Thursday night, the remaining 10 Democratic candidates took the stage in Miami, Florida for the second night of the Democratic National Committee’s first primary debate.
Though several of the candidates gave strong performances and delivered crowd-pleasing one-liners, only one clear winner has emerged from these first debates: Donald Trump.
I say this because it is evident that the Democratic Party is at war with itself, and these first primary debates put the inner-party in-fighting and chaos on full display.
This divide was apparent during the first debate and even more potent in the second, as there was clear tension between moderate and progressive candidates on a number of issues, namely health care and immigration.
We witnessed progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who supports eliminating private health insurance and replacing it with a single-payer "Medicare-for-all" system, clash on policy with moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, both of whom advocate against eliminating private insurance and instead for strengthening ObamaCare.
“The quickest, fastest way to do it is to build on ObamaCare, to build on what we did," Biden said, “Urgency matters.” The former vice president also said he was against any Democrat that opposed ObamaCare, making a veiled attack at Sanders, who said he would eliminate private insurance.
To be sure, all of Biden’s Democratic contenders are actively running against him, given his status as the current frontrunner who leads in most national polls by double-digits.
Despite the number of attacks lobbed at Biden in last night’s debate, the former vice president was able to hold ground and solidify his frontrunner status.
It is clear that, if anyone is truly leading this field and has the potential to beat Donald Trump, it is Joe Biden. Biden had the onerous challenge of conveying a compelling narrative while also fending off criticism from his progressive contenders, and even in his worst debate moments, he was the focus of the conversation.
One of the fiercest exchanges took place between Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris on the issue of race and civil rights, as Harris took aim at Biden for his statement about finding “common ground” with segregationists, saying it was personally “hurtful” to people of color like her.
Ultimately, this exchange was one of the several that exposed the deep racial, social, and cultural tensions between the progressive and moderate factions of the party.
Nevertheless, what struck me most was that, though the former vice president was in a debate with his Democratic rivals facing fierce opposition, he was generally able to stick to his strategy of running a presidential-level campaign whereby he communicated moderate policy alternatives to President Trump.
Biden entered the debate with a serious war chest on issues like immigration, with the House passing the Senate’s $4.6 billion bipartisan the border bill hours before the debate started. He was able to tout his past and current success with moderate immigration legislation and made a compelling argument for the necessity of compromise across party lines.
However, the main standout of the debate and the only candidate who really came up on Biden’s heels was Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is similarly moderate, though capitalized on his youthful presence, making strong generational points and earning serious applause from an audience clearly craving young energy.
While some candidates are coming away from these debates with higher name recognition, there were admittedly few substantive shifts in the race.
Ultimately, the debates were supposed to provide more clarity on this crowded field, but the amalgamation of ideas and arguments are difficult for even well-intentioned, considerate voters to digest.
Although these were only the first debates, the end result is in large part more chaos in an already hectic field, all while President Trump plodded away on issues like Iran and China that are garnering national attention.
This is not to say President Trump is succeeding in either area. However, as the Democrats squabble on stage in an overall underwhelming job interview, he is functioning as the president.
Despite Buttigieg’s shining moment and Biden’s ability to hold his own, President Trump remains the winner.