Well, the debates happened.
They were strangely uncomfortable, full of smears, and random people talking over each other. But it was the biggest moment most candidates had to explain to the American people who they were and what their plans are. And some candidates didn’t even get to do that.
So after two days and no doubt, incessant polling coming out of it, it’s time to reveal who raised their stock after the debates and who flat out plummeted.
Kicking off with…
#25 – Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA): Somehow, Seth Moulton managed to come off worse than we already thought of him. He wasn’t making much noise to begin with and during the debates, he seemed just happy to be there. Didn’t do much to stand out, and when he did speak, it was clear he was no one’s front runner.
#24 – Gov. Steve Bullock (D- MT): Bullock, unfortunately, didn’t make the debate stage so we didn’t get to hear much from him, but he did a sketch on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert that made him come across as at the very least, likable. But while Bullock can certainly identify the problem, he’s got the same solutions many other candidates have as well.
#23 – Fmr. Gov. John Hickenlooper – Depending on who you ask, a number of different candidates won the debates, but no matter who you ask, John Hickenlooper definitely lost. Even the debate moderators brought up how he was booed off stage at the California Democratic party when he tried to decry socialism. If that wasn’t bad enough, he tried arguing the only reason not to go in that direction was because “Republicans will be mean”, expect Hickenlooper to be taking his exit out of the race rather quickly.
#22 – Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA): Talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Swalwell definitely had the best intentions when he tried to call out Joe Biden during the debates by telling him to “pass the torch” to a younger generation, but he used the refrain so much, it became egregious to the point of annoyance. Swalwell did have one good moment though when he called out Pete Buttigieg for his scandal in South Bend, and only got a death stare in response. Kudos, Eric…kudos.
#21 – Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO): Michael Bennett actually made one good point during the debates when he attacked Joe Biden on his willingness to work with Republicans when he helped make the Bush tax cuts permanent. This was actually a really hard hit on Biden as it made his ‘reasonable centrist’ shtick seem awfully partisan. Sadly, it was the only strike Bennett got in all night as he kept telling the audience what he was against, rather than what he was for.
#20 – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): Amy Klobuchar came ready with some zingers, she just couldn’t fit them in there in time. I’m sure some poor staffer is suffering the result of her performance. Still, Klobuchar didn’t hurt her stock too badly, she wasn’t gaining before, and she still isn’t gaining now. No harm, no foul.
#19 – Fmr. Rep. John Delaney – Delaney takes the biggest fall of any candidate on our list as he drops 6 spots from his previous standing. His completely irrational stance on Medicare for All is downright laughable. He too, along with Hickenlooper, got booed off the stage at the California Democratic convention, and during the debate, he seemed easily the most flustered of the candidates. Eager to get a word in, but didn’t say anything of substance. He’s determined to stay in the race as long as he can, here’s hoping he’ll have a better performance next time around, but if not, it’s best to cut your losses and get out before you waste too much of your money…and our time.
#18 – Fmr. Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke – Oh Beto, Beto, Beto…you really should’ve just run for Senate. For someone who came in on such a wave of enthusiasm, he whittled it away on the first question he was asked by not only dodging it but going as far as to speak in Spanish to avoid answering the question. It was a poor man’s attempt at misdirection that didn’t land. On top of that, Beto looked the most uncomfortable on stage and offered very little substance on the issues he claimed to support. It’s still early Beto, you can dip out of this and try again when you’re more born to be in it, I guess.
#17 – Fmr. Vice President Joe Biden – (D-DE): If the debates had been a boxing match, the whole country would’ve thrown in the towel for the former VP. His record was hammered from left and right by Swalwell, Bennett, and Sanders alike, but no doubt the hardest hits came from Sen. Kamala Harris. She made sure to draw on Biden’s unprompted praise of noted segregationists like James Eastland, who opposed busing to integrate schools. It was the most viral moment of the night, and Biden never recovered. He’s still doing damage control, and his poll numbers have started to go down significantly.
#16 – Gov. Jay Inslee (D- WA): Jay Inslee made climate change the central part of his campaign, but during the debates, he neglected to mention anything he would do on that key issue. In fact, when the time came to say what was the greatest threat to the American people, instead of going with his signature campaign issue, he chose to claim Donald Trump as the greatest threat. It was a moment he thought would be met with admiration. Instead, it was met with confusion and indifference. That’s why you’re not supposed to go off-book Inslee, stick to the script!
#15 – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): Gillibrand has jumped the highest on this list from her previous spot as she put on a spirited debate performance. If you’re a casual viewer of politics, she came off very genuine particularly when it came to women’s issues and reproductive rights. She struggled when it came to healthcare, money in politics and taxes, but she tried to be assertive and that was good, even if everything she said didn’t land.
#14 – Fmr. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: Okay, I’ll say it, I didn’t expect much from Julian Castro, and maybe because the bar was so low, he actually managed to surprise me. Castro hit back on anyone claiming the crisis at the border was inhumane if they didn’t have a solution for it. He was incredible on immigration, something I’m hoping he gets to dive into more at the next debate. Castro perked up several ears of people who weren’t looking at him before, eyes are definitely gonna beon him now.
#13 – Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH): It was going so well for Tim Ryan at first. He was doing so good. He had diagnosed many of the problems and actually had solutions to fix them, he even had a record of actually doing some good in the state of Ohio, but then he messed up when he tried to be a hawk and forgot he was sharing the same stage with two-tour Iraq veteran Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard lit into Ryan when he tried to argue for staying in a conflict in the middle east and completely flubbed who actually attacked the US on 9/11. Oh, it was bad, it was so bad. Better do your homework next time Ryan, Tulsi don’t play.
