Commentators from various outlets appear to be split on whether or not Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) lost her big chance to overtake former Vice President Joe Biden at the Democratic Party presidential debate on Thursday night. While some felt she came across boring and unenthusiastic, others felt she came across slick and overall likable.
Over at CNN, editor-at-large Chris Cillizza put Elizabeth Warren in the “losers” category, citing her non-imposing presence that allowed her to “sort of disappear” on the debate stage.
“The Massachusetts senator wasn’t bad – she just wasn’t super involved in the debate, which is weird given that she is widely seen as the strongest challenger to Biden at the moment,” wrote Cilllizza. “For a chunk of the first hour of the debate, Warren sort of disappeared. Some of that is a function of not getting questions from the moderators. But Warren also needs to find ways into conversations – especially given how centrally located she was on the stage. When she got questions, Warren was solid, particularly when talking about teachers and her own personal narrative. But she didn’t get enough questions.”
Joe Biden, however, Cillizza argued, had a terrific night, especially during the first 30 minutes, during which he gave the most concise, direct answers, free of any stumbling. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro’s ageism joke also gave the former vice president some sympathy points.
“The first 30 minutes of this debate – typically the time with the highest viewership – were Biden’s best moments in his entire campaign to date,” argued Cillizza. “He didn’t stumble as he had in previous debates and was able to show off his righteous anger side when Bernie Sanders seemed to suggest the former vice president was responsible for people getting cancer.”
Doug Schoen of Fox News similarly argued that Warren came out a loser Thursday night due to her overall lackluster performance.
“Though many were watching Warren expecting her to deliver a knockout performance, the senator fell somewhat short of that expectation,” wrote Schoen. “While this will likely not impact Warren’s standing in the presidential race at this early stage – which according to most polls is a close second behind Biden – she did not have the debate moment that many were anticipating. She was a surprise loser when the evening was over.”
Frank Bruni of The New York Times had a different take, however, and even argued that Elizabeth Warren’s ascendancy may be “unstoppable.”
“Warren demonstrated precisely why she has been on an upward trajectory in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and why that trajectory is likely to continue,” wrote Bruni. “She showed how canny she can be. How cunning. Criticism came her way, and she brushed it off like so much lint. Perhaps most crucially, she was evasive, which isn’t a noble quality but is as essential as any other when you’re running for office. Idealism puts you in play. Slipperiness gets you the prize.”
Jeff Greenfield of Politico argued along similar lines, admitting that while Warren had no big showing at the debate she still had poise and grace.
“The most notable takeaway is how good Elizabeth Warren in this format,” wrote Greenfield. “There was no one moment of stand-out eloquence, no flash of humor that sent the audience and debaters laughing. It was, rather, her capacity to turn every question into an occasion for an answer that demonstrates political shrewdness, if not always substantive candor.”
Time will tell if Democratic Party voters agree that Elizabeth Warren has only just begun to make herself 2020 material.