Live Blog: Third Democratic Primary Debate

The third debates of the 2020 Democratic primary election take place Thursday night in Houston, Texas. We at the Washington Monthly will be live-blogging throughout the evening, providing fresh insights in real time as the top 10 Democratic candidates try to maximize the opportunity before a national audience. Follow along as the party’s voters get a winnowed down look at which of the candidates is best equipped to defeat Donald Trump.

Make sure to keep refreshing the page. We will constantly update our blog with new analyses throughout the debate.

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10:52

Buttigieg and Booker gave compelling and human answers to the resilience question. Biden, too—and under conditions (after being interrupted by protesters) that required some resilience. Overall, it was a good night for those three and Warren. Another standout was Amy Klobuchar, who had her strongest night yet.

— Eric Cortellessa

10:51

It certainly prompted them to talk about a pretty wide range of experiences. We heard about everything from Booker’s tenant rights documentary losing to one about penguins to Pete Buttigeg’s story of what it was like to come out (the only time this debate, I think, that someone brought up LBGTQ rights).

— Daniel Block

10:46

I thought this question on resilience was going to lead to superficial pandering. But to be honest, it made it clear how proud Democrats should be of this group of people who are interviewing for a job as POTUS.

— Nancy LeTourneau

10:41

Ok, so after answering this question about resilience, which one of them is the most likely to get into Dartmouth?

— Eric Cortellessa

10:32

Asking Biden about resilience was the biggest favor they could have given him. Whatever faults he may have, he just keeps on doing his thing no matter what kind of cruelties are laid at his door.

— Martin Longman

10:26

Biden did a poor job of answering the question about education, but his plan to triple Title I federal funding from $16 to $48 billion would have a huge impact—especially for poor children of color.

“The program is meant to help even out inequalities in school funding: Schools are mostly funded by state and local governments, including by property taxes. Typically, that’s meant states spend less on low-income kids’ education than on their richer peers, even though low-income kids often have greater needs that make them more expensive to educate.”

— Nancy LeTourneau

10:25

There are serious flaws in both Warren and Sanders’ free college plans. Kevin Carey, who leads Education policy at New America, wrote about a smart alternative in this magazine.

— Grace Gedye

10:16

Yang is right that “a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold.” Out of the factors that influence student achievement that schools are able to change (in other words, not things like family income or the parents’ level of education) teacher quality has the greatest impact. Not class size. Not spending per student.

— Grace Gedye

10:08

Hillary Clinton is now trading seventh in PredictIt. She’s gained two cents since the debate began (from three cents to five).

— Daniel Block

10:05

On just the basics, Amy Klobuchar has the weakest climate change plan of any of the candidates on stage.

— Nancy LeTourneau

10:04

Booker said “market consolidation.” Drink.

— Martin Longman

10:03

I think that Cory Booker is the first person to talk about monopoly tonight, albeit briefly. If you want to read more about his thoughts on how concentrated the agricultural industry is, check out this piece by Eric.

— Daniel Block

10:02

Cory Booker just mentioned his bill to place a moratorium on mergers between large agribusiness. Last spring, I wrote about the 2020 candidates who want to take on corporate monopolies, including Booker, who found resonance in the issue after reading a Washington Monthly essay on how consolidation in the death industry was eating up small family-owned black funeral homes. The argument for increased antirust enforcement could play well with Iowa farmers—if he chooses to use it.

— Eric Cortellessa

9:58

Biden knows what he’s talking about when he refers to what is/isn’t possible in Afghanistan. As Vice President, he worked hard on negotiating a peace agreement between the Afghani government, the Taliban, and Pakistan. But it never came to fruition. He proposes pulling troops out and focusing on an anti-terrorism approach.

— Nancy LeTourneau

9:44

Booker nails it when he says that Trump’s isolationist approach in attempting to take on trade and other foreign policy issues alone—antagonizing even our allies—is the problem.

