The January Democratic Debate In 6 Charts

We’re less than three weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, and the Democrats held their first presidential debate of 2020 on Tuesday night in Iowa. Just six candidates took the stage this time, the smallest grouping yet.

Much of the debate centered on foreign policy, given President Trump’s recent decision to authorize a drone strike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, which has escalated tension between the U.S. and Iran. Another topic of debate was Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim that Sen. Bernie Sanders told her in 2018 that a woman couldn’t win the presidential election, which led to an onstage disagreement between them. But Warren seems to have gotten the upper hand — she got the highest debate grade from viewers and she now has the highest net favorability rating, according to our poll with Ipsos, which used Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to interview the same respondents before and after the debate.

Anyway, maybe you missed the January debate because you’re gearing up for the three debates in February (it’s a marathon, not a sprint), or maybe you just want more analysis of how this debate will affect the race. Either way, we’ve got you covered.

Warren got high marks

First up, who viewers thought had the best debate performance. To answer this, we compared candidates’ pre-debate favorability ratings<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-january-democratic-debate-in-6-charts/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="

Pre-debate favorability was calculated by assigning a 0 to 100 score to each respondent’s answer to the favorability question, where “very favorable” is equal to 100, “somewhat favorable” is equal to 75, “heard of, no opinion” is equal to 50, “somewhat unfavorable” is equal to 25 and “very unfavorable” is equal to zero. Scores were then averaged to create an overall favorability index for each candidate. Respondents who hadn’t heard of the candidate were not included.

“>1 to how well respondents who watched the debate thought the candidates performed. Candidates are graded on a four-point scale where higher numbers are better; comparing those grades to favorability ratings helps us adjust our expectations, since people may be inclined to view well-liked candidates in a positive light. Warren got the highest marks for her performance on Tuesday night, and they were strong enough to be impressive even after you account for her high favorability. That represents an improvement for her, after she fell slightly below expectations during the December debate. Sanders, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Biden didn’t do poorly per se, but because they were already well-liked, we expected a lot of voters to view their debate performance favorably.

Voters’ priorities affected candidates’ grades

Democratic voters really care about picking a nominee they think can beat Trump. Nearly two-thirds of likely Democratic primary voters in our poll with Ipsos said they prefer a candidate who they think can win the general election over a candidate who shares their stance on issues — and those numbers didn’t budge after the debate.

In December, voters who prioritized winning in November thought Biden had the best performance, but this time they thought Warren performed the best — perhaps a sign that her pitch for why a woman can win the presidency resonated with viewers. Sanders, meanwhile, did best with voters who preferred a candidate whose position on the issues was similar to their own, which is consistent what we found after the last three debates.

Voters who prioritize beating Trump thought Warren did best

How debate-watchers scored candidates’ performances (on a four-point scale where higher is better) in the January Democratic debate, by which type of candidate they prefer

voter Prefers a candidate who …
candidate shares stance on issues can beat trump
Warren 3.0 3.4
Biden 2.6 3.1
Buttigieg 2.7 3.1
Sanders 3.1 3.1
Klobuchar 2.6 3.0
Steyer 2.7 3.0

From a survey of 3,057 likely Democratic primary voters who were surveyed between Jan. 10 to Jan. 13. The same people were surveyed again from Jan. 14 to Jan. 15; 659 responded to the second wave and said they watched the debate. The average ratings are out of 4 points, where 4 is best and 1 is worst.

Source: Ipsos/FiveThirtyEight

Voters warmed to Klobuchar

Most of the candidates on the stage made good impressions with voters Tuesday night, according to changes in their net favorability ratings (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating). But perhaps unsurprisingly, the candidates who gained most were those who many voters didn’t already have an opinion on. For instance, around 40 percent of voters had neither a favorable nor an unfavorable view of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer before the debate — easily the highest percentages of anyone on stage — and they also saw the biggest gains in net favorability, racking up 5 points or more on this measure. The other candidates saw more modest gains (Buttigieg and Warren) or lost some ground (Sanders and Biden).

In fact, thanks to Warren’s gains and leading candidates’ stumbles, Warren now has the highest net favorability rating overall.

