Last night, 10 Democratic candidates for president took to the stage in Miami, Florida, for the first debate of the primary.
If you’re like most sane people who didn’t have time to watch a bunch of people you barely know talk in circles for two hours, you probably didn’t watch last night. Lucky for you, I did!
Here’s a list of the candidates on stage last night, ranked from best performance to worst.
1. U.S. Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.)
Booker arguably had the best performance of the night. He spoke the most, and Google searches for Booker spiked during the debate. He shined especially bright during his comments on gun control, where his experience as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, developed a personal connection to the issue.
Generally speaking, Booker commanded a presence you’d expect from someone polling much higher than 7th or 8th place, where he currently sits.
2. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro
Castro had a good night. Despite sitting near the bottom of most polls, the former HUD Secretary took up a lot of airtime and won some scraps with former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on immigration.
His challenge to his competitors to repeal Section 1325 — which criminalizes border crossings — played well with the audience and likely cemented his standing as “the immigration candidate.”
3. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Warren mostly stayed above the fray last night, sticking to her current positions and not causing too much controversy on stage. As the top-polling candidate on stage, this was probably the best move.
Don’t expect her campaign to receive a boost from her performance, but with the momentum she had coming into the debate, she doesn’t really need it.
4. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
For most of the debate, Gabbard held her own, but her true shining moment came near the end of the night, when she grilled U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) on the United States' involvement in Afghanistan.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if Gabbard’s performance last night boosts support for her campaign, but her strange meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad might still be too much for voters to stomach.
5. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio
DeBlasio didn’t get called on that often by the moderators, but — in true New York fashion — he butted his way in and scored some points. DeBlasio was the attack dog of the field last night, pummeling O’Rourke on his support for private insurance and criticizing South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — who wasn’t even on the stage — for his handling of a police shooting in his city.
DeBlasio’s biggest trip-up of the night was his out-of-nowhere reference to raising a black son, which wasn’t received well on Twitter.
6. Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.)
The Washington governor and climate change advocate struggled to get speaking time last night, ultimately receiving only five minutes — the least of anyone on stage. Inslee used his time well, though. He touted his successful executive track record and — unsurprisingly, given that it’s his number one issue — killed it when asked about his plan to deal with climate change.
Inslee lost some of his momentum later on when, after bragging about being “the only candidate ... who has passed a law protecting a woman’s reproductive rights,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) reminded him the three women on stage had been fighting for abortion rights for quite a long time.
7. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Other than her confrontation with Inslee, Klobuchar stayed relatively under the radar last night.
Overall, Klobuchar took an approach similar to Warren’s — avoid attacking other candidates and stick to your guns. But Warren’s one of the frontrunners and benefits from a quiet performance. Consistently polling in 10th or 11th place, Klobuchar really needed to stand out to get her campaign moving.
8. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)
Every good debate needs at least one candidate with a target on their back. Last night, that candidate was Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke was grilled by Castro on immigration and DeBlasio on insurance. When given a chance to dig himself out, Beto failed to say anything memorable.
It seems like the Beto we know from 2018 lost his personality somewhere along his notorious road trip across America. If he doesn’t find it soon, his presidential campaign might end worse than his unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate.
9. Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)
Last night, Delaney wistfully recalled the time when “the United States used to do things” and argued for a carbon tax, which has never been successfully implemented in the United States, despite many attempts in blue states.
After watching Delaney last night, one question lingers in my mind: With the Democratic Party moving to the left and the country at a crossroads, how does this guy wake up in the morning and think, “now is a good time for me to run for president?”
10. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
Ryan's awful performance last night — crowned by the flaming he received from Gabbard for incorrectly claiming that the Taliban attacked the U.S. on 9/11 — should be the nail in his campaign’s coffin.
Ryan would make a great leader in the House. He represents the exact kind of voters that the Democratic Party lost to Trump in 2016. He just really shouldn’t be running for president.
Nick Hinman is a Junior from Olathe majoring in political science and philosophy.