Iowans gathered once again at debate watch parties across the state to watch the second night of the first Democratic debates. Many took notes as they intently watched the candidates square off with one another.
Iowa Starting Line sent our team out again to multiple watch parties, including in Burlington, Winterset, Clive and several Des Moines locations.
Here’s what Iowans told us.
Winterset Debate Watch Party
Two dozen local Democrats came out to a restaurant in Winterset to watch the debate, many of whom who were out for last night’s debate as well.
Julie Feirer, 50, Winterset
“I like that they asked the question again for the show of hands of basically who would want to abolish private health insurance,” Feirer said. “I was really looking at Harris and Warren coming in, and they both raised their hand for that, and while I really like that idea, I think that’s going to be a really tough sell in Iowa and other places because people like their private health insurance.”
“As much as I like the idea, I want someone who’s going to get elected and can beat Donald Trump,” she said. “It makes Biden look good by comparison, as well as Mayor Pete, who says, yeah, we can get there by giving people an option.”
Vicky Brenner, 61, rural Madison County
“Harris had probably one of the best responses in the first ten minutes,” Brenner said. “It’s so hard with this many people on stage.”
Ryan Marquardt, 37, rural Madison County
“The one moment that stuck out the most was Kamala just bringing the crowd back together when they were over-talking,” Marquardt said. “I’m kind of surprised, though, at the level of attacking Bernie. When I see Biden in all the polls as the clear front-runner, it seems like they need to differentiate themselves from him, not Sanders. Bernie kind of has his own brand.”
“No one has really stood out yet, Kamala has done really well, and Pete is as always really well-spoken,” he added.
Molly Klause, 74, rural Winterset
“Kamala Harris, I was stronger for her tonight,” Klause said. “Even though I don’t agree with her on insurance-for-all because Iowa is an insurance state and a lot of my friends appreciate their jobs and their benefits … But I like Bennet and Biden’s comment on improving the Affordable Care Act. I’m still for that.”
“Mayor Pete’s holding up,” she added. “He just made some really good comments on China, but being very specific about worrying less about washing machines and more about our intellectual property rights. And he did mention soybeans! And that means a lot to my friends here.”
Des Moines Debate Watch Party
Gabi Watkins, 21, Des Moines
Watkins came into the night preferring Bernie Sanders and enjoyed listening to his comprehensive plan for Medicare, as well as the details he was able to provide about implementing the plan. Harris has impressed her so far tonight.
“I had my doubts about Kamala going into things, but she’s proved to be both well-spoken and thoughtful,” Watkins said. “Her comments on immigration and deportation of undocumented innocents especially caught my attention.”
Clive Debate Watch Party
Stacie Schmidt, 40, Windsor Heights
Schmidt, a Buttigieg fan who is sporting the presidential candidate’s t-shirt during Thursday night’s debate, said she believes her candidate is leading the way early on in the debate.
“He answers questions, full stop,” Schmidt said. “Which is something other politicians simply don’t do … That’s quite refreshing.”
Schmidt said she hopes foreign policy issues are discussed more throughout the night.
“I want to know how they’re going to repair our relationships with our allies when this is over,” Schmidt said. “Everybody has plans on domestic policy, but I would be interested to know more about their foreign policies.”
Kelsey Rogers, 25, Des Moines
Rogers is unexpectedly surprised early on by “the unexpected author. I don’t remember her name.”
She confirmed Marianne Williamson is the candidate she was thinking of during a commercial break of Thursday’s debate.
“She’s saying some of the other candidates are looking to fix symptoms and there are actual ideas and causes I don’t think we’re addressing,” Rogers said.
She’s also been impressed by Kirsten Gillibrand so far tonight.
“Kirsten Gillibrand has actually done a great job of explaining steps,” Rogers said. “Others think she interrupts too much, but I appreciate she stands her ground and has been more explanatory step-by-step rather than making superficial sweeping statements.”
Buttigieg is still Rogers’ top contender because he “makes her feel safe.”
As a woman of color, Rogers said she can trust him to fight for her rights as a woman and as a person of color.
“And when it comes to international affairs, I trust his composure,” she said.
Burlington Debate Watch Party
Kyla Land, 27
“I like a lot of what Kamala Harris has said tonight despite not being a big fan of hers,” said Land.
Josh Mallams, 31, New London
“He doesn’t fit the same mold as every other politician that runs,” Mallams said of Bernie Sanders. “He has my full support now.”
by Josh Cook, Julie Fleming, Paige Godden, Nikoel Hytrek, Elizabeth Meyer and Pat Rynard