Thursday night, 10 Democratic hopefuls for president took the stage in Houston and engaged in a three-hour-long debate. The field is shrinking, the stakes are higher and the topics discussed represent some of the largest issues facing not only the Democratic party, but America.
While candidates such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former Gov. John Hickenlooper have already dropped out of the race, the 10 candidates who were on stage Thursday have all qualified for the next debate. It will take place Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio.
Before the next, and possibly two-night, debate rolls around, catch up with five takeaways from Thursday’s democratic debate:
Beto brings his best performance yet
Voters across the U.S were elated when former Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced his candidacy for president. O’Rourke was catapulted into the public spotlight when he ran for the U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Ted Cruz. O’Rourke hasn’t been able to keep that same momentum and has remained a low-polling candidate.
Although O’Rourke is still polling in the single digits in most polls, he had his best performance to date Thursday. After taking time off the campaign trail to support his hometown of El Paso, Texas, after a mass shooting, O’Rourke spoke widely about his plans for dealing with future gun violence, including government buy-backs. He also garnered lots of applause for his immigration plans, which is a major issue for people in his home state of Texas.
Healthcare proves to be a divisive issue
In one shape or another, healthcare has been a topic in every primary debate that has happened so far. Not only is it one of the most important issues that democrats are tackling right now, but Thursday also proved how much the issue divides the party.
Former Vice-President Joe Biden continued to criticize Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on their expensive Medicare-for-all plans. Others, like Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, would rather expand upon the Affordable Care Act and not eliminate private health insurance all together. Klobuchar also pointed out how a “house divided cannot stand” when candidates began taking shots at one another over the issue.
Low pollers take different approaches
Klobuchar and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro held up the wings of the stage at the outermost podiums. While each needed an impressive performance in order to rise in the polls, the two had a very stark difference in their approaches. Klobuchar focused on her own record and ideas, but Castro continued his harsh criticism of opponents.
Castro’s biggest blows went to Biden, who he served with during the Obama administration. Castro claimed that he was the one upholding Obama’s legacy and also tried to point out Biden’s hypocrisy on healthcare.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro asked Biden after he said Americans would not have to buy into Medicare, though he previously stated they would.
Castro is receiving backlash for his comment, though he claims that it was not meant as a dig at Biden’s age.
The education debate is more than the student debt crisis
Although some candidates did mention their support for cancelling student debt nationwide, the education debate received a wider discussion at Thursday’s debate.
Sanders said all teachers across the nation should make at least $60,000 per year, and candidates debated the merits of charter schools. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang expressed his support for such schools, but other candidates talked about funding disparities and segregation in the public school system. Candidates also expressed the need for a secretary of education who attended public schools.
Candidates lack stellar moments
Although some candidates put their best foot forward Thursday, no candidate stole the spotlight for the night. Biden had some stumbles and outdated talking points, such as his references to record players, but maintains his lead as the front runner. Warren, who is in a virtual tie for second with Sanders, managed to stay above the fray but didn’t land any memorable lines. With the possibility of even more candidates qualifying for the October debate and a two-night debate special making its return, the need for those moments that leave a lasting impression are becoming more crucial.