Election 2020: The July 30th Democratic Primary Debate

It’s been a little over a month since the previous June debates! Back then, California Senator Kamala Harris was a breakout star after her emotional exchange with former Vice President Joe Biden. Similarly, Eric Swalwell dropped out of the race, Montana Governor Steve Bullock qualified for this debate, and Marianne Williamson put numbers on the boards. (Click here for previous coverage leading into the June 26th debate, and here for the June 27th debate.)

Today marks the first night for the July debates. Similar to June, the debates will be split between two nights, with ten candidates per night. To qualify for these debates, candidates must either reach one percent support in three separate polls or meet a grassroots fundraising threshold of 65,000 people , with at least 200 people per state in at least 20 states. If more than 20 candidates meet at least one of these criteria, the DNC gave preference to candidates who satisfied both.

The following candidate list is for the July 30th debate. All poll numbers are from RealClearPolitics as of Monday, July 29, 2019.

Steve Bullock (0.3%)

Governor Steve Bullock of Montana declared his candidacy late in the game, and thus missed the previous debate. However, he’s qualified for this week, essentially replacing Eric Swalwell on stage. Before becoming governor, Bullock was a career lawyer before becoming State’s Attorney General in 2012.

As a Democratic Governor in a Trump-voting state, the Montanan seems to have bipartisan appeal. Under his leadership, the former attorney general signed an executive order to preserve net neutrality. He was the first governor in the country to do so. Bullock signed the 2015 Montana DISCLOSE Act to ensure full transparency in campaign financing and has worked to close the gender pay gap, establishing Montana’s Equal Pay for Equal Work task force in 2013.

Regarding education, he froze public college tuition for Montana residents, allowed high school students to dual enroll in college courses, and focused on improving internet access for students across the board. Governor Bullock has pushed for stronger action on climate change, adopting the Blueprint for Montana’s Energy Future in 2016 to focus on building a tax-incentivized infrastructure and industry surrounding renewable energy. He has also invested in affordable health care for his state.

Bullock’s largest weakness so far is that he entered the race only two months ago, calling his campaign’s viability into question. If he can overcome this main challenge, he may prove to be a strong enough candidate to challenge the front-runners in the coming months.

Pete Buttigieg (5.7%)

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, has lost roughly two points in the polls since his June 27th showing on the debate stage. While he’s still above the qualifying threshold for this debate, he’s barely above the fold for September and October. He needs a really strong showing tonight, and to pray that he picks up additional support from those who drop out before the next debate.

The South Bend mayor unveiled the Walker-Lewis Plan at Essence Festival earlier this month, aimed at boosting black entrepreneurship, and spent time visiting black churches in the Bible Belt. Earlier this month, he unveiled a plan to increase national military service and recently unveiled a plan focusing on “empowering workers”. This new plan proposes stronger unions, a $15 minimum wage, and national paid family leave.

John Delaney (0.7%)

Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney has picked up a small amount of support since the first debate, where he had more screentime than Andrew Yang, who has long since eclipsed him in support. Notwithstanding, his staffers have allegedly asked him to drop out by mid-August, a decision I’d personally agree with given his lackluster performance and appeal. Nonetheless, he’s pressing on with his campaign and seeing it through to the end.

On Sunday, Delaney released a plan for mandatory military service for every American aged 18 and older. He has vocally opposed decriminalizing border crossing, saying it is “not the right thing to do”. He instead supports passing a law to ban family separation at the border and addressing the issues causing the surge in mass migration south of the border.

John Hickenlooper (0.7%)

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has picked up some modest support in the month following the first debate. This is surprising, considering he spoke fewer than a thousand words last time with roughly ten minutes of screentime. Still, the former governor looks to make a turnaround this time, sharing the stage with Sanders and Warren rather than Harris and Biden.

