There were few surprises in the first debate of some 10 Democratic contenders for president and the candidates that came out on top may have done so only because they had the most time to speak.
Nuanced differences existed on the issues between candidates, but each candidate seemed to have a top issue.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar seemed to find the most traction on health care and gun violence. She called President Trump’s attempts to lower prescription drug costs “all foam and no beer.” She chimed in on the gun violence in schools with a tasty sound bite, saying young people are leading the gun control charge: “If we get bested by a bunch of 17-year-olds, that’s the best thing that could ever happen.”
Klobuchar was able to articulate her positions quickly and clearly. That will be key in these debates, with record numbers of candidates and messages. Candidates can get lost in the mix.
But Klobuchar made the top five in terms of bold statements that may be key to besting Trump and his ability to parlay bold statements into debating wins.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren stood out when she raised her hand as one willing to abolish private health insurance for a government plan.
Julian Castro, former San Antonio mayor and secretary of housing, effectively sparred with fellow Texan Rep. Beto O’Rourke on immigration.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke forcefully about raising an African American child and the warnings he must give about interactions with police.
Speaking Spanish at times, O’Rourke was effective in explaining the economy is about everyone getting ahead, with an acknowledgment to a significant Democratic voting block.
Klobuchar could be seen smirking as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington talked about being the only one on stage who has passed laws protecting women’s abortion rights. Klobuchar garnered applause by responding: “I just want to say, there’s three women up here that have fought for a woman’s right to choose.”
Sen. Cory Booker garnered the most speaking time at 11 minutes. Klobuchar was fifth at 8.5 minutes.
The first Democratic debate was a robust show of style and substance. That crowded field may be the best thing Democrats can hope for as they hone their debating skills in a vigorous exchange.