joe Biden, who was vice president in one of those administrations, about testimony that the Obama White House pressured the Pentagon to show a surge of troops was producing results when the evidence said otherwise.

"I'm the guy, from the beginning, who argued that it was a big, big mistake to surge forces to Afghanistan, period," Biden said. "We should not have done it. And I argued against it, constantly."

Fact check: True. Reporters who covered former President Barack Obama's 2009 deliberations about whether to pull out of Afghanistan or double down confirm that Biden was on the losing side of that policy fight, as do Obama White House alumni who were actually part of the deliberations.

The U.S. still has troops in Afghanistan. Peter Weber

December 19, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden was supposed to be a 2020 frontrunner. He didn't talk like it.

Biden, the largely undisputed poll leader in the Democratic primary field, spent just 15 minutes and 28 seconds speaking during Thursday's debate. That's nearly four minuted behind South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's 19 minutes, 12 seconds, and puts Biden ahead of only entrepreneurs Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer in terms of talking time, CNN reports.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is meanwhile on the lower end of the polling spectrum. But that didn't stop her from speaking the second most of the seven candidates onstage. She gt in 19 minutes, 54 seconds of words, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) topped the list with 20 minutes, 18 seconds. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) meanwhile came in third just behind them with 19 minutes, 23 seconds.

Find a chart comparing speaking times at CNN. Kathryn Krawczyk

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