Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the third Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 cycle.
NPI staff are watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses, which will take place over the course of three hours in Houston, Texas.
ABC is the media partner for this DNC-sanctioned debate.
Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” Anchor David Muir, ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos will moderate the debate on Thursday.
The presidential hopefuls will have one minute and fifteen seconds for direct responses to questions and forty-five seconds for responses and rebuttals. Candidates will have the opportunity to deliver opening statements, but there will be no closing statements.
Tonight’s lineup of ten candidates is as follows:
- Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
- New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
- Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke
- California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris
- Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobouchar
- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
Our live coverage begins below.
UPDATE, 5:07 PM (Ruairi): Former Secretary Julián Castro opened the debate. He argues that the country needs “a bold vision” for the post-Trump era, while reminding everyone that first, Democrats need to win!
UPDATE, 5:08 PM (Caitlin): “I may not be the loudest person up there,” United States Senator Amy Klobuchar joked in her opening statement.
“But I think we have already got that in the White House.” She warned that Trump is running the country like a reality TV Show. “I don’t want to be president for half of America […] but for all of America,” she concluded.
UPDATE, 5:09 PM (Caitlin): Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke warned about the “cost and consequence” of Donald Trump’s presidency during his opening statement and cited Trump’s racism as a contributing factor in the recent shooting in his home state of El Paso, Texas.
UPDATE, 5:11 PM (Caitlin): Cory Booker spoke about his time as a community builder in New Jersey during opening statements and stated that the differences among the different Democrats on stage are not as important as uniting as party, which is how he says he will lead the nation.
UPDATE, 5:12 PM (Ruairi): Andrew Yang criticized the influence of money in politics, describing voters as the “owners and shareholders of democracy.” He promises to give a “Freedom Dividend” to ten American families, arguing that voters know how to help themselves better than any politician.
UPDATE, 5:13 PM (Caitlin): Mayor Pete Buttigieg laughed in the beginning of his opening statement after his name was mispronounced. He cited his experience as a mayor and veteran as what will guide him as president. “We need ideas that are bold enough […] and big enough,” he said.
UPDATE, 5:14 PM (Ruairi): Kamala Harris starts with “a few words for Donald Trump, who we all know is watching.” She cited the divisive rhetoric and failed policies of Trump, and says that she plans to focus on the things that unite Americans rather than divide them, finishing with these words: “And now, Mr. President, you can go back to watching to Fox News.”
UPDATE, 5:16 PM (Caitlin): Senator Bernie Sanders opened with a blunt assessment of the political landscape. “It goes without saying, that we must and will defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country,” he said. But we must do more, he continued. He warned of the progression the United States is taking towards oligarchy.
UPDATE, 5:18 PM (Ruairi): Elizabeth Warren focused on her family’s connections to Texas, including her four year degree at the University of Texas. She recapped her personal history, arguing that today the “path to the middle class” is narrower than it was for people of her age.
UPDATE, 5:24 PM (Andrew): Elizabeth Warren did a good job reframing when challenged. She articulately summed up the problems of the current system, which is not efficient or effective. Everyone watching who has employer-sponsored healthcare knows what the words “out of network” mean.
UPDATE, 5:25 PM (Ruairi): We’ve seen this movie before, so to speak. This debate, like the ones before it, began with a tussle over healthcare, with Biden on on side, supporting his plan to build on the Patient Protection Act, and Senators Sanders and Warren making the case for their Medicare for All plans.
UPDATE, 5:26 PM (Ruairi): Biden defended his plan, saying that anyone who likes their insurance can keep it. He repeatedly criticized his rivals’ plans on a cost basis. “It’s not a bad idea if you like it, I don’t like it!”
UPDATE, 5:27 PM (Ruairi): “I’ve never met anyone who actually likes their health insurance company!” Elizabeth Warren retorted. She pointed out that the problem is that insurance companies make profits by saying no to healthcare – her plan would guarantee care for all.
UPDATE, 5:30 PM (Ruairi): Responding to Klobuchar’s argument that Medicare For All will take away private insurance options, Warren stated that Americans will still have access to quality healthcare – because her plan cuts out the expensive middlemen in the healthcare industry.
UPDATE, 5:32 PM (Andrew): We’re about a half hour in and so far, this has been basically a debate over single-payer healthcare (should we have it or not), with most of the time going to Biden, Sanders, and Warren.
UPDATE, 5:32 PM (Ruairi): Kamala Harris was asked about her changing position on Medicare For All. She credited both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, saying that her plan makes Bernie’s plan better. Her plan does not eliminate private health insurance.
