Copping the electrifying language of Eric Swalwell, the debates offered a pretty good argument for passing the torch. Self-identified torchbearer Joe Biden looked, well … old. Maybe it’s the millennial in me speaking, but his callbacks to his senatorial past made him seem ancient, not experienced. How was it possible he was already a senator when Kamala D. Harris was still a child on a school bus?! In an encounter with Harris over segregationists and busing, he refused to apologize and crumbled at the end: “My time is up, I’m sorry.” You said it, Joe, not me!
Bernie Sanders also showed if not his age, then the aging of his ideas. In 2016, shouting about big business and “rejecting the premises” of every question was exciting. This year? Sanders seems like a character actor playing himself. The uniqueness of his look onstage — rumpled suit, expansive gestures poor Biden found positively alarming — is what makes it seem so stale now.
Night No. 1 was a little tamer, and Elizabeth Warren was clearly the apex candidate on the stage. Her first answer set the tone for the night: bold plans and the courage and expertise to put them into place. Warren seemed well practiced, comfortable and eager to be there — electable, even? To the others: Stop pandering, por favor.
All that said, the real winner this week was Harris. She had a compassionate story to illustrate every policy question, and the crowd ate it up. But Harris also was bold enough to take on the Democratic favorite headlong, and she definitely came out ahead. She didn’t spend that much time detailing her policies (reversals have dogged her in the past), but we have plenty of debates to come.
— Christine Emba
Change Over Last Ranking
Kamala D. Harris
Bill de Blasio
RETURNS TO RANKING
ADDS TO RANKING
Falls off ranking: John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang
Also receiving votes: Hickenlooper, Seth Moulton, Stacey Abrams, Jay Inslee
Last week’s ranking: Week 21 | 2020 contenders are going to fully air Biden out for this
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Read more on the first debates: