On Oct. 15, the fourth Democratic primary debate premiered, with each of the candidates doing their best to score some more votes as we draw ever closer to the 2020 election.
For this round, our very own state of Ohio would play host to the twelve candidates who managed to make it onto the debate stage that night, with Otterbein University serving as the venue for what amounted to be perhaps the weakest debate as of yet.
Hosted this time by both CNN and The New York Times, the usual suspects would grace the stage once again. The race’s top three candidates—former vice president Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren—appeared to be in a league of their own, though that says a lot about the night’s events, seeing as how no single member of the trio could boast any standout moments.
The other candidates included Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former HUD secretary Julián Castro, businessman Andrew Yang, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
The stage was also joined by a newcomer in the vein of Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager whose message during his sparse 7.2 minutes of airtime amounted to an appeal towards “ethical” capitalism. Despite the fact that his campaign looks to be presenting him as a member of the elite who’s willing to call out other elites on their greed, he was vague on what he would actually do to balance the socioeconomic scales of the nation.
The night began with the subject of impeachment and the conduct of the current administration. When prompted by the moderators (with the duties being handled by CNN’s own Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett alongside New York Times national editor Marc Lacey), each candidate described President Trump as “the most corrupt president in history.”
Continuing with the theme of shady political behavior, Biden was questioned afterwards about the business dealings of his son Hunter Biden in Ukraine, which has become a hot-button issue for Republicans and the subject of a Nickelback-themed meme featuring a photograph of Biden and his son on a golf course with Ukranian businessmen that Trump mockingly tweeted earlier this month, leading the former vice president’s son to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on the day of the debate, in an attempt to clarify the situation.
Posing a key question, Cooper asked Biden why he finds it unethical that President Trump’s family is involved in foreign businesses when it’s possible that a member of Biden’s family had done something similar during his tenure as vice president.
“My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong,” Biden answered. “I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. That’s what we should be focusing on.”
He continued, saying that “I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine.”
Biden quickly switched gears and went on the offensive, regarding the claims against him and his son as a desperate smear tactic and named himself as the biggest threat to Trump’s possible re-election in 2020.
“He [Trump] doesn’t want me to be the candidate. He’s going after me because he knows if I get the nomination, I will beat him like a drum.”
The claps in the audience following Biden’s shot at Trump was one of the few applause getters throughout the night. During statements that one would expect to get a generous round of applause, the cheers for many of the lines that the candidates had clearly prepped beforehand were noticeably subdued. And that was during the few times that the audience did respond.
Unlike the prior debates, the one held here in Ohio last week had a much different feel. The crowd seemed to be not easily swayed by the cliches and tropes that have been thrown about ad nauseum by the candidates leading up to their appearance at Otterbein University and it showed in their performances.
Soldiering on with the mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the candidates stuck to the scripts that each of them had made shortly after launching their campaigns, leaving nothing new for potential Ohio voters to ruminate about.
Warren once again showcased her ethos, railing against corporate corruption and calling for universal healthcare in the midst of getting dogpiled by the moderate democrats onstage who questioned her plan to pay for it. Sanders, bouncing back from a heart attack he suffered weeks prior, played the “hits” as well, urging the American people to join him in a “political revolution” in his call for universal healthcare and free public college at the expense of the country’s uber-rich.
Buttigieg (whom Dayton mayor Nan Whaley is putting her support behind) continued to present himself as one of the “common sense” democrats onstage, with Klobuchar, O’Rourke and Harris following suit.
Though he seems to be getting more and more comfortable onstage as the debates surge on, Yang still looks to be solely relying on his promise of a “Freedom Dividend,” a guaranteed basic income of $1,000 a month for every single American over the age of 18. Gabbard, Booker and Castro made no impact on the night and Biden continues to lead in the polls with his notion of being the only one that can go head-to-head with President Trump should he get the nomination.
With the election just a year away and Warren’s support growing steadily, the road to 2020 is shaping up to be an interesting one despite the latest blander-than-rice-cakes debate.