UPDATE, 5:34 PM (Ruairi): Harris brought the conversation back to Trump. She lambasted his efforts to destroy the Patient Protection Act, from the legislative attempt thwarted by John McCain to the Department of Justice’s refusal to defend the law against court challenges.
UPDATE, 5:35 PM (Caitlin): Sanders countered Biden’s accusation that the funding needed for Medicare For All is unrealistic by arguing that one of the major reason Americans file for bankruptcy is because of disease and illness.
UPDATE, 5:36 PM (Ruairi): Biden says he is offering “Medicare for Choice,” that anyone can get. He again assailed Medicare For All on a cost basis. Bernie Sanders replied to Biden that the Patient Protection Act didn’t go far enough to help people, like those who are struggling with bankruptcy due to cancer.
UPDATE, 5:36 PM (Andrew): The ABC moderators have so far failed to steer this debate into new territory. They apparently wanted a clash that rehashes the merits of single payer healthcare. And they got that.
UPDATE, 5:36 PM (Ruairi): “I know about cancer,” said Biden, noting he lost his son Beau (also an elected official) to the disease only four years ago. He says that his plan will cover those with terminal illnesses.
UPDATE, 5:38 PM (Ruairi): Julián Castro recognized President Obama’s efforts on healthcare. He said that Biden’s plan leaves ten million people uncovered. He described his grandmother’s illness, noting she was lucky to have Medicare.
UPDATE, 5:38 PM (Andrew): Joe Biden seems shocked that Castro is attacking him and his record so aggressively.
UPDATE, 5:39 PM (Ruairi): Castro said the difference between his plan and Biden’s is that Biden’s require people to buy in. Biden disagreed. Castro made what was perceived on social media and in the debate hall as a subtle jab at Biden’s age: “Are you forgetting what you said just two minutes ago?”
UPDATE, 5:40 PM (Ruairi): Castro says “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not!” Biden retorts, “He’d be surprised to hear that.”
UPDATE, 5:40 PM (Ruairi): The candidates, spurred by Yang, exchanged comments about whether the back and forth on healthcare was useful or not.
UPDATE, 5:41 PM (Ruairi): Andrew Yang said: “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” He says the current system makes it too hard for doctors to get results.
UPDATE, 5:42 PM (Caitlin): Senator Booker closed out the healthcare section. “I believe in Medicare For All,” he said, adding: “But there is an urgency in this nation.” He explained that while he wants to get to Medicare For All, Americans need action now on health coverage and he’ll work with fellow Democrats to achieve progress, even if that means taking incremental steps.
UPDATE, 5:42 PM (Andrew): The Democratic field is fortunate that Cory Booker’s eloquence capped off that conversation about healthcare, smoothing over the rough exchange between Biden and Castro.
UPDATE, 5:42 PM (Ruairi): The moderators have ended the healthcare segment and moved on to the topic of systemic racism and social justice.
UPDATE, 5:44 PM (Caitlin): Beto O’Rourke was given the first opportunity to weigh in. As president, he said he would sign into law a reparations bill that would let us address systemic racism at its foundations. He finished by saying that we must not forget about the white supremacist in the White House.
UPDATE, 5:45 PM (Ruairi): Julián Castro commended Beto O’Rourke for his compassion at El Paso. He pointed out that the El Paso shooter targeted “people who look like me.” He cited his plan “to disarm hate,” and emphasized his proposal to reform the police force.
UPDATE, 5:46 PM (Andrew): Cory Booker once again shone in a debate answer with some powerful analysis about systemic racism. Good reframing.
UPDATE, 5:46 PM (Caitlin): Booker declared that we know Donald Trump is a racist and it’s important to call out racism, but it’s also important to work against the systemic racism that is “eroding our country.” He promised that as president, he would implement an office that was specifically designed to tackle white supremacy and systemic racism that touches all aspects of American life.
UPDATE, 5:47 PM (Andrew): “Harms compound,” says Pete Buttigieg, nicely adding on to what Cory Booker said about needing to dismantle systemic racism.
UPDATE, 5:48 PM (Caitlin): Pete Buttigieg stated that systemic racism preceded Trump, so we need a systemic approach to combat it. He characterized his plan as “the most comprehensive vision to tackle systemic racism in all areas.”
UPDATE, 5:49 PM (Ruairi): Kamala Harris is asked about how she has changed her views on criminal and social justice issues. Harris described herself as “born knowing” about the racial injustices in the justice system. She goes to her argument that she wanted to change the system from the inside.
