Debates are more than an opportunity for voters to compare candidates, they also subtly exhibit the campaign’s notion about their possibility of victory. Based on their candidates’ projections of victory, campaigns develop strategies to grossly misrepresent their opponents diffencienices while overglorfying their candidates’ qualifications. From debate to debate, the candidates’ strategies change based on their favorability; candidates may respond more impassioned, deploy specific terms, dress in a certain fashion, or more frequently attack a particular candidate. The February 25th South Carolina debate displayed these strategies in anticipation of the decisive Super Tuesday.
Bernie Sanders is leading the field with 43 pledged delegates based on his victories in Nevada and New Hampshire. As a result, most candidates are intensely critical of Sanders’ policies and his ability to beat Donald Trump. Nevertheless, this criticism and attention alludes to the likelihood of his candidacy. Bernie spent most of his time during the South Carolina debate playing defence, trying to minizine his socalsit label, argue in favor of his abilities and retain his large support. His strategy seems to be successful; a new nation-wide poll has him leading in popular support by 9%.
Pete Buttigieg, the leading moderate democratic candidate with 26 votes for his unofficially declared Iowa victory and his second place finish in New Hampshire, was among the most critical of Sanders Wednesday night. Buttigieg focused on the practicality of his healthcare plan in comparison to that of Bernie’s. In addition, Buttigieg argued the unlikelihood of Bernie defeating Trump in the general election. Polling indicates that most important issues for Democratic voters are health care and the ability to defeat Trump. If Buttigieg can continue to convince voters that Bernie cannot perform in these key areas, he has a strong chance of winning the democratic nomination.
Joe Biden, in third with 13 points, has reconsidered his strategy and began engaging other candidates. His initial approach of being moderate, level headed and respectful candidate did not resonate well with democratic voters who want someone who reflects their feelings of exasperation. Biden attacked Sanders’ socalisit policies and warned against the long term implications of his candidacy. He also attacked South Carolina native and presidential candidate John Steyer for his support of private prisons in an attempt to capture more support among African-American voters. A good result in the Super Tuesday elections is imperative for his campaign’s continuation, but his signs of deteriorating health and the Ukraine scandal seem to be too problematic.
The rest of the candidates are becoming increasingly more predictive and less interesting. Mike Bloomberg, in sixth with zero delegates, performed insufficiently. Although he tried to make jokes, he was neither relatable nor convincing. In addition, he used awkward terminology and was incapable of responding to accusations about sexual and racial prejudice from his past. Warren, in fourth with eight delegates, continued to deploy the same strategy of attacking sexism and excessive wealth, particularly by signing out Bloomberg. However, given Bloomberg’s unpopularity, this seems to be the wrong candidate to combat.
All in all, Sanders is the current favorite with Buttigieg close behind, while the remaining candidates hope that their performances on the South Carolina debate stage was enough to keep their campaigns alive. In spite of everything, a more interesting debate between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders will do more than just nominate a candidate to face Donald Trump, it may decide the ideological direction of the Democratic party in the coming decades.