Fifth Democratic Presidential Debate – A Shallow, Stale Ping Pong Match

Fifth Democratic Presidential Debate – A Shallow, Stale Ping Pong Match
chayka1270 / Pixabay

MSNBC’s Post-debate commentator, Brian Williams said that “this was a superbly moderated debate. I wish they [the moderators] were permanent.”  I don’t. The Fifth Democratic Presidential debate felt more like a ping-pong match than a debate. And a stale one too. The impeachment proceedings, while tedious, are much more interesting.

As a leading expert in panel moderation, Kristin Arnold comments on the performance of the debate moderators.

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Here's some highlights on the fifth Democratic Presidential debate and you can find out more here:

  • The conversation was shallow. Just a few directed questions for each topic, maybe a rebuttal or a response and then on to the next topic (and we went all over the map!). Not a whole lot of “debate” for a debate!
  • Moderator Walker posed a loaded question to Harris about Buttigieg’s campaign and African Americans. Harris stumbled a bit and then pivoted to talk about the importance of supporting black women.  The moderators let that slide. Could have followed up, but didn’t (not just to this question, but only followed up on two other questions!)
  • The clash between Gabbard calling Buttigieg careless in his comment about fighting the Mexican cartels and Buttigieg questioning her judgement on meeting with Assad. Cut to Sanders just when it was getting juicy!
  • Definite bias toward Elizabeth Warren - right out of the gate: Two responses before half the candidates had an initial question. Warren had more airtime than the rest, the most initial questions, and was the most chronic for going over time.

Fifth Democratic Presidential Debate

  • The cardinal rule for any speaker/panel moderator is to ALWAYS end on time. We ended the Fifth Democratic Presidential debate timer at 2 hours and 20 minutes. Ugh.

Kristin Arnold, MBA, CPF, CSP

President, QPC, Inc.

Rules Analyst for 2019-20 Presidential Debates

High Stakes Meeting Facilitator, Professional Panel Moderator & Award Winning Author

Past President, National Speakers Association

Updated on

Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of, a popular value investing and hedge fund focused investment website. Jacob worked as an equity analyst first at a micro-cap focused private equity firm, followed by a stint at a smid cap focused research shop. Jacob lives with his wife and four kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at) - Twitter username: JacobWolinsky - Full Disclosure: I do not purchase any equities anymore to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and because at times I may receive grey areas of insider information. I have a few existing holdings from years ago, but I have sold off most of the equities and now only purchase mutual funds and some ETFs. I also own a few grams of Gold and Silver
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