First of all, I'll confess: The debates did not have my undivided attention last night. The Phillies were going for a three-game sweep of the Mets after a painful eight-game losing streak, so I had the game on the TV and the debate on my laptop.
That means I watched it the way most Americans do: As a regular TV viewer, waiting for someone or something to jump out and grab my attention. (I'm a firm believer in Karl Rove's statement that what they communicate when you turn off the sound is more important than what they actually say.)
I liked that they advocated for themselves instead of attacking each other (much). I expect that to be the strategy tonight, too: Namely, don't attack Joe Biden when he does such a good job attacking himself.
Elizabeth Warren was just stellar. This format is so good for her, because she shines in the policy weeds, and she has a really nice vibe. But I still worry about the obstacles a female nominee will face. (Namely, a 10-15% gap with male voters when there's a female candidate -- and yes, Democratic men do it, too. It doesn't just happen in the general.)
Cory Booker was much stronger than I expected. I'm looking forward to hearing more.
Julian Castro is someone I always liked, and he had some breakout moments that grabbed my attention (despite the 4-4 tie that dominated much of the Phillies game).
Amy Klobuchar didn't dominate (you'd think she'd do better, since she has so much practice with her staffers), but she's got a warm persona that projects well on TV.
Bill DeBlasio is so loud and rude, I have to admit, I sort of tuned him out. We've had two years of Trump, bluster isn't what I want to hear.
John Delaney, despite his schlubby persona, actually made a really good point about Medicare for All -- basically, how do you get hospitals to survive on nothing but the Medicare rate? This is a real issue, and if Warren has a plan for that, I'd like to hear it in detail.
Tulsi Gabbard, as expected, was the leftist Rudy Giuliani: "Oh, did I mention I served in the war after 9/11, 9/11, 9/11?" She supports Syria and she seems to have an awful lot of Russian trolls. If she ends up running as a third-party candidate to split the vote, she will confirm everyone's worst suspicions.
Jay Inslee had the best punchline of the night when asked the biggest threat we face: "Donald Trump." (That's all I remember about him, though.)
Tim Ryan just rubs me the wrong way -- as they say in South Philly, "He skeeves me." I remember him yelling about something, but damned if I can remember what it was about. Oh yeah: Working class, working class, working class! Not much nuance there.
Finally, I was really disappointed with Beto O'Rourke -- and by the way, geeze, buy a shirt that fits! In the bigger picture, it doesn't matter, but on TV, when you're trying to break through in a visual medium, don't distract me by having a too-big collar that makes you look like a teenager who borrowed his father's shirt. I tried not to think about it, but it was really distracting.
As your typical viewer, the big winners are: Warren, Castro, Booker.
Candidates I don't expect to see much longer: Delaney, Inslee, Ryan, Gabbard.