Friday Dem Debate draws large crowd to Mission District watch party

The Democratic debate in New Hampshire brought out a big crowd to a debate watch party at Manny's in San Francisco's Mission District Friday night, as voters hoped to get some clarity on which candidate to support in the state's March 3rd primary.

The field is narrowing with seven candidates qualifying for the February 7th televised debate and another four candidates who did not qualify but are still in the race. 

Some people came with their minds set on a favorite. Many said they supported Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren for their progressive positions. 

In one corner fans of Andrew Yang said they were disappointed with his Iowa results but held out hope he'd still prove himself in later primaries.

"To me Yang is the only candidate that's speaking about issues that are facing the country now and not 10 years ago," said Josh Sperling, a San Francisco Yang supporter.

"We need all the candidates to be talking about universal basic income, AI and technology in schools," said Michael Fischer a Palo Alto Yang supporter.

Others said they were still trying to determine which candidate had the best chance of winning their vote and the November election. The tie in Iowa between Pete Buttigieg and Sanders had many wondering if the other candidates such as former Vice-President Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Senator Elizabeth Warren could pull out a win. There was also talk about Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican who is now funding his own campaign in the Democratic primary and could qualify for later debates where there are no donor requirements.

"It seems like a mess right now. It's hard to differentiate between the candidates. Seems too early," said Zach Roberts of San Francisco. 

At times there was applause. Many said they were glad to hear substantive discussion about foreign policy, education, and the economy.

"I think Biden was trying to stand out, I definitely think he was trying to be a bit more forceful. I think he succeeded at that a little bit," said Leonard Krubner of San Francisco, "I think Buttigieg had a problem defending his record on race."

Many in the audience felt Pete Buttigieg struggled to answer a question about arrests of African-Americans during his term as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Some in the crowd said they felt the discussion about race was awkward and revealing. 

"Definitely Tom Steyer taking a stand on reparations which nobody really is willing to do. Nobody talking about desegregation which I wish would have come up when they were talking about race a little more," said Jeffrey Greger of Palo Alto.

Others felt Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar had a breakout performance.

"I think she really brought it tonight, I was really surprised by how strong and confident she looked," said Sarah Partin Martinez of Union City. Partin Martinez said she's a native of Pennsylvania and feels her top choice is Elizabeth Warren but she also feels Biden would gain the support of conservatives who are tired of President Trump. 

Still, some people struggled  to name their top three choices, feeling each candidate showed strengths and weaknesses in Friday's debate.

"Probably tonight, Warren and Buttigieg and then I'd have to think really hard about the third because I'm not a fan of Yang, I'm not a fan of Bernie. I don't think Steyer has the chops even though I think he said some nice things tonight.," said Gary Naham, a San Francisco voter.

"Pete Buttigieg was particularly disappointing tonight as was Joe Biden's performance. And I kind of wish Elizabeth Warren had more presence," said Taylor Hadnot of  Daly City. Hadnot said she had been an early supporter of Buttigieg but now leans more toward Bernie Sanders. 

With three weeks until California's primary March 3rd, many said the debate helped but didn't leave them with a clear winner.

"The Democrats have a lot more to do in order to win over my vote, especially being a better person of color," said Travis Smith, a San Francisco voter, "I think they can really improve on showing how their plans can actually benefit us."

"It's the first time I can remember, I've been voting since Ronald Reagan, that I haven't had a clear candidate this close to the election," said Art Kane of San Francisco, "but the most important thing is beating Trump."