The marquee matchup for Thursday night’s debate at Texas Southern University, between former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — a test of the establishment front-runner against the rising liberal insurgent — was mostly a dud.
That was good for both of them — bad for the also-rans — and unlikely to change the basic dynamics of a race in which no candidate is close to carrying a majority nationally or in any of the early state contests.
Here’s how the candidates fared — from those who gave their campaigns a likely boost to those who mostly missed the mark:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.: She kept to her game plan, which is to communicate directly to voters — largely ignoring her opponents and moderators. Warren still hasn’t answered big questions about how she plans to implement some of her more ambitious agenda items or to pay for them, but that hasn’t arrested her rise so far.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: He came to fight; and his fans had good reason to be reassured by both his more aggressive posture toward his foes and his energy. But his “A” game still had some weak spots: he fumbled on a question about race at the historically black college and offered up word salad on some answers.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.: Harris had several awkward moments, including when she made a joke about President Donald Trump’s size — comparing him to the wizard in “The Wizard of Oz.” It was Trump she focused on this time, instead of her Democratic rivals, and that may have kept her out of damaging scrapes.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.: Sanders became visibly agitated during some of his exchanges with Biden over health insurance plans, as well as their past votes on the Iraq war and other issues. But there wasn’t much new from Sanders — or from the candidates who portray his policies as out of the mainstream.