The third Democratic debate, held in Houston on Thursday night, was the first single-evening event of the 2020 cycle. Although 10 candidates packed the stage, there was plenty of substance in their sparring. Here are some of the night’s standout moments.
Democratic debate Sept 12. highlights
1. Biden vs. Warren. This was the first time the former Vice President and current Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren shared a debate stage, and their matchup was much anticipated. They tangled over the cost of Warren’s healthcare plan; she favors Medicare for All, while Joe Biden advocates less costly improvements to Obamacare and alleged that Warren hasn’t shown how her plan will be paid for. But both acquitted themselves handily; neither struck a fatal blow.
2. Health care dominated first. The candidates spent more than 40 minutes debating health care, drawing a sharp line between candidates who advocate Medicare for All — Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders — and moderates like Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who wants to preserve the private insurance industry while adding a public option. Klobuchar criticized Sanders’ plan, arguing that the plan would remove millions of Americans from their private health insurance. “On page eight of the bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it,” she said. “I don’t think that’s a bold idea, I think it’s a bad idea.”
3. Gun control dominated next. The candidates agreed that immediate action was necessary and decried Congress and the president for failing to act on universal background checks, which polls show has 90 percent support from the American public. “The question is, when we have so much support across the country, why doesn’t it happen, and the answer is corruption, pure and simple,” said Warren. “We have a Congress that is beholden to the gun industry.”
4. Yang offered money. Part of California entrepreneur Andrew Yang’s platform is a universal basic income; in his opening statement, he raised eyebrows by offering $1,000 a month to 10 more families who apply for it through his campaign. (The move drew a “WTF” pause from Pete Buttigieg, who had to follow him and laughter from Klobuchar.) Otherwise, Yang had a strong night, speaking eloquently about the importance of economic opportunity, noting that his “father grew up on a peanut farm in Asia with no floor and now his son is running for president.”
5. Harris took it to Trump. California senator Kamala Harris looked into the camera to address President Trump directly during her opening statement, smacked his racist tweets as inflammatory to mass shooters and pointed out his consistent attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She was the only candidate to consistently attack the president, perhaps responding to commentators’ criticism that the Democrats were spending too much time tearing each other down and ignoring their ultimate opponent.
6. Julian Castro swung — and missed. Averaging 1 percent in the polls, the former San Antonio mayor had to do something to stand out. Unfortunately, he took a swipe at Biden’s memory, which didn’t land well. As the two sparred over Castro’s allegation that Biden’s health plan would leave 10 million people uncovered, Castro repeatedly said, “Have you forgotten what you said two minutes ago?” The move was widely criticized on social media and by post-debate analysts.
7. Beto rebounded. Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke has had trouble translating his energetic stump speeches to the debate stage. But he drew praise from several candidates onstage Thursday night for his response to the El Paso shootings, and he spoke passionately on the subject of gun control. Advocating a mandatory buyback of assault-style weapons, O’Rourke provided the night’s big viral moment: “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said as the audience applauded. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.” Whether that will be enough to lift O’Rourke above an average of 3 percent in the polls remains to be seen.
Sept. 12 Democratic debate full video
If you missed the third Democratic debate for the 2020 presidential election, the full debate is available on YouTube via ABC News.