Team Starting Line fanned out to multiple debate watch parties tonight in Des Moines, tasked with gathering voters’ reactions to the 12-candidate event.
The three-hour debate featured the largest field of presidential candidates on one debate stage ever.
Take a look at what Iowans thought of the candidates’ performances in Ohio:
Grandview University, Des Moines
Que Pasa Iowa hosted the debate watch party here.
Jasmin Barroso and Richzamae Monteverde
The students said tonight’s debate was the first full round they watched live. Ordinarily, the women look at the news and summaries of the debates.
Near the beginning of the debate, Barroso and Monteverde said they didn’t like how the candidates discussed President Donald Trump.
“I think that in the beginning, I was thinking they were focusing more on Donald Trump and they weren’t talking about their own policies, and their perspective,” Barroso, 18, said. “It’s official that Donald Trump — we don’t like him. They should focus less on him and more on how they’re going to play their cards.”
Monteverde, 19, agreed: “We should focus more on the issues, like climate change, especially.”
When Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker talked about women’s reproductive rights and health care, Barroso said she “felt really empowered.”
“When Kamala spoke up, and when [Booker] said that men also have to play a part in this; I think that’s important because it’s an equality thing, we all have to work together.”
Monteverde said she liked Booker’s idea because it “shows that feminists are not only women. It’s just people on equality, it’s not just a fight against the genders. We’ll get somewhere when we work together.”
Liliana Saravia and Lizbeth Rodriguez
Saravia, a 19-year-old Grandview student, said she was leaning toward Sanders or Harris to support.
“There are are a lot of things I agree with Sanders on, the only thing that I don’t agree on would be raising the taxes,” she said. “I feel like raising taxes, in the long run, would help the economy, but we need to lower that to a more reasonable number from where he wants it. It would be hard for people to pay their bills.”
Rodriguez, a 20-year-old student, said she fully supported tonight’s discussion on taxation of the rich.
“A lot of [rich people] have enough money that they don’t know what to do. On Snapchat, there are snapchat stories of some artists buying shoes, and waste $10,000 on five pairs of shoes. When that money could be used on a car that someone could use to get to work and they don’t have to walk,” she said. “I understand that they work hard to get where they’re at, but money is just a piece of paper. When you die, you don’t get to take that with you.”
After a particularly long response from Warren, Saravia said: “She talks, and I feel like she just babbles on and it’s not reality. She just keeps going on about the same thing but she rewords it without actually getting straight to the point.”
Rodriguez agreed, referencing debate moderators’ questioning of whether a Medicare for All system would raise taxes on middle class Americans.
“[Warren] really didn’t answer yes or no, she just kept adding things to her response. She never really answered the question,” Rodriguez said.
Alba Perez, Des Moines
Perez thought Booker did well during tonight’s debates.
“He’s a consolidator,” she said.
On other candidates’ attacks on Warren: “She’s leading, so of course she’s getting attacked,” Perez said. “She’s a very strong candidate.”
Of the issues discussed during the debate, Perez liked the discussion on health care, the economy, and immigration, because she is a first-generation immigrant.
Drake University, Des Moines
A group of college students gathered to listen to the debate on Drake University’s campus. Many of them had thoughts on Warren’s central role in the night.
“I think it’s kind of expected [that candidates are attacking Warren more]. Honestly, it’s just giving her more screen time because I think she’s handling it well.”
“I really like Warren. People seem very angry tonight. I don’t know why people are going after her. I do understand people’s frustration with politicians not answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. I do think she could have been more direct.”
“I think [Warren’s defense] has been pretty good. She’s been doing a good job of responding. Considering her rhetoric for ‘I’ve got a plan for that,’ her defense could be more effective.”
“The way she speaks is like she’s open to hearing criticism. She seems energized to talk. [Joe] Biden, when he’s attacked, seems to stumble a little more.”
Hansen also noted how Mayor Pete Buttigieg was being more critical of his opponents.
“I feel like he saw the SNL skit and he said, ‘I have to be more than the nice guy.'”
Teddy Maroon’s, Des Moines
The Polk County Democrats have hosted a debate watch party at this restaurant for each debate so far this year.
Katie O’Keefe, 22, Des Moines
O’Keefe is still undecided for Caucus night, but she has enjoyed Senator Warren’s campaign for the most part throughout the caucus.
“It was interesting to see how in the previous debates, the attacks had been focused on Biden, but this evening they had seemed to switch to Elizabeth Warren,” O’Keefe explained. “It was especially surprising to see the attacks being spearheaded by the more moderate candidates like Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who hadn’t presented these types of attacks before.”
In regard to the topics covered, O’Keefe wished that some issues had gotten more attention and that more discussion had been based around legal proceedings currently in the courts.
“There were certain topics I wish would’ve gotten more spotlight in tonight’s debate, specifically climate change,” said O’Keefe. “The candidates attempted to weave climate change into some of their responses to show emphasis on this issue, but it wasn’t a large focus. I hope there’s a larger emphasis on this in the November debate.”
Jeannie, Des Moines
Jeanne, a retiree, came into the night undecided, but said she has liked Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders throughout the campaign. Tonight, she was impressed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer.
“I like what Amy said about Steyer and the rest of the candidates, that none of them want to protect billionaires, even the billionaire in Steyer,” she said. “I know he is a billionaire, but I have also really liked Steyer tonight.”
Lucas Rieman, Des Moines
The 21-year-old Rieman is undecided on who to support on caucus night, but is keeping entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Warren and Sanders on his radar. He was not impressed with former Vice President Joe Biden tonight.
“Biden just shouldn’t be the president,” he said. “Listening to him tonight, he’s just easily frazzled and he seems to really struggle to convey ideas effectively.
“If Bernie hadn’t had a heart attack, I think it would just be him and Yang for me right now, but I’ve expanded my list since that happened.”
By Josh Cook, Nikoel Hytrek and Isabella Murray