With a starting field of 20 candidates and two nights for each debate, trying to follow the Democratic debate season can feel a little like jumping into “Game of Thrones” during season seven: complicated, overwhelming and just not that accessible.
This handy-dandy who’s who guide of debaters breaks down the top characters from the first two debates as we lead up to the third in the middle of September.
Despite a notable lack of good Joe Biden memes and a surplus of creepy Uncle Joe coverage, Biden is leading most polls and qualified for the third round of debates. During the first debate, Biden had a hard time staying afloat after weathering attacks from Sen. Kamala Harris, prompting the quote “Go easy on me, kid,” at the beginning of the second debate. If Biden does secure the nomination, it’s fairly certain “Go easy on me, kid,” will not be a good debate strategy against the Donald.
Amy Klobuchar, who? Seriously, who? Apparently at least 2% of Democrats somehow know who she is though, because the senator from Minnesota has officially qualified for the September debate.
Our very own governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, the champion of climate change probably isn’t going to make the third round of debates, unfortunately. He didn’t particularly stand out in the first two, but many Democrats hope he stood out enough in order to win a cabinet position in the next administration to continue the good fight to protect our Mother Earth.
Voted most likely to bring crystals into a math test for good luck in college (not a real fact), Marianne Williamson made a noticeable impact in the first two debates with her assertions that love wins wars and her comments on race-based reparations, which received a standing ovation, but she will most likely not be moving on to the third debate. She will, however, continue to be an icon for witchy teens with a passing interest in politics.
After low-energy performances in the first two debates, many thought Beto O’Rourke would drop out of the presidential race and run for an open senate position. But after the heartbreaking, racially motivated shooting in O’Rourke’s own El Paso, Texas, supporters are starting to see the passion-filled “Beto” they remember and will be able to root him on as he takes on gun violence and racism in the third debate.
The Yang Gang in support of Andrew Yang has had surprising growth in the last few weeks, leading to the entrepreneur qualifying for the third round of debates. With big promises of a universal basic income and pardons for all nonviolent marijuana convictions, Yang stands out from the field. He’s one to keep an eye on and America will be paying close attention during the next debate.
Many put “Mayor Pete,” Pete Buttigieg, in the same category as Yang: young, fresh-faced and passionate. However, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor Buttigieg (Boot-edge-edge) stands out for being measured and articulate. He comes with a military background and owes much of his political growth to the popularity of his husband Chasten, an outspoken public school teacher with a love of dogs. Buttigieg’s Twitter soundbytes are particularly good, and we will be seeing more of them after his upcoming performance in the third debate.
Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator, is fiercely intelligent and articulate. She comes with detailed policy plans and extensive knowledge of the inner workings of our government. Her debate performance have been solid, and her biggest struggle will be translating her incredibly detailed policies to easily digestible soundbytes. Warren will have another opportunity to shine, as she’s already qualified for the third debates.
Cory Booker, a New Jersey senator, hasn’t particularly stood out during the first two debates, but his speeches off the stage have been fiery. He speaks articulately and has been a fierce advocate for gun control. Booker has qualified for the third debate, where he’ll have to bring the energy or risk fading into the background.
Disney Princess, bird whisperer and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is exactly who he was in the 2016 race: righteously angry. With Sanders, you know exactly what you’re getting. He has qualified for the third debate and will continue to be the same old Bernie.
Last but not least, California Sen. Kamala Harris has already qualified for the third debate. She went on the offensive during the first two debates, attacking establishment candidates, particularly Biden. This garnered her plenty of national attention and she ranks high in polling. Harris supports plenty of progressive policies, but will have to fight the stigma of her former position as Attorney General of California while continuing along the campaign trail.