You may not have known her name before Wednesday’s first Democratic presidential nomination debate, but you’re going to hear it a lot more in the coming days.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, the photogenic Army major who twice served overseas, had a very good night, judging from one poll that most often grabs the buzziest candidate and hoists them up.
Gabbard sits atop the unscientific Drudge Report poll, with nearly 46% of the 126,005 respondents deeming her the “winner” as of about 9 a.m. EDT. That tally gave her a 35-point margin over the next contender, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who came in at just 11%.
Former Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke of Texas and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey were the big losers of the night, coming in at 4% and 3.4% respectively.
While the Drudge poll isn’t scientific — anybody can vote as often as they want, and usually do — it has served as a barometer for years on where candidates stand in the campaign. Matt Drudge runs the poll after big events, such as debates.
At just 38 years old (she qualifies to run for president by just three years), Gabbard already has an impressive resume. When she was elected n 2012, she became the first Samoan American and the first Hindu member of the U.S. Congress. Gabbard also served in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard in a combat zone in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009. In 2015, Gabbard was promoted from captain to major at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
At one point during Wednesday’s debate, Gabbard got into a heated exchange with Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio.
When asked whether U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan, Ryan said they should because withdrawing would run the risk of the Taliban carrying out “bigger, bolder terrorist acts.”
Gabbard quickly corrected Ryan, saying that it was al Qaeda, not the Taliban, that carried out the terrorist attacks of September 11.
“When we weren’t in there, they started flying planes into our buildings,” Ryan said.
“The Taliban didn’t attack us on 9/11,” Gabbard said. “Al-Qaeda did. That’s why I and other people joined the military — to go after Al Qaeda. Not the Taliban.”
Later, when Ryan referenced the recent deaths of two American soldiers in Afghanistan as a reason to stay, Gabbard fired back. “Will you tell the parents of those two soldiers that were killed in Afghanistan that we have to be engaged? That is unacceptable. We have lost so many lives, we have spent so much money,” she said.
After the debate, Breitbart News editor-at-large Joel Pollak asked the candidate about the exchanges with Ryan, prompting Gabbard to declare that she is the most qualified among the 2020 hopefuls to serve as commander-in-chief.
“The reason why this is so important is because the most important responsibility that the president has is to serve as commander-in-chief. Of all the candidates who are running for president, I’m the one who is most qualified to fulfill that responsibility to walk into the Oval Office and serve as commander-in-chief,” she said.
“And I think you heard tonight some of the reasons why those who lack the experience, lack the understanding, and conviction would, unfortunately, put our country in a place where we’d end up waging more wars, costing us more lives and tax-payer dollars. This is why I’m running for president, to be that person, to be that change in our foreign policy and those regime-change wars, new cold wars nuclear arms races and invest our precious dollars into serving the needs of our people,” Gabbard said.