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Online Extra: Warren gets high marks in debate

by Lisa Keen

Democratic presidential candidates Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders got into a skirmish about whether Sanders once told Warren a woman couldn't win the presidency. Photo: Screengrab via CNN
Democratic presidential candidates Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders got into a skirmish about whether Sanders once told Warren a woman couldn't win the presidency. Photo: Screengrab via CNN  

Political observers gave Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) high marks in Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate — the last one before the first voting, at the February 3 Iowa caucuses.

She adeptly deflected a question aimed at eliciting a fight between her and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) over whether a woman can be elected president. She also skillfully responded to a question of whether her qualifications to be commander in chief might suffer from a "weakness" when it comes to being able to "lead the military."

Gay presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg took a soft hit when businessman Tom Steyer noted that Buttigieg was the same generation as Steyer's four children and should be "standing up more" to oppose the destructive forces of climate change. When asked what he would do to help farmers and factories that can't relocate to avoid the record flooding in Iowa, he rambled about Indiana and Australia before offering a "national project to do something about it." When pressed again, he offered "federal funds."

No one asked Buttigieg whether his being gay might be an obstacle to winning a general election against President Donald Trump. But after more than a year in the campaign mix, Buttigieg has succeeded: He is still one of the top four candidates who have a chance to win in Iowa next month and still one of only six candidates who raised enough support to be on the stage for Tuesday's debate — and he's gay.

LGBT issues weren't brought up much. During her closing statement, Warren mentioned violence against trans women as a topic she wished had been discussed. She also mentioned the cost of AIDS drugs during a segment on health care. Biden mentioned gay people in a recitation of marginalized groups.

Some pundits, including those on CNN, which hosted the debate with the Des Moines Register, said Buttigieg, Warren, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar were among the "winners" of the debate.

Other media suggested different winners. Fox News said Sanders, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Klobuchar. Scoring by 14 New York Times opinion writers suggested Warren did best, followed by Sanders, then Klobuchar. (They put Buttigieg in fifth place.) Three Politico campaign reporters picked Biden.

What matters now are volunteers, dollars, and perceived electability in Iowa. Winning the Iowa caucuses requires having supporters — as many as possible — show up at 7 p.m. to their local caucus site — one of 1,681 precincts — and express their candidate preference. If some candidates get very few supporters, those supporters can then express their preference for another candidate. Once groups have the minimum number of members, each can elect delegates to the county caucus based on the number of supporters in the group.

During a state Democratic convention in New Hampshire in September, Warren and Buttigieg demonstrated their campaigns had strong ground games there.

Dollars and data
The latest data from the Federal Elections Commission shows Sanders to be the top-dollar-raiser, with $74 million thus far. Warren is in second place with $60 million, Buttigieg in third with $51 million, Steyer with $49 million, Biden with $37 million, and Klobuchar with $13 million. Trump's campaign has raised $165 million.

A RealClearPolitics.com average of the latest national polls, as of Wednesday (January 15), showed Biden with 27%, Sanders 19%, Warren 16%, Buttigieg 7%, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg with almost 7%.

The RCP average of the latest polls in Iowa show Biden with 20.7%, Sanders 20.3%, Buttigieg 18.7%, Warren 16%, and Klobuchar with 7%.

Buttigieg has rarely polled above single digits nationally, but his polling in Iowa suggests he has a chance to do well there.

With less than three weeks before the first voting, things could change quickly. Whoever wins Iowa will almost certainly get a big boost in the polls and in New Hampshire's primary February 11.

Fivethirtyeight.com, the data analysis website created by gay statistics guru Nate Silver, calculates that, as of Tuesday morning, Biden stood a 39% chance of winning a majority of delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

"He's followed by Bernie Sanders with a 23% chance, Elizabeth Warren with a 13% chance and Pete Buttigieg with a 10% chance," said fivethirtyeight.

The statisticians used their newly created model to forecast, but Silver presented it with a mountain of explanations and caveats and said it is subject to revision as the primaries and caucuses unfold.


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