As for the actual debate, 10 Democratic candidates for president lined the stage Wednesday night, but four stood out above the rest. Elizabeth Warren won. O’Rourke lost. Bill de Blasio and Julian Castro likely surprised people in a good way. Booker had a moment when he personalized his answer on gun control, but mainly, he spoke the most but said the least. The rest of the candidates often seemed like background noise.
We analyzed both the verbal and nonverbal communication skills of each candidate; it was clear that everyone had a moment to shine and a moment that left them wishing for a do-over.
Warren appeared to use her depth of knowledge to answer the questions instead of shamelessly bridging to a recitation of her past accomplishments.
Warren’s high point: the authenticity and conviction with which she claimed how hard she would fight for the average American.
De Blasio’s height wasn’t the only reason for his commanding presence on stage. The New York mayor spoke with a confidence and calm that made him seem up to the job.
His low point: answering the first two questions looking straight into the camera. It seemed too sales-y.
Castro demonstrated an appealing range of emotion. Unlike many of his fellow candidates who seemed riled and angry, Castro demonstrated a cool confidence and a fiery passion over the issues.
Castro’s high point: His use of Spanish was the only good one and not just because it was culturally appropriate. Castro spoke in the language of his family’s heritage for a specific purpose that he explained: to show how far we’ve come as a country that he could do so. Booker’s and O’Rourke’s use of Spanish was borderline cringeworthy. Castro also teed up a good punchline seconds later when he said it was time to say “adios” to Donald Trump.
His low point: While listening to a question, Castro had a somewhat imperious look about him, with his head angled slightly up; he appeared to be judgmentally looking down his nose at the moderator.
O’Rourke’s high point: While answering a question about America’s obligation to step in and combat episodes of genocide, the former congressman finally looked like he woke from his nationally televised slumber.
But perhaps “The Biggest Loser” of the evening was the former host of “The Apprentice,” who was barely mentioned by name. In fact, if Washington Gov. Jay Inslee hadn’t named Trump as the biggest threat to America’s national security, you could almost, for a few fleeting moments, have forgotten who sits in the Oval Office. Imagine that.