Winners, losers and the biggest takeaways from the New Hampshire debate

Otterbein: We’ll find out when the polls come out — and especially when the votes are counted Tuesday. But like everyone else at POLITICO, I was left scratching my head the whole night over Biden proactively conceding defeat in New Hampshire. It reminded me of Biden going viral for telling voters in Iowa that they should vote for someone else when they disagree with him. How did that work out for him?

Sanders faced more incoming than usual tonight — a result of him finishing neck-and-neck with Buttigieg in Iowa and running first in polls of New Hampshire — but I think he ultimately got fairly lucky, because none of the attacks were anything we haven’t heard before, and they weren’t that nasty. Steyer also had a good night in that he simply made viewers pay attention to him.

Murray: I’m going to break with the group and say Biden’s debate performance was actually pretty good, aside from predicting his own loss. In previous debates, he was soft spoken and frequently cut himself off. Tonight, Biden spoke with force, got the crowd off its feet, and went on the offensive against his rivals, namely Sanders and Buttigieg. Underperforming in Iowa may have been what Biden needed to kick it in gear, though it may not be enough to help significantly in New Hampshire.

I think Andrew Yang will leave Manchester disappointed: He didn’t get as much speaking time as the other candidates, after suffering a tough showing for his longshot campaign in Iowa.

What surprised you most during this debate?

Murray: Biden was the frontrunner in the polls for close to a year, and there he was predicting failure days before the New Hampshire primary. I understand managing expectations, but predicting a loss was his opening line!

Otterbein: Outside of Biden’s opening, it was interesting to see Warren attack Sanders for once. It was very, very subtle: She said “everyone on this stage except for Amy and me is either a billionaire or receiving help from PACs that can receive unlimited help.” I think most voters probably didn’t notice that implicit reference to Our Revolution, the nonprofit group Sanders founded in 2016. But it’s an indication of the two progressives’ positions in the race, with Warren now trying to play catch-up.

Schneider: Buttigieg is still struggling to answer questions about his record in South Bend. After six months of non-stop questions about his failure to diversify the police department or the controversial firing of the first black police chief, Buttigieg stumbled again Friday night in his response to another pointed question, this time about the increase in arrests of black South Bend residents for marijuana possession while he was mayor.

First, Buttigieg dodged the question altogether. Pressed again, he said it was linked to cases in connection with murder or gang violence. And when asked if the answer was satisfactory, Warren simply said, “No.”

Siders: If anyone was going to do audience participation, would you have guessed it’d be Biden? Not me, but it was, and it was pretty effective.

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