#12 – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete was already heading into the debate under some heavy scrutiny. A white officer had shot an unarmed black citizen and didn’t have his body camera on at the time. Mayor Pete didn’t follow the protocol in that situation and it’s left his city in a bit of disarray. He was challenged on this by Eric Swalwell, which prompted the aforementioned death stare, but it was appropriate. Buttigieg can’t expect to maintain a campaign if he can’t get a lid on the problems at home.
#11 – Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): Booker certainly raised his stock with his call out of Joe Biden for praising segregationists and his subsequent debate performance that wasn’t half bad. However, following in Beto’s footsteps to speak in Spanish was a clear sign of both pandering and piggybacking. Still, Booker brought up very interesting points on the need for criminal justice reform even if he did keep pre-empting every sentence with “I live in the inner city”. We know Cory, we know.
#10 – Fmr. Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak: Sestak did not make the debate stage this go ’round and is likely not to make the stage this primary, but he’s an interesting voice nonetheless. Sestak is a former Navy officer, who’s 30-year service makes him very aware of the cost of war. Sestak has some solid plans, but he’s got to do more in marketing if he wants anyone to hear them.
#9 – Florida Mayor Wayne Messam: Another voice who didn’t make the debate stage, but is still out there pushing his ideas and a progressive vision for the country. If others start to drop out, there’s still time for Messam to fight his way in and make his case to the American people. wayneforusa.com
#8 – Andrew Yang: It was a rough go for Andrew Yang at the debates. We heard from him the least of all the candidates. Yang said his mic had been turned off during the debates, which definitely could’ve happened with the number of times people kept randomly speaking over each other, but instead of being assertive about it, he kind of just let it slide. Not a good look, knowing corporate media won’t hesitate to “accidentally” do it again. Yang still managed to stay in the conversation though even if, once on stage, his freedom dividend proposal sounded more like a ploy than a plan.
#7 – New York Mayor Bill De Blasio: Bill De Blasio randomly snuck into the race at just the last second and somehow miraculously made the debate stage. But when he got there, he made the most of it. De Blasio looked prepared to position himself as THE progressive candidate and managed to say a lot of things that made sense. He even was 1 of only 2 candidates to raise their hand in full-throated support of Medicare for All. It would’ve been a near-perfect performance if he hadn’t given in to McCarthyism at the end by claiming Russia was the greatest threat to our democracy, but overall, not bad.
#6 – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): Kamala is doing everything she can to erase her past as a prosecutor and look like the most sensible choice in the primary. Her debate performance was so good, she had people convinced she was the overall winner of the first debates. Her personal anecdote about busing leveled against Joe Biden stung hard, and she made a very good case that she could outlast Trump in a one on one. Time will tell on that one. But it should be noted she didn’t face one critical question of her record the entire night and when the field thins, she’s sure to be put in an uncomfortable spotlight.
#5 – Fmr. Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AL): The 88-year-old did not reach the debate threshold mainly from not being included in many of the polls to even get the 1% needed. We’re pretty sure once Americans actually hear from Gravel, they’ll be intrigued in at least getting his voice on stage, so he can challenge the ideas presented by all these uninspiring candidates. That’s really what Gravel is offering: a major anti-war voice, a redistribution of wealth, and even better, he would definitely be the one promoting the other progressives in the race as well, and that’s a voice that’s sorely needed. mikegravel.org
#4 – Marianne Williamson: Marianne decided on a completely different debate strategy than anyone else: just make people talk about you, no matter what. And that’s exactly what she did. Most of her responses to the questions she received were definitely different from what anyone else would’ve said and that was key. She may have turned herself into a meme at several points, but she’s definitely going with the strategy that all press is good press, and in this case, she’s not wrong…girlfriend.
#3 – Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI): Tulsi went from a catastrophic debate performance to having the viral moment of the night, when she called out Tim Ryan for his shameful take on continuing to keep soldiers in the Middle East. Not only did she erase her weird start when she neglected to answer a question on equal pay and instead explained her anti-war stance, but she showed how prepared she was to enter the White House and how unprepared Ryan was. The immediate result following the debate was that Tulsi became the most searched candidate on Google. She’s increased her polling numbers and definitely has excited her base of support.
#2 – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Warren has raised her stock tremendously in recent weeks. Her plan of releasing detailed policies has paid off. She’s gained in polling landing in either 2nd or 3rd place either behind Sanders or in front of him. And she managed to maintain her standing as the front runner during her debate as she said what she needed to, and then let everyone else play catch up. Although, by the end of the second debate, it certainly looks as though Kamala Harris’s performance split off some of her support.
#1 – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): 3 power rankings in a row and Bernie Sanders still hasn’t been topped. Although, it would be pretty hard to top a progressive who’s had the same record of fighting for the American people for over 50 years. Still, Bernie delivered an otherwise tame debate performance and still came out looking like a million bucks, mainly because so many of the debate questions given to candidates were based on the policy initiatives he’d brought forth in 2016. The sheer fact that nearly half of the candidates claimed climate change as the biggest threat facing the American people when Sanders was actually laughed at for saying that on the debate stage last time is proof of his leadership. On top of that, Bernie has continued to dominate in terms of fundraising, donors, and volunteers. He gave an empowering speech about what Democratic Socialism actually is, and what he plans on using it for. Cap all that off with a closing argument that really landed home as he explained how everyone’s plans mean nothing if the powerful interests in Washington aren’t challenged, completely shattered a lot of people’s campaigns then and there. It’s still a long way to go until 2020, but Bernie’s consistency has been going strong for over 50 years, it’s not likely to stop anytime soon.
And there you have it, ladies and gentleman, our Progressive Presidential Power Rankings III, we’re 25 candidates in, two debates down, and a race only about to get hotter in the weeks to come. Pretty soon, we’ll see the numbers start to go down, and that’ll change the landscape for sure. Stay tuned!