— Nancy LeTourneau

9:42

I wrote a little about how the U.S. can use its enormous market size to try and push for higher standards in its trade negotiations. There’s a lot to be said for what Warren recommended: treating trade policy as a means to a political ends (e.g. liberal policies) rather than just as a means to higher GDP growth.

— Daniel Block

9:39

I’m waiting for the candidate who says that the leverage we have with China is to re-enter negotiation with TPP countries.

— Nancy LeTourneau

9:36

If you can’t talk intelligently about trade policy, change the subject and just say Trump is screwing up. Seems to work for all of them.

— Martin Longman

9:35

To piggyback on Dan’s post, the Canadian campaign is just ramping up–and it will be over in six weeks. Canadians balked when, in 2015, they had to endure a full eleven weeks of campaigning.

The arguments for shortening campaign seasons are strong. Our multi-year process is not only tiresome, it requires candidates to raise millions of dollars, which makes running for office prohibitively expensive for most.

— Grace Gedye

9:29

Ah, okay they are going to get into foreign policy now.

— Martin Longman

9:28

In other news, the first Canadian general election debate took place tonight. Trudeau’s main rivals crashed, but the prime minister himself did not attend.

— Daniel Block

9:22

Yang: “Come to America, the water is great!”

At some point I hope they ask something about nuclear proliferation or frayed alliances, the future of the EU and NATO, the trade war with China, the turmoil in British parliament or anything else that might be about more than some controversial domestic subject.

— Martin Longman

9:18

As much as I respect Jorge Ramos, the assertion that Obama deported more people than any other president gets a mixed rating on accuracy. While numerically true, “it was due in large part to a change in how ‘deportations’ are defined rather than an increase in the number of persons deported.”

— Nancy LeTourneau

9:16

There is not enough Yang.

— Martin Longman

9:10

The moderators try to fight a force between Warren and Sanders, this time on the filibuster. It’s one of the most interesting points of difference between the two progressive standard bearers, but Sanders doesn’t bite.

— Daniel Block

9:10

I’ve always been lukewarm on eliminating the legislative filibuster but Warren is correct to mention that it is a prerequisite for any of these candidate passing anything of any consequence in their first term.

—Martin Longman

9:09

Rather than saying that we have a Congress beholden to the gun industry, I wish Warren would say that we have a Republican Party beholden to the gun industry.

— Nancy LeTourneau

9:06

There’s been a shift in gun control politics in the past couple of weeks: some businesses have taken a clear stance. First, the CEO of Walmart pushed for a debate over the assault weapons ban and promised to discourage open carry in its stores, and other stores followed suit. Just today, CEOs from Levi Strauss, Twitter, Uber, and over 140 other companies released a statement asking Senate leaders to address gun violence. A clear request from business leaders is the kind of thing that might actually make Republicans sit up straight and pay attention.

— Grace Gedye

9:04

O’Rourke is getting a lot of credit for his passion since the shooting in El Paso. His defense of a mandatory buy-back program on AK-47’s and AR-15’s was the most riveting moment of the debate so far and demonstrates why he deserves credit for being unapologetic.

— Nancy LeTourneau

9:00

Biden got a lot of credit from the crowd for saying something nice about how Beto O’Rourke handled the massacre in his hometown. It shows that people don’t like to see the candidates fight. But Julian Castro must feel he has no choice if he wants to get attention.

— Martin Longman

8:57

It is worth noting that Linsey Davis’s questions focused on having candidates explain their positions rather than attempting to get them to argue with each other.

— Nancy LeTourneau

8:54

The second and third polling candidates (Warren and Sanders) were never asked to speak on the moderator’s racism question.

— Daniel Block

8:49

Yang’s point that our current insurance landscape is inhospitable to employers and creates lot of unwanted paperwork for doctors is a good one—and it has has been remarkably absent from the Democratic debates over healthcare so far.

