The second group of ten Democratic presidential candidates took the stage in Miami tonight, all while thousands of Iowans got together at debate watch parties to check out their choices.
Iowa Starting Line once again sent our team to multiple watch parties, including in Burlington, Winterset, Clive and several Des Moines locations.
You can see our earlier reaction story here.
Here’s what Iowans had to say, both during the second half of the debate and after it was all over:
Winterset Debate Watch Party
Jenny Hargrove, 30, Winterset
“I really appreciate the things that Bernie has had to say, but I guess the one that I didn’t expect to stick out to me was Kamala Harris,” Hargrove said. “I was kind of luke-warm on her before tonight, but she’s growing on me … She’s just passionate about things that I care about like women’s rights and civil rights, and some of her responses have struck a chord with me in a way that I hadn’t expected them to.”
Elizabeth Hoenig, 41, Winterset
“I think that Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg are doing extremely well tonight, probably the best up there,” Hoenig said.
“What Harris had to say was pretty powerful,” she said of Harris’ criticism on Biden about bussing.
Joyce Kooker, 75, Winterset
“The fact that they won’t shut up,” Kooker said of what stood out to her the most. “I think it’s rude that they continue talking over each other else.”
However, she did have some observations on the candidates.
“Buttigieg, all his answers appear to me that he’s studied the issue and he knows what he’s talking about,” she said. “He knows that it’s a complex issue.”
Dan Ryner, 61, Winterset
“I’ve never heard of this lady on the end, an author, Marianne,” Ryner said. “She brings up lots of great points but the rednecks would never go for her.”
“Biden has been concise and clear,” he said. “Kamala Harris, her attack on the Vice President, I really like her, but I didn’t appreciate that. I know what he meant talking about the old senators, just being able to get along with them. Then she got going on bussing. It was a different world then, too.”
Ryner is a farmer, and was concerned about the lack of talk on rural issues.
“That’s something they’re sorely lacking,” he said. “You cannot win back the hearts and minds of rural people without talking about them and talking to them.”
Molly Klause, 74, rural Winterset
“Gillibrand really got time,” Klause observed. “Im not comfortable with the author, so that one’s eliminated for me.”
“Biden came through,” she said. “And Eric [Swalwell] came through, particularly on guns, I thought that was his strong point.”
Burlington Debate Watch Party
Sarah Dawson, 28, Burlington
Harris has come on Dawson’s radar tonight. She’s leaning toward Bernie, but she really liked what Harris said about climate change.
“Because if we don’t have a good environment, none of the rest of this is gonna matter,” Dawson said.
Ann Distelhorst, 62, Burlington
“I’m in love with Bernie Sanders,” said Distelhorst. “My dream ticket would be Bernie for president and Elizabeth Warren as Vice President.”
Ashe Sherwood, 27, Burlington
“I feel like tonight it was everyone going at each other,” Sherwood said. “It was overall disappointing. Debate-wise, it was bad. TV-wise, it was great.”
Des Moines Debate Watch Party
Bob Pedrick, Des Moines
Pedrick came into the first round of debates preferring all of the female senator candidates and Cory Booker. He also mentioned that he enjoyed Kamala Harris’ comments about America not needing to see a food fight, amongst the bickering happening on stage.
“What I saw both nights sort of confirmed my perception,” Pedrick said. “The four females and Cory, I thought, showed they know what they’re talking about and had good stage presence, so I wasn’t disappointed at all in their performance.”
Gabi Watkins, Des Moines
Watkins told us halfway through tonight that Sanders is her number one, but that she had been impressed with Harris as well for standing up to Joe Biden. By the end of the night, she had also taken notice of Eric Swalwell’s remarks on gun control and respected Pete Buttigieg’s composure and ability to deliver his policy ideas in a sincere manner.
“I think it’s very easy for people, especially middle class and lower income citizens, to feel disenfranchised by a lack of change,” Watkins said. “Bernie wants to take on big corporations that leech off the middle class and deteriorate our quality of living. I feel he has enough conviction to do so, but that will also require a Democratic majority in the Senate.”
Theresa Miller, South Side of Des Moines
Miller came into the night with Warren, Klobuchar and Harris as her top three. Despite supporting Sanders in 2016, Miller is looking for someone other than an older, white man to vote for, but was impressed with Buttigieg on night two of the debates.
“I really was impressed with Pete Buttigieg, he didn’t disappoint me. But I was a little unsettled about the mess in South Bend with the police shooting,” Miller said. “I still am less inclined to vote for Biden and Bernie Sanders, but if they have the D behind their name I will vote for them.”
Clive Debate Watch Party
(A local neutral Democratic watch party we planned on going to was cancelled, so we redirected to this Pete Buttigieg watch party in Clive instead.)
Tony Dillon-Hansen, 43, Des Moines
Dillon-Hansen thought Buttigieg “killed it” during the debate, but he’s worried about how he’ll manage the black vote after a very tense week in South Bend, Indiana.
“It’s raw meat for everybody,” Dillon-Hansen said. “But he’s going to take care of it.”
He said Buttigieg has shown compassion throughout the situation and seems to be listening to his constituents, which Dillon-Hansen called “refreshing.”
“It’s nice to see somebody who is going to in fact listen, even if it’s not comfortable,” Dillon-Hansen said. “He’s not just saying the things we want to hear.”
Bret Layne, 45, Des Moines
“I love that Pete Buttigieg is finally showing some emotion,” Layne said. “People need to see that.”
During the debate, both Buttigieg and Kamala Harris stood out to him.
“Kamala Harris has kind of inspired me a little bit,” he said. “I like her attitude.”
Amanda Arthur-Struss, 47, West Des Moines
Arthur-Struss enjoyed watching Harris go after Biden during Thursday night’s debate.
She switched to the Democratic Party after President Donald Trump took office and currently plans to attend her first caucus in 2020 on behalf of Buttigieg.
“I like that he’s eloquent. He answers questions. I actually like that he’s young,” Arthur-Struss said. “He has ideas. He served in the military. He respects life. He doesn’t use people as pawns.”
Ezra Brooks, 31, of Urbandale
Brooks enjoyed watching Thursday night’s debate more than Wednesday’s because “it felt a little more organized.”
“I feel like Kamala Harris did do a really good job,” he said. “I liked a lot of the things she had to say.”
He also thought Biden could have been a little stronger.
“With his ratings, I expected some more, but I wasn’t impressed,” Brooks said about the former Vice President.
He said the debate reaffirmed his decision to support Buttigieg because he was focused and had a plan to bring the party back together.
by Josh Cook, Julie Fleming, Paige Godden, Nikoel Hytrek, Elizabeth Meyer and Pat Rynard