The crowd of podiums and frequent interruptions are back. Ten candidates participated in night one of the second Democratic presidential debates Tuesday, hoping to leave a lasting impression on American voters as the race heats up. There are more stringent requirements candidates must meet to qualify for the third round of debates in September, and candidates all spoke more specifically on their platforms in an attempt to garner support and donations.
If you couldn’t tune in to the three hour-long debate, here are five main takeaways from the first night:
Progressives stand their ground
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren snagged the middle two podiums as the highest polling candidates on night one. They also happen to be the two most progressive candidates in the race. Rather than attacking one another to prove themselves as the more progressive candidate, the two stood by their ideologies together while fending off criticism from more moderate voices.
Former Rep. John Delaney and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock probed Sanders and Warren on topics such as health care and radical leftism. As relatively low-polling candidates, those discussions were probably tactics for the candidates to get their names out to the public. Whether the tactics worked or not will show once September and more polls roll around.
Bernie is back
Many said Sanders lost in the first round of debates. His answers to questions seemed recycled, mirroring the same rhetoric he used in 2016. Sanders also faced criticism for talking more about his plans than how to achieve them. However, Sanders brought more substance to this debate. He talked about how taxes would be impacted under a Medicare-for-All system rather than its mere establishment, giving the American people a better idea of how such a system would work. Sanders needed a comeback after round one, and Tuesday may have been the surge he was looking for.
Marianne Williamson: Meme no more?
Twitter users exploded online about Williamson’s spiritual, unconventional aura after the first debate, but her speaking time seemed to garner more support than snickering on Tuesday. Williamson frankly talked about how a water crisis like that in Flint, Michigan, never would have occurred in her former home of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. She also aimed her response at President Donald Trump, who she hasn’t been shy of criticizing in the past.
“We have an administration that has gutted the Clean Water Act. We have communities, particularly communities of color and disadvantaged communities, all over this country, who are suffering from environmental injustice,” Williamson said.
The questions forced candidates’ hands
Whereas the first round of debates asked more broad questions about candidate’s platforms, the questions this time around seemed to beg particular responses. Sound Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the youngest candidate, was asked about the importance of a candidate’s age while standing next to Sanders, the oldest candidate. He chose not to criticize Sanders and instead talked about the power of a candidate’s vision. Adopting radical leftism versus a more moderate platform was also asked about. Some questions directly demanded candidate’s responses on their opponents’ plans or quotes. With the stakes getting higher during every debate, more questions like this are bound to occur—and so are the attacks by opponents.
No one rose to the occasion, and some candidates faded away
One of the most memorable moments from the first round of debates was Sen. Kamala Harris criticizing former-Vice President Joe Biden’s position on federal busing. There wasn’t any moment quite as enthralling as that on Tuesday, but Biden and Harris will have more time to criticize each other during night two of the debates.
The first round of debates had some widely accepted winners and clear losers. No singular candidate emerged from Tuesday night as a winner, but candidates who needed a push in order to help get them to the September debates fell flat. While former Rep. Beto O’Rourke had a better showing than the first debate, he left no truly memorable statements in his wake. Similarly, Sen. Amy Klobuchar had a solid night, but failed to steal the spotlight away from her more progressive counterparts. With 2020 slowly creeping up on the candidates, the need for a breakout moment grows stronger with every debate.
Night two of the Democratic Primary Debates airs tonight at 8 p.m. on CNN