UPDATE, 5:51 PM (Ruairi): “Was I able to get enough done, absolutely not!” Harris lays out the basic tenets of her new justice plan, which are popular with activists. She says she can do the job as an insider.
UPDATE, 5:52 PM (Andrew): The questions coming from the moderators in this second segment are better than the first segment. Props to ABC for creating questions that challenge the candidates on their social & criminal justice records.
UPDATE, 5:53 PM (Caitlin): Senator Klobuchar was asked about her record. She spoke about her time as prosecutor, working the community groups, to ensure those who murdered black children in her community were brought to justice. She spoke about how her office went after white collar crimes and worked with the innocence project around the accuracy of eye witness identification. She finished by promising to reform the criminal justice system in a holistic way.
UPDATE, 5:54 PM (Ruairi): Biden was asked about his criminal and social justice plan. Biden recalled his early days as a lawyer, during the Civil Rights era. He says that “the whole model should change.” He points to the Obama administration’s release of tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders.
UPDATE, 5:55 PM (Ruairi): In one of his better lines of the night, Biden declared: “When you finish your term in prison, you should not only be able to vote, you should have access to Pell grants,” and other benefits.
UPDATE, 5:57 PM (Caitlin): Booker opened with a quote that stated our criminal justice system “treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.”Booker argued that every candidate on the stage should promise that as president, they would release those who are behind bars unjustly, which he says is roughly 7000 people. He spoke of his record in the Senate to work to grant clemency to as many as possible.
UPDATE, 5:57 PM (Ruairi): Turning to the topic of gun violence, the moderators pointed out that survivors from El Paso are in the audience tonight.
UPDATE, 5:57 PM (Andrew): It’s always nice when a presidential candidate offers attribution before or after borrowing a good quote. “We have a system of justice that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent,” is one of Bryan Stevenson’s best quips.
UPDATE, 5:58 PM (Ruairi): Biden is asked why he failed to secure stronger gun safety laws in the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. He responded by saying that he is the only candidate to “ever beat the NRA,” with the Brady Bill. He says that gun safety has gone from “a cause to a movement.”
UPDATE, 5:59 PM (Ruairi): Biden quoted the statistics to make the case for stronger gun safety laws. Biden complemented that the way O’Rourke handled the massacre in El Paso, calling it “meaningful”, to huge applause.
UPDATE, 6:00 PM (Ruairi): Kamala Harris was asked about her plans to issue executive orders to address gun violence. Joe Biden (who was quoted in the question) interrupted to say: “You can do that for some things!”
UPDATE, 6:00 PM (Andrew): Kamala Harris neatly invoked the Obama campaign’s motto “Yes, we can!” to argue that executive action is a realistic means of curtailing civilian access to weapons of war.
UPDATE, 6:00 PM (Caitlin): Beto O’Rourke was complimented by former Vice President Joe Biden for the way he responded to the recent shooting in El Paso, when he left the campaign trail and met with the victims’ families.
Biden referred to him as “Beto,” before apologizing and calling him “Congressman.” O’Rourke laughed and told him usage of his first name was fine.
UPDATE, 6:01 PM (Ruairi): Harris recalls her time as a prosecutor, looking at murder cases, dealing with victims’ families. She points out that children are being drilled to be ready for mass shootings.
UPDATE, 6:02 PM (Ruairi): “Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the midst of that tragedy,” says Harris. Turning to Trump, she says that the President is “tweeting out the ammunition” for mass shootings.
UPDATE, 6:03 PM (Andrew): Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke is showing America what courage looks like as he makes the case that no civilian needs (or should possess) an AR-15 or similar weapon.
UPDATE, 6:05 PM (Caitlin): Beto exclaimed, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15 and your AK-47s” after explaining the horrific stories he heard recently in Texas after the shooting. He said that he also went to a gun show recently and was able to find common ground with those who sell these guns.
UPDATE, 6:07 PM (Andrew): Cory Booker is truly having a great debate so far. His comments about the need for empathy are so important and welcome. Empathy is a core progressive value.
UPDATE, 6:08 PM (Caitlin): Klobuchar was asked about her views on addressing gun violence. She declared that what unites us is bigger than what divides us. She stated that everyone on the stage believes in common sense gun reform. She pointed out that there is a bill she’s worked on sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk that keeps guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
She stated that she supports an initial voluntary gun buyback program, but if we want action now, we have to send a message to Mitch McConnell. We have to pass the gun control bills that are sitting on his desk right now.
UPDATE, 6:08 PM (Andrew): Starting with a voluntary gun buyback program — as Amy Klobuchar just talked about — is a sensible idea; gun buyback initiatives are known to be effective. The public is receptive to them.
