But here is a first take on how the candidates did. As a partisan Republican, I have taken the liberty of ranking the performance of each candidate from 1 to 10 (1 being the best, 10 being the worst) and offering some brief commentary on each of their performances.
- Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro: Beat expectations. Poised and broke through a couple of times. He set the left edge for Democrats on immigration and was perhaps the best performer.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.): Able and confident, perhaps even a little intimidating. Moderator favorite. Her momentum continues.
- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: Better than I expected. Successfully asserted himself. I wanted to think he was a joke, but he came across as forceful and credible.
- Sen. Amy Klobucher (Minn.): Nervous, earnest, rehearsed. But a net-plus performance. She is among the serious candidates.
- Former congressman John Delaney: Knowledgeable. Sensible. The most like a Republican.
- Former congressman Beto O’Rourke: Awkward buzzwords and platitudes. Awkward buzzwords and platitudes in Spanish. Lightweight. Please, no more Kennedy comparisons.
- Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.): High word count, but low content. Panders more than others but got better as the night progressed. Looks a little frightening — and the most like a Marvel comic character.
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii): Hillary-esque. I thought she might be the “breakout” performer, but she was mostly a bore. A dud.
- Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio): Seemed like a high school coach. Lame sympathy for school shooters? Bragged about his long tenure in Congress. What is he doing here?
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee: Very flat, not quite ready for C-SPAN.
As for the field as a whole: Democrats’ positions on the economy are tepid and blurred because of the current prosperity fostered by the Trump economy. On the other hand, their aggressiveness on immigration appears to be a defining issue where the contrast with President Trump will be clear. The Democratic Party is getting very close to matter-of-fact support for open borders.
Tonight’s debate helped a couple of candidates and hurt a couple of others, but overall, all the candidates moved sideways and any potential consequences of tonight’s debate will be quickly overwhelmed by tomorrow’s debate and maybe even by a sudden tweet.