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First presidential debate gives Rep. Tulsi Gabbard a boost

Tulsi Gabbard during first presidential debate

By Ed Diokno, Analysis

Everytime Rep. Tulsi Gabbard answered a question during last night’s Democratic debate, Day 1, she managed to reference her military experience.

She used the first debate of the campaign season as a means to introduce herself to the rest of the nation, who might not have heard or seen the congresswoman from Hawaii and she might have done well enough to give poll ratings a much-needed push

Until last night, Gabbard hasn’t been able to make any headway in the campaign. In the field of 24 candidates, she barely made it into the top 20. For someone who has been in politics for 17 years, it was embarrassing that nonpolitician first-time candidate Andrew Yang was raising more money and polling better than her.

Gabbard’s best moment was in an exchange with Rep. Tim Ryan.

Gabbard corrected the Ohio congressman when Ryan said the Taliban was behind the 9/11 attacks. “The Taliban was there long before we came in (Afghanistan) and they will be there long after we leave. We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan thinking that we’re going somehow squash this Taliban—” Gabbard said, before Ryan interrupted her.

“When (the U.S.) weren’t in there, (the Taliban) started flying planes into our buildings,” Ryan said. Gabbard’s response: “The Taliban didn’t attack us on 9/11, al Qaeda did. That’s why I and so many other people joined the military, to go after al Qaeda after 9/11.”

She concluded: “We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.”

Her worse moment was her response to a question about how to pay women equal to men. Instead of answering the softball question, she dived into her elevator speech trying to introduce herself by reminding the audience of her military service and her platform. Not once did she mention the need to pass the ERA or the Paycheck Fairness Act, which she recently vote for.


Surprisingly, and in this case consider the source, the conservative Drudge Report political website posted a surprising instant poll showing that its visitors believed Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was the overwhelming victor of the first Democratic presidential debate, polling at almost 35% with 12,314 votes.

Her closest competitor, according to Drudge, was Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was polling at just under 13.5% and 4,791 votes. Julián Castro of Texas and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey were polling the lowest with less than 5% each.


Google also tweeted the results of searches during and after the debate. We can only assume that the debate piqued peoples’ interest and had them asking ,”Hmm, who is this Tulsi Gabbard?”

Other notes on the debate:

  • Warren came in as the frontrunner and needed to show why she polls second to former Vice President Joe Biden. She held her own, giving the most substantive answers, especially on the economy, but she failed to distance herself from the lower tier candidates.
  • Julián Castro, former HUD Secretary under Obama, proved to be aggressive and should improve his standings in the polls considering he was polling 1 percentage point. He saved his flagging campaign at least until the next debate.
  • Beto O’Rourke didn’t do well. His personal anecdotes didn’t ring well in answering questions. He was also attacked by Castro on immigration. The fellow Texan was seeking a commitment to decriminalize crossing the border without documents but O’Rourke wouldn’t bite. “Do your homework,” Castro told O’Rourke, whose poll ratings have gone down every month.
  • The debate almost went out of control when the moderators allowed the candidates to speak out of turn in response to other candidates’ answers. The worst offender was New York Mayor DeBlasio, who (no offense) acted like an aggressive New Yorker.
  • Speaking of interruptions. Every woman who has to attend business meetings will  recognize this one. Once the debaters realized they could speak out of turn, interrupting became more frequent. Curiuosly, none of the women, Warren, Gabbard or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, did any interrupting, choosing to raise their hands amidst the attention grabbing men.

Part 2 of the Democratic debates will be tonight (June 27) and feature the other two Asian American candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang. It could have more fireworks than last night with four of the top five candidates participating. Besides Harris, former Vice President, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigeig. will be going at it with six other candidates.


The debate will air on NBC and Telemundo affiliates across the country, along with MSNBC on cable. They’ll be broadcast live from Miami and air which tonight at 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT.

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