As 10 Democratic candidates gathered for the first debate of the 2020 presidential campaign on Wednesday, June 26, Democratic voters from around the country had various reactions. At Robin Wojta’s home in Madison Heights, Michigan, her friends, Esther Ingber, a 69-year-old writer from Oak Park shared her disappointment with Beto O’Rourke and how there was not enough bashing of the incumbent president and Carole Chi, a 67-year-old retired middle school teacher from Sterling Heights, who was pleasantly surprised that the event wasn’t as dull as she expected.
Ingber said, “The one that I didn’t really care for tonight was Beto. Beto O’Rourke. I think he’s really falling out of contention. I don’t think he’s got it. The ‘it’ factor. I really would have liked to have seen more digging in on Trump. At first, they were calling him, ‘this president.’ And, after a while, a couple of them did say, ‘Donald Trump.’ To me, it reminded me of saying ‘Voldemort,’ instead of ‘He Who Will Not Be Named.'”
Chi said, “I thought it was good. It was interesting. Maybe more interesting than I thought it would be. I thought, ‘Oh. This is going to be dull. I’m going to sit there, play on my phone or whatever.’ If I was at home, I’d probably do that. But here I paid more attention. I think it was good. It was very good.”
While New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a critique of the Democratic Party and former U.S. Rep. for Maryland, John Delaney proclaimed that he had told the truth while other candidates really weren’t revealing how they were going to get things done, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was excited and former US HUD Secretary Julián Castro was convinced that Julian Castro had done a great job.
Mayor de Blasio said, “People of color, young people, women. They did not feel the party represented them. They didn’t feel the party was fighting for them. I’m going to go up there every time and say, ‘This party better get it right, we better stand for something.’ And I don’t care if there’s moderates on the stage. God bless the moderates. That’s not the point. We’re going to lose again if we don’t stand for something. People used to have not a doubt in their mind—for decades—that Democrats were the party of working people. And Democrats had their back. And then they lost that faith.”
Delaney said “I think on health care I told the truth. I think on climate I told the truth. They asked about a carbon tax bill. I’m the only one who has actually done a carbon tax—and I did it on a bipartisan basis. Question: ‘You think the others were lying?’ No, but I just think they talk about how they want to deal with climate, but no one says, ‘How are you going to do it?’ Like, I don’t want to be in eight years talking about climate, I want us to be doing things.”
Warren said, “We have a real chance to do this. This is such an exciting night.” Castro said, “On Twitter and here in the hall you could tell that I did a great job.”
Meanwhile, at a watch party at the Gusanoz Mexican Restaurant in Lebanon, New Hampshire, history teacher Deborah Springhorn was pleased with Castro but wouldn’t want to make Warren upset while nonprofit executive Faye Grearson was glad the candidates discussed points that matter like economic justice. Springhorn said, “Castro came off very well. I was very pleased with … with the way he presented himself. I think, you know, I would not want to make Elizabeth Warren angry. Grearson said, “ There were just so many of them with so many ideas and they hit all the big points that, I think, mattered. Around our table we’re talking about economic justice and concerns about but the free election and all of those things came up among the different candidates. So, it’s a strong field.”
At the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver, Colorado, voters gathered at a private viewing party sponsored by AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, Denver Area Labor Federation, and the Colo Action Fund where jewelry business owner Cecilia Martin was also disappointed with O’Rourke, thought Booker was enough of a bully to stand up to President Trump and that Warren was too much of a socialist.
Martin said, “I was kinda hoping to see O’Rourke. I kinda hoped that he would be strong and take a stand on a lot of issues but unfortunately I left disappointed … I feel as if someone comes across too soft, Trump will destroy them in the debate, unfortunately so it has to be someone who’s strong, who is very well prepared and knows the issues and can also unite people at the same time, not bully people, because Trump is, I guess, you know, a bully.” Responding to a reporter asking “Did you see anybody on that stage who can do that?” she said “Ya, I thought (Cory) Booker, honestly, and definitely Elizabeth Warren but I feel she’s a little bit too far to the left.”
Finally, at the watch party inside the Cafe Istanbul in New Orleans, Louisiana, we hear from two registered Democrats. Martin Huber shared about how all the big promises to give away tax payer money were not his priority and Fayenisha Matthews was unsure about all these candidates because they don’t seem to be able to relate to average Americans.
Huber said, “Unfortunately, I – a lot of people on that stage are promising the sky, the moon. I mean, I have $100,000 in uh student loans. Would I like that to be gone? Yeah. But is that my priority? No, because other things take priority.” Ms. Matthews said, “I’m not sure. Um, but I will say that the candidate who is able to take out Donald Trump will be a candidate that shows that they can grow our economy. They can tackle our climate change issue. They can actually relate to the average, everyday American, and that they’re actually able to talk to people and relate to people.”
Includes reporting from the Associated Press