Winner: Chaos. This was by far the worst-moderated debate of this season, and that’s saying something. Gayle King’s awful touchy-feely question at the end followed up by her ending the debate 15 minutes early to the confusion of literally everyone present (including the network, who still had a commercial break to run) really said it all. Never let this team be in charge of a debate, or any other heavy machinery, ever again.
Bernie Sanders: Was a bit off focus thanks to a hostile audience (more on that in a moment) that he’s clearly not used to, but overall came expecting to be the primary target and tanked the aggro adequately, if not particularly inspiringly. No real false moves, still comfortably the front runner.
Michael Bloomberg: Remember the hostile audience for Bernie? It’s because Bloomberg literally bought a large portion of the audience, who repaid the favor by cheering wildly for a candidate who’s not even running in their state. He wasn’t as awful as last week but still pretty bad, with New York -specific jokes that confused me and everyone else and, in the most weird moment of the debate, was apparently convinced he won the last debate. Or maybe that was a joke. It was impossible to tell. That makes it a bad joke. Bloomberg is an awful candidate and should not be on stage in public.
The only reason his candidacy isn’t done is because he will spend whatever it takes to make everyone hate him as much as Elizabeth Warren does.
Elizabeth Warren: at this point, she has one mission in life, and it is to utterly destroy Michael Bloomberg. She continued to do so. At times she tried to make the point that “I’m like Bernie, but actually effective”, which, while true, didn’t really help her case at this point. Her candidacy is unfortunately done.
Joe Biden: tried several times for “I PAID FOR THIS MICROPHONE” viral moments, which only served to make him look confused and cranky. He had exactly one mood, cranky old man, and he turned it up to 11 the entire debate. Near the end his focus was on the awful moderation which no one could disagree with, really. I don’t see this helping him pull past Bernie in South Carolina, though, and if Biden doesn’t win South Carolina his candidacy is done.
Pete Buttigieg: You want a simulacrum of Barack Obama, only with less experience, far less charisma, and 40% more wonkiness? Pete’s here for you. He tried very hard to make a convincing argument that passion is bad and we all need to just calm down, which was cute. His candidacy is done.
Amy Klobuchar: guys, did you hear about this coronavirus thing? I hear it’s bad! At least she managed not to snarl at Pete again. Her candidacy was done last week.
Tom Steyer: what do you do when you base your entire candidacy around impeaching Donald Trump, and then Donald Trump gets impeached? I guess we’re finding out. His candidacy never started, but through sheer doggedness in pandering and media buys he is on track to win a few delegates in South Carolina, at Biden’s expense. So there’s that.
Donald Trump: is eating a lot of popcorn.