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12 Nov 2019 14:10
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  •   Home > News > International

    Donald Trump stays quiet on Democratic debate as Warren claims frontrunner status

    The US President remained largely silent as Elizabeth Warren cemented her frontrunner status at the fourth 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate. Here are the key takeaways.

    It was the first Democratic debate since the impeachment controversy began.

    And in the end it didn't really focus on the scandal that's consuming Washington.

    If you didn't watch the entire three hours, we're here to get you up to speed. Here are the key takeaways.

    1. Elizabeth Warren is the new frontrunner

    Latest polls prove as much, but if polls aren't enough for you take a look at the number of times her fellow candidates called her out on the debate stage.

    Time after time those struggling to stay in the race tried to pick a fight with the senator, just like they did with Joe Biden in the earlier debates.

    It wasn't a flawless performance, but Senator Warren handled the frontrunner status by largely brushing off the attacks and staying on message.

    She's cemented herself as one of the people most likely to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

    2. Bernie is just fine, thank you very much

    A heart attack in the lead-up to the debate raised lots of questions about 78-year-old Bernie Sanders.

    And before a moderator could even finish a question about it, he countered with:

    "I'm feeling great. Thank you."

    Cue laughter from the crowd, acknowledging the awkwardness of it all.

    Aside from that, the senator from Vermont was pretty spritely throughout the three-hour debate and promised that he would answer questions about his health with a big campaign all over America.

    A rumoured upcoming endorsement from congresswoman and social media star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is probably just the tonic to get everyone talking about something other than Senator Sanders' age and health.

    3. The 2020 race isn't the place for impeachment talk (for now, at least)

    The impeachment elephant loomed large going into the debate. The very first question put it right in the spotlight.

    And then it all fell a bit flat.

    Every Democrat on stage was on the same page when it came to supporting the impeachment inquiry, and they were all rolling out the same phrases you've heard for months.

    Not even Donald Trump felt the need to muster up a tweet in defence (he did call out House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff about the issue though).

    For now, it looks like the impeachment fight will stay confined to Congress, and the 2020 race will be a quiet hum in the background.

    4. Mayor Pete got scrappy

    Maybe it was the fact that his polls have been stagnant … or that he sniffed an opportunity to grab some votes from his moderate competitor Joe Biden.

    But Pete Buttigieg was ready for a fight.

    He clashed with Tulsi Gabbard over whether US troops should remain in the Middle East, called out the man whose dinner (and polls) he's largely been eating, Beto O'Rourke, over a stance on gun control, and made the case for the moderate view on health care.

    It was the night the Indiana Mayor needed to have, as the trio of Biden/Warren/Sanders starts to pull away from the pack in this race.

    Going on the attack has worked for some candidates in these debates (hello Kamala Harris) and it's backfired on others (hello Julian Castro). Mr Buttigieg will get attention for his performance one way or the other. Time will tell if it's a good or bad thing.

    5. Everyone got a turn (but we're all poorer for it)

    Towards the end of the debate we got a few tantalising minutes of actual, substantive confrontation between Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

    It was the *moment* of the debate. Just watch Joe Biden's reaction here after Elizabeth Warren pointedly didn't say his name during the exchange:

    And despite the debate criteria tightening, there were still way too many candidates on stage.

    It means we're still getting polished statements from candidates rather than meaningful conversations about their differences, because moderators have to cut things short to give everyone a chance.

    The sooner we get down to single digits on stage (and that might happen in the November debate), the sooner it'll stop feeling like we've been listening to the same debate over and over since the first one in June.

    It also might tempt the frontrunners to play things a little less safe and start... you know... debating each other.

    If you'd like to catch up on the whole debate, you can read back over our live blog below.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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