Author and reporter Jonathan Allen expressed surprise that Trump emerged "largely unscathed" as the field of 10 candidates mostly avoided direct attacks on him.
Allen said the Democrats seemed more focused on positioning themselves furthest to the left to win over primary voters, rather than appealing to the swing voters that decided the 2016 election.
"For long stretches, it seemed, they completely forgot about the man who has been at the center of pretty much every discussion among Democrats for the last two-plus years — the man they're competing to take on next year. The obvious reason: The motivation to beat each other was, on this night, more urgent than defeating Trump — a life-or-death moment for some of their campaigns. Trump was the chief beneficiary of that dynamic," Allen wrote.
He noted that after the debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., argued that ignoring Trump was intentional because "he’s an old show that people are getting tired of.”
Allen argued that by doing so, Democrats could allow Trump "to exploit their divisions and position himself for re-election" and "he was one step closer to that after Wednesday's debate."
The sentiment was shared by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who said it was “a missed opportunity” for Democrats to not go after frontrunner Joe Biden or President Trump. Another MSNBC commentator, Donny Deutsch declared confidently after the debate that none of the 10 candidates on the stage could defeat Trump next year, including Warren.
Meantime, New York Post columnist John Podhoretz saw things similarly, taking particular issue with the candidates' far-left push on immigration. He said the candidates "spent far more time talking about how they would help illegal immigrants than about how they would help the voters they most need to win over" and that will benefit Trump.
"If I were Brad Parscale, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, I would be dancing a jig — because if this is the way the Democrats and the media want to discuss the economy and immigration, he is going to have a field day with the quotes they will generate from now until the election," he wrote.