Ms. Gillibrand may have had the most memorable line of the night, if not the most substantive: “The first thing that I’m going to do when I’m president,” she said, “is I’m going to Clorox the Oval Office.” She also brought the subjects of gender equality and sexual violence into a debate that had previously skirted them.
But on what she clearly hoped would be a defining moment — an attack on Mr. Biden for his opposition to an expanded child care credit in 1981 — the reviews were mixed. Some strategists loved it. But within the theater, the applause left little doubt that the audience was with Mr. Biden on this one. (Read more about the exchange here.)
“Strong case by @SenGillibrand on how she looks at impossible odds, with a good mix of her own accomplishments and the fight she’ll take to Trump.” — Christina Reynolds, spokeswoman for EMILY’s List
“I think @SenGillibrand is having a good night. Better than I expected: Not taking the bait to attack, staying on brand, elevating women in the policy conversations on healthcare and immigration.” — Emily Farris, political scientist at Texas Christian University
“Whoa. @JoeBiden calls out @SenGillibrand for accusing him of opposing women working outside the home. You can criticize Biden for a lot of things, but this attack smells crassly, political, and Joe unmasked it as such. The audience cheers.” — Mr. Begala
“This exchange w/ @SenGillibrand & @joebiden on his previous words on women working outside the home shows how gendered issues will be a weakness. This could be scratching the surface for Biden, as we may see in the coming months if he maintains lead.” — Christian Grose, political scientist at the University of Southern California
Gabbard, Inslee and Yang scored a few points
While not at the top of the pack, several lower-polling candidates managed to break through the noise at least once. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, in particular, attacked Ms. Harris on her prosecutorial record in a way other candidates had chosen not to or been unable to do. Andrew Yang and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington also had their moments.
“@TulsiGabbard brought up all the points against @KamalaHarris that Internet commenters having been pointing out for several months. … If @JoeBiden could deliver a takedown as effectively as @TulsiGabbard just did, he’d be the nominee already.” — Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and consultant
“So Gabbard is the one who finally had the real courage to come for Kamala on her criminal justice record. It was FIERCE. Been waiting for this… Kamala is leaning in to her record, and she’s FIERCER. Just saying. Powerful back and forth.” — Aisha Moodie-Mills, Democratic strategist
“Yang is having a very good debate. It’s not just that he’s gotten more comfortable. It’s also that he sounds different than the other candidates without sounding loopy. It’s the Williamson role, but played by an analytical AI obsessive.” — Ezra Klein, editor of Vox
“I also think @JayInslee has had a very good night. Not flashy, but earnest. And on climate change, quite strong.” — Mr. Axelrod