MANHATTAN (CN) – Gaining traction for his longtime ambition of Medicare for All, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders left Tuesday’s debate in Detroit with more than memorable zingers.
His campaign reported a fundraising haul of more than $1 million from 700,000 contributions overnight on Wednesday.
In terms of airtime, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren outflanked Sanders slightly before the night closed. Each clocked in more than 16 minutes of coveted speaking time in an unforgiving format that sacrifices nuanced policy discussion to soundbites, and the duo — longtime friends and ideological siblings — used their limited time to counterpunch against candidates who they said attacked them with “Republican talking points.”
Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper to respond to Rep. John Delaney’s claim that Medicare for All amounted to “political suicide,” Sanders comically took a short intake of break before deadpanning sharply: “You’re wrong!”
When Sanders asserted that his health care program would improve on the private plans for which unions and bosses had bargained, Rep. Tim Ryan took another shot at him with similar results.
“You don’t know that, Bernie,” the Ohio congressman interrupted.
“I do know it!” Sanders replied. “I wrote the damn bill!”
Time and again, the moderators primed low-polling candidates positioning themselves as centrists to disparage Sanders and Warren’s plans as too radical. Instead of fighting with each other, the two joined forces against their low-polling rivals and even the debate format itself.
Before the debate cut to a commercial, Sanders countered combative questions from the moderators by pointing out that CNN would air pharmaceutical and insurance ads during the breaks. (The network did.)
At one point, Sanders took a personal shot at Delaney, a co-founder of Health Care Financial Partners, by noting that he “made money” from a for-profit system that Medicare for All would abolish.
“Bernie Sanders commanded the debate,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir asserted in a statement. “His vision and ideas dominated the stage, and he left absolutely no doubt that he is the best candidate ready to take this fight to Donald Trump and finally bring the change we need to America.”
Warren likewise did not brook criticism from her rivals lightly.
In a scorching riposte to Delaney’s single-payer naysaying, Warren coolly philosophized: “I don’t understand why anybody goes through all the trouble to run for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”
Wild applause followed that line, and Delaney’s Wikipedia page was promptly vandalized by a user who wrote that the Ohio Democrat died by Warren’s hand on debate night.
By contrast, seemingly prepared lines from Delaney and Ryan — both polling at roughly 1% — received a tepid audience response.
“You don’t have to yell,” Ryan told Sanders after the Jewish Brooklynite delivered an impassioned speech on the greed of Big Pharma.
Though the line landed with only muted laughter, Ryan’s campaign adopted it as a slogan. It now sells stickers with “YOU DON’T HAVE TO YELL” in block capital letters.
Warren’s campaign did not report its fundraising boost from the debate by press time, but her performance received his media marks, with The New York Times, Washington Post and Vox pronouncing her a winner.
The Nation proclaimed the victor to be the shared Sanders and Warren platform: Medicare for All.