Warren starts off shockingly strong in first Dem debate

As Jonathan Easley writes from Miami, Warren delivered a strong performance. While she did not lead the pack in speaking time — Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) paced the group -- Warren stayed above the fray as she delivered lines from her stump speech throughout and did not find herself caught up in back-and-forths with any of her fellow Democrats. 

Even when other Democrats appeared to disagree with her, they declined to ding her by name, namely Booker and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Additionally, Warren was treated as the true front-runner on stage and was given the first question at the top of the first and second hours. By virtue of her center stage position, she also closed out the debate with her closing statement. 

The debate was a culmination of a dream month for the Massachusetts Democrat, who has seen polls propel her to second place, neck-and-neck with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who will debate tonight. 

Wednesday’s question-and-answer format, which produced only a handful of authentic debate exchanges, set the table for tonight’s marquee matchup featuring front-runner Joe Biden, who is campaigning as a civility Democrat, and Sanders, who says he needs to do a better job of explaining his definition of socialism to voters.