UPDATE, 6:08 PM (Caitlin): Booker spoke passionately about the gun violence epidemic in his neighborhood. He argued that we need “more courageous empathy” and that he would lead change on this issue with a personal passion.
UPDATE, 6:09 PM (Ruairi): Elizabeth Warren is asked “what can you get done on guns” when working with Republicans. She reframed the issue as “a gun violence problem,” citing suicides and accidental shootings, which don’t get the press that massacres do, but certainly contribute to loss of life in our country.
UPDATE, 6:11 PM (Ruairi): Warren: “When we’ve got this much support across the country… why doesn’t it happen, and the answer is corruption, pure and simple.” She wants to “roll back the filibuster” in the Senate.
UPDATE, 6:11 PM (Ruairi): Warren declared that she wants a politics that “works for the people,” rather than big companies.
UPDATE, 6:11 PM (Andrew): Spot-on comments from Elizabeth Warren about tackling corruption and eliminating the filibuster in order to take action on gun violence and other issues. Smart reframing.
UPDATE, 6:12 PM (Ruairi): Sanders echoed Warren, saying “what we are looking at is a corrupt political system,” offering a holistic argument that the American politics is being held hostage by powerful interests.
UPDATE, 6:13 PM (Caitlin): Sanders was asked about ending the filibuster. He while he doesn’t support ending the filibuster, he argued that we would not wait for sixty votes to pass anti-corruption initiatives. He said that in terms of gun issues, what we are looking at is a corrupt political system, echoing Elizabeth Warren’s statements. He again touted his “F rating” from the NRA.
UPDATE, 6:14 PM (Andrew): Very disappointing to hear Bernie Sanders say, “No,” when asked if he supports getting rid of the filibuster. The filibuster needs to be abolished. It’s contrary to the values this country was founded upon.
UPDATE, 6:14 PM (Ruairi): Jorge Ramos asked Biden about immigration. In 2008, Biden supported border fencing. He asked if Biden and the Obama administration “made a mistake” with respect to their policy on deportations.
UPDATE, 6:15 PM (Ruairi): Biden strongly defended Obama’s record, pointing to DACA and Obama’s attempts to create a path to citizenship. Biden said he wants to change Trump’s repulsive border policies on asylum seekers.
UPDATE, 6:15 PM (Ruairi): Ramos pressed on, asking: “Did you make a mistake?” Biden opted not to directly answer the question. Ramos then turned to Castro, who also served in Obama’s administration as part of the Cabinet.
UPDATE, 6:16 PM (Ruairi): Castro says that, unlike Obama, Trump has “a dark heart” concerning immigration. He criticized Biden for trying to take credit for Obama’s work, while distancing himself from other aspects of Obama’s record.
UPDATE, 6:17 PM (Ruairi): Castro said his administration would “not give up protections for anybody.” Biden said that he stands with Obama, “all eight years.”
UPDATE, 6:18 PM (Ruairi): Warren was asked about her desire to get rid of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). She emphasized the importance of offering a path to citizenship. She added that the current immigration system does not keep Americans safer, or serve American values.
UPDATE, 6:19 PM (Ruairi): Warren stressed helping the nations of Central America. She blamed the current border crisis expressly on Donald Trump.
UPDATE, 6:20 PM (Ruairi): Andrew Yang was asked about legal immigration – would he increase the number of people admitted to the country from one to two million? Yang pointed to the value of immigrants to the U.S., including his father.
UPDATE, 6:21 PM (Ruairi): Yang wants to “compete for talent” with other countries, saying that the United States is a “magnet for human capital,” and changing that dynamic would irreparably change the country.
UPDATE, 6:22 PM (Caitlin): Mayor Buttigieg was asked about Trump’s racist rhetoric and policies around immigration.
“Anyone who supports these is supporting racism,” said Buttigieg.
He argued that those who support these policies mostly just are not familiar with immigrants personally. He stated that we need to being engaging the American majority on our values of welcome and faith.
UPDATE, 6:24 PM (Caitlin): O’Rourke was then asked about those who overstay their visas and he argued we have rewrite our immigration laws in the image of El Paso, Texas, one of the most diverse and safe cities in the United States. He said both Democrats and Republicans need to face the fact that both voted for ineffective and inhumane immigration laws. He cited the need to give DREAMErs citizenship now and that under his administration, the United States would never lock up undocumented children again.
UPDATE, 6:25 PM (Andrew): The debate has paused for a lengthy, multi-minute commercial break. ABC is teasing that the next topics will be “American jobs” and “foreign policy”. What about climate justice?