Some voters soured on Sanders

Change in net favorability for candidates in a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll taken before and after the January Democratic primary debate

Net favorability
candidate before debate after debate change
Klobuchar +12.3 +18.1 +5.8
Steyer +9.9 +14.9 +5.0
Buttigieg +26.5 +31.2 +4.7
Warren +43.3 +47.2 +3.9
Biden +45.3 +43.7 -1.6
Sanders +47.8 +44.3 -3.6

From a survey of 3,057 likely Democratic primary voters who were surveyed between Jan. 10 to Jan. 13. The same people were surveyed again from Jan. 14 to Jan. 15; 1,743 responded to the second wave.

Women grabbed the mic

In the last three Democratic debates, a female candidate has led the group in number of words spoken, and the same was true again Tuesday night. Warren topped the list by speaking 3,428 words in total, just 134 more than Klobuchar. On the other end of the spectrum, Steyer spoke the least with only 2,285 words, though that’s still more than he’s said in past debates. In contrast to the other candidates, however, when he was talking, Steyer was often agreeing with his opponents. Of the 11 times he was able to give a substantive response,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="2" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-january-democratic-debate-in-6-charts/#fn-2" data-footnote-content="

We discounted instances in which he asked for a chance to respond or finished a sentence as a moderator was trying to cut him off.

“>2 he spent at least part of five of them agreeing with another candidate.

Who held the floor?

Number of words spoken by candidates in the January Democratic debate

Candidate Words Spoken
Elizabeth Warren 3,428
Amy Klobuchar 3,294
Joe Biden 3,178
Pete Buttigieg 3,088
Bernie Sanders 2,824
Tom Steyer 2,285

Transcript is preliminary and may contain errors that affect word count.

Source: Debate Transcript via ABC News

But Steyer speaking the least isn’t all that surprising given that lower-polling candidates tend to get less air time. However, both Klobuchar and Buttigieg managed to buck that trend, speaking just about as much as higher-polling candidates like Biden and Warren, which was similar to what we saw in the December debate. Overall, the relationship between a candidate’s polling average<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="3" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-january-democratic-debate-in-6-charts/#fn-3" data-footnote-content="

We are using FiveThirtyEight’s national polling averages.

“>3 and the number of words he or she spoke was not as strong as in the early debates when the stage was much more crowded.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="4" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-january-democratic-debate-in-6-charts/#fn-4" data-footnote-content="

The correlation was 0.35 — similar to 0.3 last time.

“>4 That said, Sanders still spoke relatively little given where he is polling nationally.

Trump came up more often

Klobuchar mentioned Trump by name more often than other candidates in Tuesday’s debate, which was consistent with her strategy in the December debate, when she also mentioned him the most. But the president’s name also came up more often in general than it did last time — candidates mentioned him an average of about eight times each on Tuesday, compared with about six times each in December.

Who talked about Trump?

How often each candidate mentioned Trump’s name in the January Democratic debate

Candidate Trump Mentions
Amy Klobuchar 12
Bernie Sanders 10
Elizabeth Warren 8
Pete Buttigieg 7
Tom Steyer 7
Joe Biden 6

Transcript is preliminary and may contain errors that affect word count.

Source: Debate Transcript via ABC News

Warren, for instance, only mentioned Trump once in the December debate, but this time she called him out on eight occasions. Biden talked about Trump six times in both the January and December debates, but while that put him in third last time, he was the candidate to mention Trump the least this time around.

Do you want even more debate coverage?

Cool graphics from other sites:

  • The New York Times tracked how much time each candidate spent speaking about various issues, finding that Warren, Sanders and Klobuchar spent more time on health care than other topics. Biden, on the other hand, spent a lot of time talking about the military.
  • And despite the Warren-Sanders clash over whether a woman can be president, it was actually Klobuchar who attacked her opponents the most, according to NBC News’s attack tracker. Warren came in a close second.
  • Bloomberg News compared which issues dominated this debate with previous debates and found that health care, which has taken up less time in the last two debates, was revived on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, economic inequality and social issues took a backseat compared to past debates.