As I wrote last month, Hickenlooper is running as a business-friendly, centrist Democrat. Last week, he penned a Fortune op-ed arguing the “government has abandoned entrepreneurs”. “A fundamental way to build and expand our middle class and economy is to create a modern and well-paid workforce,” he wrote. He continues to advocate for a $15 minimum wage, 2.5% cap on student loan interest rates, and “historic expansion of apprenticeships and skills training for the two-thirds of young people who do not get a four-year degree.”

Amy Klobuchar (1.2%)

The good news for Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is that her poll numbers haven’t really moved. The bad news: her poll numbers haven’t really moved. She entered the last debate with a qualifying one percent of voters, got a modest bump the week after, and is practically back where she started. Luckily for her, she’s still one of the most popular senators in Congress, per Morning Consult (ranked #6 for Q2 2019). Will that translate in the polls?

In the weeks since June, the senator has unveiled her “Plan for Seniors”, aiming to combat Alzheimer’s disease and reduce health care costs. She also told The NPR Politics Podcast that judicial nominations are a top priority for her.

Beto O’Rourke (2.8%)

I’m not gonna sugarcoat this: former congressman Beto O’Rourke was trash in the last debate. He heavily pandered to Hispanic voters and then got schooled in immigration policy by former HUD Secretary Julián Castro. The former congressman needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat to regain his poll numbers. However, if that rabbit is more apologizing, I might need a drink.

Congressman O’Rourke took the stage at Essence Festival earlier this month, joining several of his fellow candidates. He later penned a Medium post detailing his and his wife’s ties to slavery before unveiling a plan for slavery reparations.

Tim Ryan (0.3%)

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan has lost a bit of support since last debate. His polling has dipped to less than a half percent, and he will be sharing the stage once more with Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke. He will also be joined by Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, meaning he has to really come out strong to leave a lasting impression.

Over the weekend, the congressman released an economic plan focused on “Building a New Industrial Policy”. Ryan’s plan looks to strengthen the manufacturing sector, double national union membership, and expand apprenticeship programs. He also plans on a $15 minimum wage, to reinstate Obama-era overtime regulations, and institute wage insurance for workers 50 and older (45 and older for those in “economically distressed communities”).

Bernie Sanders (16.2%)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has rarely had a poor showing in debates. He has shown a propensity to capture his target voter base and rally them to his cause with his message and authenticity. As such, it is somewhat surprising that he took a hit since the first debate. However, given he was on stage with both Harris and Biden, he was outshined quite a bit that night. Tonight he shares the stage with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. With their somewhat similar voter base, who will pull out ahead?

Not much has changed in terms of Sanders’ policy agenda. He’s mostly been touring the nation, and going to Canada, while continuing to advocate for his signature issues of Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and free public education. He’s also been hit with a couple of minor “controversies”, but that’s to be expected when you’re a prominent politician.

Elizabeth Warren (14.0%)

Senator Warren is nothing if not calm, cool, and collected. While it’s become a running joke, she’s got extensive plans for the nation if elected president. And her ability to clearly and confidently articulate said plans has been continually rewarded by the polling so far. She’s entering tonight’s debate neck and neck with Senator Sanders.

Senator Warren has spent the last month continuing her campaign, speaking at events such as Essence Festival where she discussed her plans for racial equity. She also penned an op-ed for their magazine centered on “valuing Black women”. The senator recently introduced The Student Loan Debt Relief Act of 2019, which would forgive $50,000 in student loans for Americans in households earning less than $100,000 a year. Per CNBC, “People who earn between $100,000 and $250,000 would be eligible for forgiveness on a sliding scale — the cancellation amount reduces by $1 for every $3 a person earns over $100,000. And those who earn more than $250,000 would not get any debt relief.”

Marianne Williamson (0.3%)

Marianne Williamson has gained some ground since the last debate, moving up almost half a point. Given she wasn’t even being tracked on RCP until Swalwell dropped, this was an interesting development to witness. I pray that she’s actually developing more than just slogans to contend for the nomination.


How do you feel about the candidates? Be sure to watch tonight’s debate to see how they do! Tune in to CNN tonight from 8 to 10 PM!


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