Who Won Night 1 of the Democratic Debate? Experts Weigh In

Ms. Warren also delivered one of the most memorable lines of the debate. After Mr. Delaney urged the party not to run on “impossible promises,” she responded, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

“That might be the line of the night from @ewarren.” — Christina Reynolds, spokeswoman for Emily’s List

“‘We need to call out white supremacy for what it is, domestic terrorism.’ Elizabeth Warren is the most articulate on racial disparities than all of the other candidates combined (except maybe for Cory Booker) imho.” — Aisha Moodie-Mills, Democratic strategist

The debate also highlighted the stylistic differences between the two.

“Big difference in communication style: Sanders answers health care question by railing against the big health care companies. Warren answers by personalizing the issue, telling the story of a real person. The first is designed to rile people up. The second, to draw them in.” — Mo Elleithee, former spokesman for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee

Several strategists called Mr. Buttigieg the runner-up.

“This debate has not been heavy on Trump contrast (totally fine) but when a candidate rises to the occasion and draws contrast with Trump like @PeteButtigieg just did on race, it’s effective and becomes a moment.” — Adrienne Elrod, former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton

“‘They’re going to call us socialists if we embrace a left agenda; they’re going to call us socialists if we embrace a conservative agenda, so we might as well stand for what we believe in.’ Truth by @PeteButtigieg.” — Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral

As for Ms. Williamson, for the amount of speaking time she had — the second-least of the 10 candidates onstage, beating only John Hickenlooper — she drew outsize attention. Her biggest moments came when she talked about the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and when she described reparations as the payment of a debt to African-Americans.

“@marwilliamson is having a strong night and I suspect her responses on issues of race, which were the strongest of all candidates, will likely resonate well with many.” — Shermichael Singleton, Republican political consultant

“Williamson is making some seriously salient points about Flint using the language of Gandalf.” — Seth Masket, political scientist at the University of Denver

[Read our interview with Marianne Williamson about her comments on mental health.]

The consensus among strategists seemed to be that Mr. Bullock accomplished his most important task: introducing himself effectively to voters. But he drew some criticism for his answer to a question about nuclear weapons, and the punditry was split on how much his performance would help his presidential campaign.

“With a strong debate performance & an embrace of more moderate policies like building on the ACA rather than Medicare for all & NOT decriminalizing illegal border crossings, @GovernorBullock provides an alternative 2 Biden voters who saw his 1st debate as lackluster.” — Patti Solis Doyle, senior adviser to the 2008 Obama campaign

“Bullock needs to spend some time boning up on foreign policy. That was not great.” — Tommy Vietor, former Obama spokesman

“Bullock was very impressive tonight. Can’t wait to donate to his Senate campaign.” — Brian Fallon, former aide to Hillary Clinton

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