And here’s more great post-debate analysis:

Of course, we think our debate coverage is pretty good too:

U.S. Attorney Seeks Solutions To Louisville Violence With Summit

U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman is looking for more ways to fight violent crime in Louisville, and he hopes an upcoming summit with local leaders will offer some solutions. 

Coleman said his Louisville office has partly addressed crime by prosecuting more drug dealers and people who use guns illegally. But he said law enforcement cannot deter violence alone.

That’s why he’s invited local faith and business leaders to a private summit he’s organized for next week.

“Often times, the role of the U.S. attorney certainly is a very aggressive law enforcement posture, but it’s also getting people around the table figuratively and literally,” Coleman said in an interview with WFPL News. “I’m hoping to build some linkages, build some engagement, build the ability to scale up some of the solutions – to talk about some of the solutions so that we can have a substantive impact.”

Summit attendees will hear from crime victims and John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor David Kennedy. Kennedy will speak about the focused deterrence model of policing, which offers potential offenders incentives and resources if they avoid reoffending. 

Coleman first announced the summit last November after the release of a report detailing violence and trauma’s effect on Louisville youth. Kentucky youth experience trauma at a higher rate than the national average, and that trauma, sometimes caused by neighborhood violence, is linked to long-term issues with emotional health and behavior in school. Coleman said law enforcement work to reduce violence has worked, but other factors make the work difficult.

“We’re dealing with issues of systemic racism … We’re dealing with issues of long-standing, fractured relationships. This stuff is hard,” Coleman said. “If we want the city to move forward and families to flourish, we have to take responsibility for the fact that there are large sectors of this city that have had limited opportunity afforded [to] those residents.”

The Violent Crimes Summit will be held January 23. A representative from Coleman’s office said it will be closed to the public and media, so that attendees will speak freely.

U.S. Attorney Seeks Solutions To Louisville Violence With Summit

Bechler files for re-election

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Democratic Party Leaders Are Mostly Sitting Out The Endorsement Race So Far

Back in August, we noted that Democrats might be slow to endorse in the 2020 presidential primary because of the uncertainty surrounding its historically large candidate field. And so far, that’s exactly what’s happened — Democratic officeholders have now endorsed at about the same rate as their slow-moving Republican counterparts in 2016.

Endorsements have historically been a predictive indicator of who will win their party’s nomination, which bolsters the theory that “The Party Decides,” but Democratic leaders may be choosing not to decide in 2020. Nonetheless, among those who have endorsed, former Vice President Joe Biden holds a clear lead.

As of Friday, only 104 of 303 Democratic governors, senators and representatives have endorsed a candidate.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/democratic-party-leaders-are-mostly-sitting-out-the-endorsement-race-so-far/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="

While this analysis is similar to our 2020 endorsement tracker, the methodology is not exactly the same. In this case, I limited endorsements to those made by senators, representatives and governors (not including office-holders from the territories) — excluding other party elites, such as state legislative leaders and mayors of large cities — to better compare endorsements across cycles, as our endorsement tracker is counting more offices in 2020 than it did in 2016. For this analysis, I included presidential candidates serving as governor or in Congress at the time of their run for both the 2016 and 2020 cycles. The total number of Democratic endorsers in this data set includes independent Sens. Angus King and Bernie Sanders, who caucus with the party. Members of Congress who resigned from office (former Rep. Katie Hill) or switched parties (Rep. Jeff Van Drew) are included in the chart below on the date they endorsed a candidate, but then removed from the total number of endorsers on the date they left office or the Democratic Party.

“>1 At this point in the 2016 election cycle, slightly more Republicans had endorsed a candidate (117), though there were a few more Republicans in Congress and governors mansions then (333) than there are Democrats in those positions now (303). Still, 35 percent of possible GOP endorsers had backed someone in 2016, which is practically the same as the 34 percent of Democrats who’ve endorsed someone in 2020.

