By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Six candidates made their case for the Democratic nomination on the Iowa debate stage Tuesday night. With no further showdowns scheduled before the Iowa caucuses kick-start the primary cycle on Feb. 7, Tuesday’s showing may have been the last opportunity to solidify a spot as a frontrunner.
Aggregate polling shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a firm lead over the six debating candidates at 27%, followed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at 19% and 16% respectively. South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has polled competitively in some states such as Iowa, trails in fourth nationally at 9%, and is joined in the single digits by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and billionaire businessman Tom Steyer.
Prior debates saw candidates’ butt heads, but even a promised flare-up between Warren and Sanders was defused rather than detonated. Waco freshman Emily Mosley, president of Baylor Democrats, said she was impressed by Tuesday’s comparatively friendly atmosphere.
“I think it was refreshing to see the candidates complimenting each other,” Mosley said. “While they were having a respectful disagreement, they were able to highlight things that they liked along with things that they disliked.”
Less impressed was Houston junior Cameron Kallina, a member of Baylor College Republicans. After seven debates and with more still to come, Kallina said the repeated talking points from each candidate have become stale.
“All their talking points when it came to Medicare for all [and] the environment were pretty much the same,” Kallina said. “Honestly the debates are starting to get a little bit more boring than they were in mid-summertime.”
Perhaps more important than policy specifics was the need for candidates to pitch themselves as strong opponents against President Donald Trump. Mosley points to Biden and Warren as the Democratic Party’s strongest challengers to Trump.
“In my mind I think Biden is the more moderate choice, and then [he has] the name recognition,” Mosley said. “I also think Warren has a chance should she win the primary.”
Warren is Mosley’s No. 1 pick. She touts her political experience, focus on climate change, detailed student debt relief plan and willingness to “call out the top 1%” as positive qualities. Conversely, Mosley downplayed the similar Sanders’ chances in a general election and said his self-characterization of democratic socialist is a turn-off for the general public.
To Kallina, the distinction makes no difference. He considers himself relaxed on social issues but fiscally conservative, and opposes expensive proposals like medicare for all pitched by the more left-leaning candidates. Kallina is committed to Trump, but said Biden and Klobuchar are the most reasonable alternatives. He singled out Biden over Warren or Sanders as the strongest challenger.
“[Biden has been] the vice president before, he has a huge appeal to the African American vote, which is very vital to the Democratic Party,” Kallina said. “And he’s a moderate, he’s not going with all these radical ideas. I don’t think Bernie or Warren have a chance at winning because they’re so far left… people like moderate politicians.”
Mosley used to also support Trump. Though not old enough to vote at the time, she backed Trump during the 2016 election, which she said was a result of only being exposed to the political views of her family and community. Now a Democrat, Mosley said everyone should take the time to educate themselves and think critically about their own beliefs, regardless of party affiliation.
“I am not ashamed I supported Trump,” Mosley said. “I feel like people are afraid of what they don’t understand. By educating people and giving people that opportunity, they’re going to be able to make an informed decision on either side whether that’s Democratic or Republican.”