Who won the Democratic debate?

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Detroit Over Two Nights
In his second Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders traded punches with the moderates who attacked his plans. Copyright Justin Sullivan Getty Images
By Shannon Pettypiece with NBC News Politics
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10 candidates for president faced off in Detroit Tuesday night. Here's who left the stage better off than they arrived — and who didn't.


It was the second face off for the slate of 10 Democratic presidential candidates who took the stage Tuesday night to debate. For some, it could be their last.

Only half of the candidates on stage in Detroit are on track to meet the higher threshold needed to qualify for the next debate in September, putting the rest in the fight of their political lives.

Here, in no particular order, is a look at who stood out from the pack in the potentially make-or-break faceoff, who held their ground — and whose presidential hopes may be at risk.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass: She stuck to her sharp attacks on corporations, promoted her progressive plans, and dominated much of the night. Rather than going after Bernie Sanders — her closest rival in the polls, who stood next to her on stage — Warren came to his defense while effectively fending off attacks from more moderate candidates.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.: Sanders brought his typical forceful debating style and clear message. He traded punches with the moderates who attacked his plans and unabashedly touted his movement for radical change in America. And he held on to his position in the top tier of candidates.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg: His strongest moments came when he talked about his faith and military service, pledging to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in his first year. He struggled with a question about race relations and at times got lost in policy nuance. While his campaign has lost steam, he played it safe and shied away from broadsides at other candidates.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke: As in the first debate, he lacked a moment that differentiated him from the pack or clearly defined what he stood for. His once-promising campaign has been flat-lining — and nothing he did Tuesday night is likely to alter that trajectory.

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney: On policy, he provided the biggest contrast with Sanders and Warren with a pro-business, capitalist message, particularly on health care. And Delaney held his ground amid blows from Sanders and Warren, who accused him of using Republican talking points.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio: He had a much stronger performance than in the first debate, better establishing himself as the blue-collar candidate. Ryan took on the policies of Warren and Sanders and offered a warning to the progressive pair that their proposals would alienate working-class voters — like those in his Midwest district — and hand Trump a second term.

Self-help author Marianne Williamson: She won over Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted that Williamson was "winning this thing." While she had some of the more memorable lines of the night — saying "so many Americans believe yada, yada, yada," and talking about the "dark psychic force" that the president has unleashed on America — she seemed more like the spiritual guru she is than the candidate she's tried to be.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock: Showed up for his first debate in cowboy boots and had a few notable moments, but that might not be enough to get him the momentum he needs, given his late entry into the race. Bullock was less-than-convincing in getting across the message that he's a Democrat who can win back Trump voters.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.: Despite highlighting her working-class roots and track record of winning elections in an industrial state, she failed to stand out on a crowded stage of candidates as the moderate alternative to the progressives Sanders and Warren.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper: Failed to inject himself into the fray or distinguish himself from the rest of the candidates all arguing they stood the best chance of beating Trump. And he didn't sell his record as the former leader of a purple state who could make the leap to the White House.

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