— Grace Gedye

8:47

Kamala Harris is defending her decision to become a prosecutor, not her record as a prosecutor.

— Eric Cortellessa

8:44

Booker’s health care answer came the closest to the one I would give if I were a candidate. I have my ideal view, which cuts the insurance industry largely out of the health care industry. But I’m not interested in fighting that battle if it isn’t winnable. It’s much more important to make sure people with diabetes or high blood pressure get to see a doctor right now and can afford their treatment. So, the goal is to make the most progress as possible, not to win some ideological battle that cannot be won.

— Martin Longman

8:38

The best response to Sanders and Warren on Medicare for All came from Buttigieg when he talked about offering the option of a public plan and trusting the American people.

— Nancy LeTourneau

8:37

I’m waiting for Yang to come up with some mindbending out-of-the-box health-care solution.

— Martin Longman

8:34

It is clear that Kamala Harris came to this debate focused on taking on Donald Trump—not the other candidates on that stage.

— Nancy LeTourneau

8:33

Surprised that in that attack on Trump’s health care policies, Harris didn’t bring up the fact that the number of uninsured Americans went up this year for the first time in a decade.

— Daniel Block

8:32

The stat about people who “love their health insurance” has always confused me. What’s to love about billing your insurance? What’s to love about trying to figure out which doctors are in-network? Or being surprised when you’ve visited a doctor who isn’t? People’s love for their health insurance is totally constructed in contrast to the terrible plans that they know other people have.

— Grace Gedye

8:30

The candidates have definitely cooled it with the Obama bashing tonight. Looks like they got the message that most Democratic voters—unlike a small but loud chorus on Twitter—didn’t really like that.

— Eric Cortellessa

8:26

“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill.”

“I don’t think that’s a bold idea, I think that’s a bad idea.”

Amy Klobuchar is doing a good job with the memorable one-liners tonight.

— Eric Cortellessa

8:24

Biden promising that under his plan, everyone who likes their health insurance as is can keep it. That’s the same promise he and Obama made with Obamacare, and it wasn’t accurate.

— Daniel Block

8:22

In these debates, Warren has consistently supported Medicare for All. But for all of her ’” have a plan for that,” she hasn’t released a health care plan.

— Nancy LeTourneau

8:18

Is someone keeping track of how many time Biden references Barack Obama (including Obamacare) in this debate? That’s twice so far.

— Daniel Block

8:14

After her opening statement, Kamala Harris moved up one cent in Predict (and Yang moved down one cent).

— Daniel Block

8:13

I’ll be curious to see how Yang wraps up his giveaway by the end of the debate. It landed somewhere between innovative and gimmicky, but Yang has had surprising sticking power. He may be gathering a (small) amount of momentum: this morning, a long interview with Yang was featured on the New York Times The Daily podcast with Michael Barbaro—one of the most-listened to shows.

— Grace Gedye

8:12

Kamala Harris gets credit for that original and compelling opening statement—which will no doubt be shared widely on social media. It was kind of kitsch, but it will certainly help her get attention.

That may seem non-substantial, but here’s a key thing to remember about how to measure the success of a debate performance: what matters most for a candidate is the coverage they are able to generate in the days afterword.

— Eric Cortellessa

8:10

ABC’s debate rule—that candidates who go over their allotted time will have speaking time deducted later in the debate—may keep candidates from talking over each other quite so much, and will hopefully lead to a more equitable division of speaking time.

— Grace Gedye

8:07

With Seth Moulton gone, Beto O’Rourke went strait for the gun control lane, invoking the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas—his hometown.

— Daniel Block

7:54

Biden will obviously be targeted tonight. By who? By everyone. That’s just one of the pitfalls of being a frontrunner. But it will be interesting to see whether Warren and Sanders team up to attack him, or whether they spend more time attacking each other. Each of them, after all, are competing over the progressive vote.

— Eric Cortellessa

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