Tulsi Gabbard would have a considerable edge in debate against Trump which Sanders would not have. The ONLY exception would be voters rabidly pro-Sanders or ANYONE-but-Trump. For all other voters, in debate with Trump, Sanders would struggle with certain topics which most Americans find highly important.
Russiagate and Sanders. The first example of this came this week. Hillary Clinton went on a talk show and tied Sanders to the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Now, most of us have little interest in what Clinton has to say on any subject, so this should be a non-issue. However, it was picked up by the Russiagate media and talked about widely.
Now the biggest problem with this subject is the fact that Sanders has not opposed Russiagate. He has propagated it. He has stated publicly that Russia helped his campaign in 2016 without his knowledge. He has previously accused his own supporters in 2016 of being influenced by Russian propaganda if they did so much as question Hillary Clinton.
What this means is that Sanders has bound his own hands regarding Russiagate. So far the media on this subject has gone easy on Sanders. You may think not but trust me, it will absolutely get worse. Sanders has not faced any accusations regarding Russiagate in DNC debates. Trump will absolutely bring up the subject, even if only in an attempt to deflect accusations against him by the media. This will place Sanders on the defensive because the questions will come not only from Trump but also neoliberal AND conservative media. Trump has denied any political ties to Russia and can point to how hawkish he has been against Russia. Sanders has no effective defense, since he has promoted the Russiagate narrative and claims that Russia helped him in 2016.
Russiagate and Gabbard. Gabbard would not have this problem. She makes her foreign policy stance very clear. She will work toward diplomacy and easing tensions with other countries, including Russia. The risk of maintaining those tensions is too great to allow them to increase further. Aside from wild-eyed schizophrenic talking heads who see Russians in their closets and refrigerators, there has been no accusation of Gabbard having any ties to Russia and those claims cannot be in any way quantified rationally. I’m sure Rachel Maddow will try, though.
Election integrity. Another issue on which Gabbard has the upper hand is her defense of election integrity. It has been absolutely proven that the DNC committed election fraud in 2016, with Hillary Clinton at the helm. Trump will absolutely bring that subject up. Sanders will have no defense on the subject at all. Not only did he campaign for Clinton in 2016 but he has been completely silent regarding election fraud in the primary up to this very day.
Gabbard, on the other hand, stepped down from the DNC vice chair position to protest election fraud, did NOT campaign for Clinton, has been publicly critical regarding the DNC and openly opposed Clinton only weeks ago. She also has announced that she will not be running for her Congressional seat again, so the DNC holds absolutely no power over her political future, as far as we know at this time.
Foreign policy. On foreign policy, Trump would likely not even challenge Gabbard. While he has failed at his campaign promises of ending wars and easing tensions with allegedly hostile leaders, he can point to efforts he has made. Gabbard also shows she will meet with those leaders and states the absolute goal of ending wars. Trump can absolutely challenge Sanders on foreign policy because Sanders has only offered platitudes on foreign policy. He has not offered any specific policies, goals or methods for his foreign policies.
Healthcare. Trump’s healthcare policies have been an absolute tragedy, leaving millions without medical insurance coverage of any kind while insurance and medical costs have continued to rise drastically. The one thing he can point to is that he eliminated mandatory private coverage and the penalty for not being insured. He will use the last part as a weapon against both Sanders and Gabbard, who both support universal healthcare.
With Gabbard, she openly states she supports universal healthcare with no private insurance involved for basic care. She does support the availability of supplemental care through private insurance, which is consistent with most countries that have universal healthcare. Much of her proposed healthcare plan would be paid for by reducing military spending. That reduction would be constant, not affected by stock market performance.
With Sanders, his plan also has the same components. However, he has been less prone to discuss the supplemental insurance aspect, which can be construed as an attempt to hide that fact. His plan is largely financed through a tax on stock market trades. Problem is, the amount available would decline if and when the stock market declines. Which the stock market is poised to do precipitously. He states he would decrease defense spending but without a plan in place for reducing conflicts, that would be difficult to justify and accomplish.
Debate style. One has to look at debate styles and behavior. On his own, Trump goes on tangents, we all know this. However, if you recall the RNC debates in 2016, he tends to remain rather composed and on the offensive at all times.
Sanders can be put on the defensive easily. He does try and keep a strong focus on the issues but can become visibly shaken. Trump has the tendency to change subjects and use more personal attacks, which tends to put Sanders on the defensive and he is rather consistent about it. When faced with subjects for which he actually has to defend himself, he stutters a lot.
Gabbard is a lot harder to shake. She can go on the offensive very easily. She goes into debate well prepared regarding her opponent. That is, in addition to being well versed on the issues. On top of that, she thinks on her feet and can transition without blinking an eye. She can face an aggressive opponent down with a smile on her face, never show fear and not stutter a single time.
Between Sanders and Gabbard in debate against Trump or any aggressive opponent, I would definitely say Gabbard would fare much better. Sanders fosters the image of the grandfather figure focused on domestic policy. Gabbard projects the image of a warrior, ready to fight the Establishment while working to ease international tensions. In a world currently at war, with raging international tensions, highly aggressive characters and forces in our political parties and a blatantly dishonest, adversarial corporate media, at this time the warrior/diplomat is what this country sorely needs and the one who will fare far better in debate in this environment.