Since only six candidates qualified for the next debate in December, this was the last chance for some of them to convince voters that they deserved to remain in the race.
I looked and made notes about the best and worst nights.
Below, my winners and losers.
Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota senator was desperate for time for the first four debates – and she could just find one Wednesday night. Klobuchar was one of the few people on the stage who took up the mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg (more on this below), and her opinion about a woman – still – not elected president, was strong: "If you think a woman can't beat Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi does it every day, "she said. Klobuchar's biggest issue is that the pragmatic center line was dominated by Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden. Her performance on Wednesday evening can change that.
Andrew Yang: Sure, Yang didn't get a chance to say a word in the first 30 minutes of the debate. (Something out of the ordinary, given his race bow is pointing straight up.) But when Yang had the opportunity to speak, he came across by far the most suitable candidate on stage. Yang's question when he was asked what he would say to Vladimir Putin after he was elected president (he went crazy about "I'm sorry I beat your guy") landed well. Yang's candidacy still seems to be too far from where people are – he's not mistaken that the data is new oil, and his universal basic income proposition has a strong defense – to be a top-notch competitor. But man, he drastically exceeded expectations.
Kamala Harris: Unlike the last few debates, Harris seemed much more free and willing to take the risk. (She said that at some point Trump was "stuck" in foreign policy.) This looseness is probably due to the fact that Harris recognizes that he has very little to lose, given her disastrous voting results and financial problems. But for whatever reason, it worked for Harris overnight. Better than Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the debate on American foreign policy – reversing the duel between them during the CNN debate in Detroit at the end of July – and became convinced of her campaign: a fighter for the average person.
debates: Debates relate to debates. As with the candidates, they talk about how they differ on key issues so that voters are fully informed about the election before them. This was not the case in Atlanta on Wednesday evening. Instead, candidates were asked about issues that they completely and completely agree on – what candidate for the Democratic President will not support the accusation of Trump ??? – or with wide parking spaces to give substantive speeches on the subject. An indecisive voter who sees the differences between the candidates would be very disappointed.
Healthcare: Healthcare is a critical issue in each of the last four choices (at least). It also happens that four leaders – Buttigieg, Biden, Warren and Sanders – apparently disagree. So why did we devote only a few minutes of debate to this? And none of the differences between the candidates – "Medicare for All" or not – were the subject of legal disputes in any meaningful way. What?
Tom Steyer: Quick, name something the billionaire said during the debate. Well. Similarly. And that's the problem. Steyer and his campaign must have been delighted that Biden had somewhat inexplicably argued with him about his commitment to the coal industry, but the fight seemed to fail even before it began. Steyer is not going anywhere – he has a lot of money and is willing to spend it – but he really has to find a way to impress. And he didn't do it on Wednesday evening.