Democrats started the 2020 cycle endorsing at a faster clip than 2016 Republicans, but their rate has slowed since March (about 600 days before the general election). In the last presidential election, 60 Republicans had endorsed someone between mid-August 2015 and the first weeks of 2016 — to be specific, between 450 and 300 days before the election, which is equivalent to the period from when we published our previous analysis of the endorsement rate last August to about now — but only 29 Democrats have done so during the same time span this cycle. However, Hans Noel, a political scientist at Georgetown University and a coauthor of “The Party Decides,” told me we shouldn’t over-emphasize the pace of endorsements as compared to the overall volume and who’s getting them. “There are some years when no one gets involved very quickly at all,” said Noel. “There’ve been some years when elites got involved after Iowa. Once they found out what happened in Iowa, they jumped in.”

And although the rate of endorsements has slowed, most of the ones made in recent weeks have gone to Biden. He now has 35 from Democratic governors and members of Congress, and has received seven of the eight endorsements made since Dec. 1, including some from junior House Democrats in competitive seats (former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg received the other one).

The sort of geographical and racial diversity we see among Biden’s endorsers has historically been an indication of broader acceptance by party members and a precursor of success in nomination contests, according to the authors of the “The Party Decides.” And if you look at support outside a candidate’s home state, Biden’s geographical lead is readily apparent. Overall, 89 percent of Biden’s backers come from outside Delaware, which admittedly is a small state. The next-closest contenders behind Biden are Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, who each have 12 endorsers apiece, but only half of Warren’s hail from somewhere other than Massachusetts and none of Booker’s are from outside New Jersey. And with Sen. Kamala Harris now out of the running, Biden easily has the most racially diverse set of endorsers, too, including nine members of the Congressional Black Caucus and five from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Still, Biden doesn’t dominate among all Democratic officeholders with endorsements to give. If we look at more left-leaning Democrats — those who belong to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the most influential liberal ideological caucus in Congress — Warren leads the way with 11 endorsements, Biden is in second with six and Sen. Bernie Sanders in third with five. University of Maryland political scientist David Karol, another coauthor of “The Party Decides,” believes Biden still has work to do with winning over more liberal members of his party. “Biden has more breadth of support than other people running, when it comes to race and region,” Karol said. “But he has not done as well with progressives, particularly white progressives.”

Biden may still lead handily in the endorsement primary for now, but it’s important to remember that most potential Democratic endorsers (66 percent) are still sitting on the sidelines. What’s more, there are actually quite a few endorsers this cycle who endorsed a candidate who has since dropped out and have yet to throw their support behind another candidate. Of the 104 Democrats who’ve endorsed someone, 27 have backed a candidate who is no longer running and have yet to switch to a new contender. Of those endorsers, 17 supported Harris, who dropped out in December. By contrast, in the 2016 cycle, only four of 117 Republican endorsers had backed GOP contenders who had dropped out by this point.

Harris’s exit is especially interesting in that she had more endorsements than anyone save Biden, yet she dropped out anyway, suggesting that endorsements weren’t enough to save her flagging campaign. (Unlike Biden, who is at 28 percent in the national polls, Harris struggled to climb past 5 percent in recent months.) As for why more of Harris’s backers haven’t thrown their weight behind another candidate (maybe Biden?), Karol said that these endorsers had “bet on the wrong horse, so they may be a little gun-shy after missing the first time around.” More broadly speaking, though, part of the reason Democratic leaders may be hesitant to endorse anyone in 2020 is because they were so quick to back Hillary Clinton in 2016, who went on to lose the general after a bitter primary, in which the party establishment was accused of putting its thumb on the scale for her.

But also, when there’s a lack of clear consensus, as there has been here in 2020, many party leaders wait to make a choice so that a primary can be more open. “If they aren’t very committed [to a candidate], they don’t create a sense that people need to support someone or direct their resources to that candidate,” said Noel. He added that, “If there’s lukewarm support from party leaders, that could create an opening for someone else.” Biden’s opponents in the Democratic race will certainly hope that’s the case, and the fact that most Democrats haven’t endorsed someone yet might leave the door ajar.

A pact with Trump on impeachment? McConnell’s Kentucky backers demand it.

Several Republican senators — including Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski … “If McConnell runs the trial the way the Democrats want, people here are not … Trump “reluctantly” in 2016 and would probably do so again in 2020. Google RSS Source