It was a night for John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet to stand on the national stage -- and the pundits had their scorecards out to rate the Coloradans.
Or at least some pundits. CoPo's sweep of overnight news media "winners and losers" posts about Thursday night's debate of 10 Democrats in Miami found that most did not mention either the former Colorado governor or the state's senior U.S. senator, reflecting their lower-division status among the two-dozen candidates seeking the White House.
But a few did. One was CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza, at The Point, who placed Bennet on his short list of winners.
"Look, I don't think that the Colorado senator is somehow going to shoot from 1% to relevance in the polls based on his performance in this debate. He wasn't that good," Cillizza observed. "But, for someone who a) no one knew going into this debate and b) had limited speaking opportunities to make his case, I thought Bennet performed well. Bennet's incredulity with [former Vice President Joe] Biden's belief that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would start working in a bipartisan way if the former vice president won the White House felt genuine -- and was powerful. In short: Bennet came out of this debate looking better than he went into it. Which is a win."
Meanwhile, Politico labeled Hickenlooper a "wet blanket" in its post-debate "who won?" piece.
"Just as [Maryland U.S. Rep.] John Delaney saw his role on stage on Wednesday [the two-night debate's opening event] to bring the most liberal policy ideas down to earth, Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor, took aim at Sanders and 'socialism.' 'If we turn towards socialism,' Hickenlooper warned the audience, 'we run the risk of helping to reelect the worst president in American history'," Politico's Steven Shepard wrote.
"But Hickenlooper had few other memorable moments. A question about his energy and climate policy referenced his work with oil companies — which are not exactly well-regarded by Democratic primary voters. Ultimately, he made less of an impression than his fellow Coloradan, Sen. Michael Bennet."
Todd Graham, debate director at Southern Illinois University whose teams have won five national championships, gave Hickenlooper a "B" grade, behind only Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. "He may not be the most exciting candidate on stage, but after listening to all his answers, I would have moved to Colorado under his former governorship," Graham enthused. "Hickenlooper did the best job tonight defending his time in office."
Graham awarded Bennet only a "D," commenting: "He began with an uninspired answer on health care, arguing that a universal health care plan is what the country needs. Sure, universal health care might be a defensible policy, but it needs a better defense than the simplistic one he gave: Finishing what Obamacare started and having a public option is a good plan."
As for local journos, Jessica Porter at KMGH-Denver7 scored the debate for Bennet over Hickenlooper.
"Colorado Senator Michael Bennet came out stronger than former Governor John Hickenlooper," she wrote. "On immigration, Bennet chose a more personal approach where Hickenlooper stuck to policy."
Meanwhile, Google Trends at one point ranked Hickenlooper as the No. 2 top-trending topic in the second half of the debate, right after California Sen. Kamala Harris.
And The Associated Press, in the many photos of the debate it distributed Thursday night, had Bennet labeled as a "former" senator in captions.