Analysis of the Third Democratic Presidential Debate

As the race narrows, Democrats focus in on key issues


The third Democratic presidential debate marked the first time all three front runners 一 Biden, Warren and Bernie 一 shared the same stage. 

The number of candidates was cut in half  from the previous debate, going from twenty spread over two nights to just ten. The ten candidates that took the stage were: Joe Biden, Corey Booker, Pete Buttigeg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klocbuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. 

The debate was hosted by ABC and Univision Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

Candidates debated a breadth of topics including health care, immigration, climate change and foreign policy. Health care sparked the fiercest contention by far between the candidates. 

Opening statements ranged from open attacks on President Trump to appeals to moderate voters. 

Biden was the most argumentative during the health care discussion, working to separate himself from Warren and Bernie. 

“I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie, well I’m for Barack,” said Biden referring to his support of Obamacare versus Bernie’s Medicare for All bill. Biden went on to pose the question “How will you pay for it?” to the candidates at his sides.

Warren and Sanders argued that Medicare for All would save Americans money in the long run, while Biden and other moderate candidates made the case that it would be untenable because it would require the elimination or massive reworking of the private insurance sector. 

Bernie defended Medicare for All, the bill he wrote, by saying, “Every study done shows that Medicare for All is the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to every man, woman and child in this country.” 

One of the most memorable moments of the night came when Castro openly attacked Biden’s age, hinting at the generational gap between him and other candidates. 

Castro claimed that Biden had said his plan would not automatically enroll people in his public health care option. Castro repeatedly asked Biden, “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?”

Transcripts from after the debate showed that Castro was wrong and Biden had not actually said what he thought. Instead Biden had said, “Anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have.” 

The conversation later turned to gun violence, an issue that was at the forefront of Texans’ minds following the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas on Aug 3. when 22 people lost their lives. 

O’Rourke had the most to say on this topic, as his hometown is El Paso. All candidates applauded the statements that he had made following the shooting. 

“Hell yes, we are going to take away your AR-15, your AK-47,” said O’Rourke, to which the crowd lit up with applause. 

All candidates agreed on the need for increased gun control measures, but disagreed on how to get those measures passed. 

Klobuchar took a more moderate approach, offering up a voluntary buyback program.

The evening ended with closing statements where candidates talked about the biggest professional hurdles of their careers. 

Warren spoke of losing her job as a special needs teacher after becoming pregnant 一 and later deciding to go back to law school. 

“The reason I’m standing here today is because I got back up, I fought back,” Warren said. 

Buttigeg talked about being openly gay as he campaigned for mayor of a conservative state. 

During Biden’s turn to speak the debate was interrupted by protestors. Candidates looked confused 一 as were many viewers, not understanding what the protestors were saying. 

Later on it was reported by Time that the protestors were chanting, “We are DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients. Our lives are at risk.” 

Overall, Biden got the most speaking time by over at minute at 17 minutes and 22 seconds. Warren trailed at 16 minutes and 37 seconds. Yang failed to get enough speaking time and placed last at 7 minutes and 58 seconds. 

Though candidates were heavily polarized on some issues, the overall sentiment of the debate was to prepare to put the best candidate forward to the general election. 

“We’ve got one shot to make sure President Trump is a one-term president,” said Booker.