Rhode Island — Round three of the Democratic debates took place on Thursday night in Houston, this time with a narrower pool of candidates.
While 20 total candidates took the stage in the first two debates, just ten appeared on Thursday: former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, and Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar.
The smaller pool is because of a new Democratic National Committee qualification criteria released in May. In order to qualify, candidates had to poll above 2% in four polls and receive donations from at least 130,000 people.
Here’s a quick summary of debate #3, in the form of five key takeaways.
Dems agree on their major goal: to defeat President Donald Trump
All 10 candidates invoked President Trump’s name at some point in the debate. Needless to say, they were not complimentary. Sanders called Trump “the most dangerous president in the history of this country,” while Harris accused Trump of spending his presidency “trying to sow hate and division among us.”
And Booker called on Democrats to unite for one ultimate goal: “We’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president.”
The tone was generally positive, but a few targeted jabs stood out
Overall, the debate had an unusually light tone. Candidates even exchanged compliments — for example, Harris and Castro both openly credited Sanders for his hard work on health care reform.
And the humor of the candidates shined, often with spur-of-the-moment remarks rather than planned jokes. While discussing health care, Yang said, “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors...” to uproarious laughter. When asked whether he’d recommend his diet to others, Booker — who is vegan — said, “Actually, I want to translate that into Spanish: no,” which got even the commentators laughing in the post-debate analysis.
Some moments, however, were far less light-hearted. In particular, Castro jabbed at Biden in what many people — especially in the Twitter-verse — perceived to be a diss on Biden’s age. When the two began arguing over the specifics of their respective health care reform plans, Castro shot at Biden repeatedly, “Are you forgetting what you said just two minutes ago?” Later, other candidates like O’Rourke and Klobuchar condemned the comment as divisive and personal.
Education emerges as a major topic
Recently, candidate statements about education reform have centered on the student loan crisis. This time around, however, the debate on education covered a slew of topics including racialized achievement gaps, charter school funding, teacher pay increases and universal pre-K.
With teachers around the country striking to demand higher pay, it’s no wonder the candidates are starting to tune-in to the problem of the American education system.
While the moderators asked questions on various topics, ranging from trade wars to white supremacy, the discussion kept coming back to health care reform.
Health care is still the biggest issue for Americans
On health care, it seems like not much has changed since the first two rounds of debates. Some of the candidates, especially Sanders and Warren, trumpeted the progressivism and boldness of their support for Medicare for All. Meanwhile, other candidates, including Biden and Buttigieg, took a more moderate approach by advocating for changes to the already-existing Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Racism is a recurring discussion for the Dems
But this time, candidates weren’t attacking each other over race. Instead, they discussed the feasibility of reparations, the connections between education and race and the prevalence of white supremacy.
O’Rourke and Booker were two of the standouts during this discussion. O’Rourke paid homage to the first slave brought to America, crediting him with building “greatness and the success and the wealth that neither he nor his descendants would even be able to fully participate in and enjoy.” Meanwhile, Booker discussed the challenges facing his community of Newark, and he described the neighborhood where he lives as a “black and brown community below the poverty line.”
As the Democratic primary election approaches, the race is heating up. Some recent polls put Biden, Sanders, and Warren in nearly a three-way tie, often separated by the smallest percentage points. But it’s still unclear who will take on Trump in the general election, and it’s likely going to be a close, contentious race for the Democratic nomination.