How Did Biden and Sanders Do in the Debate? Experts Weigh In

How Did Biden and Sanders Do in the Debate? Experts Weigh In

Twitter can’t tell us whether, or how, Sunday’s debate between Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Bernie Sanders might change voters’ minds. But it can give us the perspectives of some of the people with expertise on primary races: veteran campaign strategists, consultants and analysts.

Here is a sampling of their reactions, both to the candidates’ overall performances and to their exchanges on key topics.

“.@joebiden is looking very good here. Strong. Command. Rising to the moment of crisis. Best he’s been in 11 debates.” — David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama

“Smart of Biden to keep bringing the focus back to RIGHT NOW. This is a moment of urgency & folks are desperate for immediate solutions, not academic debates.” — Jesse Lehrich, former foreign policy spokesman for Hillary Clinton

“.@JoeBiden, it would be better to acknowledge that more can be done to reach out to Latinx and young folks. There’s time to do this and important to acknowledge how you will bring folks together.” — Amanda Renteria, interim president of Emerge and former national political director for Hillary Clinton

“Biden committing to a woman VP will be the news of the debate. But Biden has been surprisingly negative, given current polls & delegates & fact that coronavirus news is likely to overwhelm the debate & the primary. I expected more of a pivot to the general & more Trump attacks.” — Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University

“Bernie is asking very smart, rhetorical questions. Good strategy.” — Frank Luntz, Republican consultant and pollster

“I’m not sure what Bernie gains by the ‘sometimes dictators do good things’ defense.” — Carol McDonald, Democratic strategist and former deputy political director for Hillary Clinton

“Either @SenSanders thinks he still has a path to the nomination or he wants to take out @JoeBiden on the way out.” — Jen Psaki, former spokeswoman for President Barack Obama

“That was Bernie’s best closing statement in any #DemDebate this cycle.” — Laura Belin, Iowa political commentator

“Sanders with a more coherent initial response on COVID-19 than Biden — and meets Dem voters where they are by criticizing the president’s response as insufficient.” — Dave Wasserman, editor at Cook Political Report

“Sanders doing a really good job connecting his core #M4A [Medicare for all] message to #coronavirus. A really good contextualization of how he will govern.” — Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

“Shorter Biden: We are at war with a virus & I will do everything to protect you and your family. Strong presidential message that shows he cares about YOU. And has a plan.” — Meredith Kelly, former spokeswoman for Kirsten Gillibrand

“This entire debate so far has really been a series of questions about crisis management, through the prism of coronavirus. In short, Biden’s answer is leadership. Sanders’ answer is ideology.” — Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service and former Democratic National Committee spokesman

The most unexpected news of the debate came when Mr. Biden pledged unequivocally to choose a woman as his running mate if he wins the nomination.

Asked if he would make the same pledge, Mr. Sanders said he would probably choose a woman but did not commit definitively the way Mr. Biden had, saying instead that he would “in all likelihood” do so and that “my very strong tendency is to move in that direction.”

“My 7yr-old daughter just charged into the room: @JoeBiden just declared that his running mate will be a woman! Did you hear that?!” — María Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino

“Biden commits to a woman VP on the stage. That was crucial and welcome. Bernie is offered the chance to commit and refuses to do the same. Why.” — Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet

“Only news out of tonight’s debate is that @JoeBiden committed to picking a woman as VP and @BernieSanders did not.” — Ben LaBolt, former spokesman for Mr. Obama

“The question itself implies there is a qualified woman who meets your standards out there. Hedging says you think there might not be. That’s the problem with Bernie’s answer.” — Jess McIntosh, SiriusXM host and former spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton

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