Detroit Debates Deliver Meager Returns for Biden Rivals

Former Vice President Joe Biden participates Wednesday in the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

(CN) – While former Vice President Joe Biden might have been on his back foot during this week’s Democratic debates in Detroit, fielding attacks from his fellow candidates, the overall night made little dent in his polling numbers.

In fact, few presidential candidates saw their numbers budge after their performances according to a Morning Consult poll released on Friday.

Biden still outpaces his rivals as the clear front-runner in the race, with 32% of Democratic primary voters saying they want him as their candidate to challenge President Donald Trump.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Other candidates, like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., might have been able to convey more progressive and socialist-leaning policies on healthcare or job creation, but their polling numbers either stagnated or hopped up a percent or two. Sanders holds steady 18% and Warren went from 13% to 15%, within the survey’s 2% margin of error.

Last month’s debate in Miami raised several candidates’ profiles, including Sen. Kamala Harris of California who saw her numbers double from 6% to 12%. But she lost ground following this week’s debates, sliding from 13% on July 25 to 10% on Thursday.

Candidates fighting to make the stage in the September debates tried to make a name for themselves this week by going after rivals who are polling better. On Wednesday night, candidates including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey attacked Biden’s record on criminal justice, health care, women’s rights and the Obama administration’s immigration policies.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., listens as former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“This is one of those instances where the house was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those laws. And you can’t just now come out with a plan to put out that fire,” Booker told Biden, Obama’s vice president, regarding criminal justice

Meanwhile, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii criticized Harris’ record as attorney general of California.

“There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” said Gabbard. “She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California.”

The attack appears to have done little to help Gabbard, who continues to hover around 1%, according to the survey.

Similarly, California author and activist Marianne Williamson had a breakout night that resulted in internet fame through memes and a New York Times op-ed, but she also holds steady at 1%.

Up until now, the televised 2020 Democratic debates have been broken up into two-night spectacles. But so far just 8 candidates have qualified for the September debates. They include Biden, Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sanders and Warren.

The candidates must collect donations from 130,000 unique individuals and garner at least 2% support in no fewer than four Democratic National Committee-approved polls by the end of August.

The next debate is scheduled for Sept. 12.

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