Who won the Nevada Democratic debate? Our panelists' verdict

The debate was so vicious at times that it resembled a circular firing squad. So who emerged as the victor?

Jessa Crispin: ‘Angry Elizabeth Warren is back – and that’s good’

So thrilled to have lived long enough to witness Mayor Bloomberg’s performance on the debate stage. Oh, to revel in his deadly charisma, in his power to unify the nation and lead us into a better future. He was so magnetic I simply kept forgetting he was on the stage. He was so inarticulate, timid, easily flummoxed and filled with an obvious contempt for the proceedings, it’s no surprise so many (who may have undisclosed financial ties to the man and his company) have declared him the obvious winner.

Was the audience drunk? Why am I not? Everyone’s inhibitions seemed lowered, including the very vocal crowd, Amy Klobuchar seemed seconds away from throwing a binder at Mayor Pete’s head, and we finally got angry Elizabeth Warren back for an evening. Angry Elizabeth Warren is the best Elizabeth Warren. Where has she been? Give her more to do, we miss her.

There’s no real winner here. Everyone took a lot of hits from their colleagues and no one crawled out unscathed. But I think we can easily declare a loser, and that would be the moderators. The moderators have indeed been the losers through this whole process. They ask the same questions their colleagues asked in the last 84 Democratic debates, they often don’t follow up when answers are vague or misleading, they pose gotcha questions that have very low stakes. When a host for The View has more perseverance on making a squirming Amy Klobuchar answer for her problematic prosecutorial past, particularly as it involves the lack of justice in police-related shootings, maybe it is time for some soul-searching, public resignations, and replacement by journalists with spines. We have a moderator who referred to one candidate’s followers as brownshirts, and he’s just allowed to pretend to be an objective interlocutor? OK, cool, seems fine.

The result was not as substantive as it could have (should have) been, but it made for some good TV. And at the end of the day, that’s probably enough for our distinguished men and women of television media.

There must be something to the idea that pressure and pain have the ability to shape one’s character in transformative ways.

  • Jessa Crispin is the host of the Public Intellectual podcast and a Guardian US columnist

Benjamin Dixon: ‘Bloomberg has no chance’

Mike Bloomberg demonstrated tonight that, in his life as a billionaire, he must not have had to deal with any character-building pressures in a very long time. All of the money in the world could not purchase charisma enough to make up for the dull and glum presentation he gave tonight.

I will admit that, up until this point, I believed Bloomberg was an existential threat to our democracy because of his ability to purchase everything from talent to silence. But no one could look at the debate tonight and honestly believe that the former mayor would stand a chance against Donald Trump. No one could look at Bloomberg’s performance and believe that this man could inspire the movement necessary to win in November.

Michael Bloomberg spent more than $400m only to get on the national stage and show that he is not ready for prime time. This is what happens when you sit on the outside of the democratic process and use your money to create an image of you that is bigger than life.

And it’s hard to live up to that image when you lack the charisma and character that those of us in the working class earned the hard way.

  • Benjamin Dixon is the host of The Benjamin Dixon Show

Art Cullen: ‘Elizabeth Warren might have saved her campaign’

Elizabeth Warren closed Wednesday’s debate by describing herself as a fighter. She brought plenty of punch to the stage from the get-go by slicing and dicing billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Warren put her rivals on their heels – she said Bloomberg referred to women as “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians”, said Pete Buttigieg’s healthcare plans boiled down to a PowerPoint presentation and that Amy Klobuchar’s could fit on a Post-it note. Mike Bloomberg was awful. Klobuchar was on the defensive. And the elephant in the room, Bernie Sanders, was able to point out that Medicare for All will actually save $450bn – and universal healthcare is what put him at the front of the pack in the first place. He did not appear to lose stride. Warren saw Klobuchar’s breakthrough in the New Hampshire debate. She spared no one, and savaged Bloomberg. Everyone was throwing punches but nobody hit as hard as Warren. With Super Tuesday less than two weeks away, this raucous debate was a clincher, and Warren might have saved her struggling campaign with direct appeals to minority women so important in the Nevada caususes. Joe Biden, not so much.

  • Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing. He is a Guardian US columnist and author of the book Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland.

Arwa Mahdawi: ‘Bloomberg bombed, Warren won’

Looks like Michael Bloomberg just found out money can’t buy you everything. The multibillionaire has spent almost $400m on ads but apparently zero time preparing for the debate stage. He had embarrassingly inadequate responses for predictable questions on stop-and-frisk and the silencing of women in his companies with NDAs. His lack of substance was matched with a complete lack of charisma. According to some in the Establishment, we should forgive Bloomberg’s history of sexism and racism because he’s the only person capable of beating Trump. If they still think that after this pitiful debate performance then we’re in trouble.

While Bloomberg bombed, Elizabeth Warren had her best debate ever. She was impeccably prepared and utterly eviscerated Bloomberg. Warren has been lagging in the polls, leading some to prematurely write her off; big mistake. Pete Buttigieg’s performance was also noteworthy. The mayor may be able to read Norwegian but he can’t seem to read a room. Buttigieg’s constant attacks on Amy Klobuchar made him look like a mansplaining bully.

“Mayo Pete” has been gliding through this election but I wouldn’t be surprised if more people start to find his patronizing demeanour a little hard to stomach.

  • Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian US columnist

Lloyd Green: ‘Bernie Sanders emerged as the winner’

The Democrats’ Game of Thrones-style debate was a two-hour extravaganza that boosted Donald Trump’s chances. Obviously, that’s not what the Democratic National Committee intended but it’s what happened – a circular firing squad more intent on unloading on each other than at going at the president.

Elizabeth Warren flayed Mike Bloomberg with a helping hand from Joe Biden. New York’s ex-mayor appeared rusty and unprepared. The attacks were predictable yet he looked flatfooted. When you’re defending non-disclosure agreements, you’re losing. On Wednesday night, money didn’t buy everything.

Lest Warren get cocky, it is worth remembering that early voting in the Nevada caucuses was well under way before the Massachusetts senator took the stage. As a result, any post-debate bounce will probably be short-lived.

Come Saturday evening, the headlines will either be about the order of finish or how Nevada botched its caucuses. Warning: Iowa redux is a real possibility.

In the end, Bernie Sanders emerged as the winner in the room. He entered as the Democrats’ frontrunner and nothing altered that reality. According to the polls, Sanders is leading by double digits both in Nevada and nationally among Democrats. The question is whether his lead becomes insurmountable. We will know soon enough.

  • Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign and served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992


Jessa Crispin, Benjamin Dixon, Art Cullen, Arwa Mahdawi and Lloyd Green

The GuardianTramp

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