The 10 highest-polling candidates will appear for a single night of debate in Houston hosted by ABC News and Univision — the smallest roster yet in the third matchup of Democratic National Committee-sanctioned primary debates, with a field that still counts 20.
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As he followed suit with his democratic rivals, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg addressed the system racism in the country, saying, it “preceded this president and even when we defeat him, it will be with us.”
“That’s why we need a systemic approach to dismantle it,” he continued. “It’s — it’s not enough to just take a racist policy, replace it with a neutral one and expect things will just get better on their own … This time, a Douglass plan that we invest right here at home. To make sure that we’re not only dealing with things like the over-incarceration of black Americans.”
Booker, fielding a question from ABC News’ Linsey Davis, said a comprehensive criminal justice plan is central to combatting “systemic racism,’ in America.
“Racism exists, the question isn’t who isn’t a racist, it’s who is and isn’t doing something about racism,” Booker said.
“It’s nice to go back to slavery, but we have a criminal justice system that is so racially biased, we have more African-Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850. We have to come at this issue attacking systemic racism, having the courage to call it out and having a plan to do something about it,” he added.
When asked about addressing the racial divide in the country, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke said, “Racism in America is endemic. It is foundational…I’m going to follow Sheila Jackson Lee’s lead and sign a reparations bill that will allow us to address this at its foundation. But we will also call out the fact that we have a white supremacist in the white house and he poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country.”
The other Texan on stage, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro chimed in, first praising O’Rourke for his response to the El Paso shooting, and then arguing, “We need to root out racism and I believe we can do that, because that doesn’t represent the vast majority of Americans who do have a good heart. They need a leader to match that and I will be a president that matches that.”
Amid a tense moment between some of his fellow contenders, Andrew Yang said, “We know we’re on the same team here. We know we’re on the same team. We all have a better vision for health care than our current president.”
He then continued: “I believe we’re talking about this the wrong way. As someone who has run a business, I know that our current health care system makings it harder to hire people, makes it harder to give them benefits and treat them as full-time employees. It’s harder to change jobs. It’s certainly harder to start a business. The pitch we have to make to the American people is, we will get the health care weight off of your backs and then unleash the hopes and dreams of the American people.”
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Biden had a particularly contentious exchange, also over healthcare, with Castro accusing Biden of forgetting the details of his own healthcare plan.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in, and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that,” Castro said to gasps from the audience.
“I said anyone like your grandmother who has no money,” Biden said in defense.
“This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable. This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington. Scoring points against each other. Poking at each other,” Buttigieg said.
“A house divided cannot stand. And that is not how we’re going to win this,” Klobuchar said.
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke spoke directly to his fellow Democrats to tell them, “we’ve got to do better.”
“I also think we’re being offered a false choice between those who propose an all or nothing gambit, forcing tens of millions off of insurance that they like, that works for them, to force them onto medicare and others who want to, as the vice president does, incrementally improve what we have, which will leave many, maybe millions uncared for,” he said. “We’ve got to do better.”
“If you notice, nobody’s yet said how much it’s going to cost the taxpayer. I hear this, large savings, the president — my friend from Vermont thinks that the employer is going to give back if you negotiate as a union all these years, got a cut in wages because you got insurance. They’re going to give back that money to the employee?” Biden asked Sanders.
“As a matter of fact, they will,” Sanders responded.
“Well let me tell you something. For a socialist you got — For a socialist, you have a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do,” Biden said.
After the second Democratic debate saw former President Barack Obama’s legacy criticized, California Sen. Kamala Harris praised him: “I want to give credit to Barack Obama for bringing us this far.”
She then took aim at the current White House occupants, President Trump, telling the crowd, “But at least five people have talked, some repeatedly on this subject, and not once have we talked about Donald Trump. So let’s talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office and spent almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.”
Buttigieg also went after Medicare for All, and pitched his own plan that he dubs “Medicare for All who want it.”
“The problem, Senator Sanders, with the damn bill that you wrote, and that Senator Warren backs, is that it doesn’t trust the American people. I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you. Not my way or the highway,” Buttigieg said.
Sanders doubled down on his plan, Medicare for All, “Medicare for All is comprehensive health care. Covers all basic needs, including home health care. It allows you to go to any doctor you want, which many private insurance company programs do not.”
“Senator Sanders and I have worked valiantly to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals,” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. And on page eight — on page eight of the bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it.”
“That means that 149 million Americans will no longer be able to have their current insurance. That’s in four years. I don’t think that’s a bold,” she added.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I may not be the loudest person up here, but I think we’ve already got that in the White House. Houston, we have a problem. We have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show” https://t.co/T37EaVOvlU #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/oLXwsx3tv6
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 13, 2019
Both Warren and Sanders again defended their health care plans after Biden pointed out the high cost of the programs they are advocating for.
“So, let’s be clear, I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company. I’ve met people who like their doctors, I met people who like their nurses, I’ve met people who like their pharmacists, I met people who like their physical therapists. What they want is access to health care,” Warren said.
“Let us be clear, Joe, in the United States of America, we have spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians or any other major country on Earth,” Sanders argued.
“This is about candor, honesty,” the former vice president said. “The tax of 2% that the Senator [Warren] is talking about, that raises about $3 billion. Guess what? That leaves you $28 billion short. The senator said before, it’s going to cost you in your — there will be a deductible – in your paycheck. You’re gonna — The middle class person, someone making 60 grand with three kids, they’re going to end up paying $5,000 more.”
Sanders immediately defended his Medicare for All plan, and went after Biden for pushing for “the status quo.”
“Joe said that Medicare for All would cost over $30 trillion. That’s right, Joe, status quo over ten years will be $50 trillion!” Sanders said.
“We need — we need a health care system that guarantees health care to all people as every other major country does, not a system which provides $100 billion a year in profit for the drug companies and the insurance companies. I’ll tell you how absurd the system is tonight on ABC, the health care industry will be advertising, telling you how bad medicare for all is, because they want to protect their profits. That is absurd,” Sanders said.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren hedged when directly asked on if middle class taxes will go up under “Medicare for All”
“How do we pay for it? We pay for it, those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations, are going to pay more. And middle class families are going to pay less,” she said. “That’s how this is going to work.”
When pressed again, she responded, “The answer is Medicare for All, costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations. But for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down and that’s how it should work under medicare for all in our health care system.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the debate and pushed back on the health care plan being pitched by Warren and Sanders, Medicare for All.
“I think we should have a debate on health care. I think — I know that [Senator Warren] says she’s for Bernie, well, I’m for Barack. I think it worked,” Biden said.
“So as far, my distinguished friend, the senator on my left has not indicated how she pays for it and the senator has,” Biden said gesturing to Sanders and Warren. “In fact, come forward and said how he’s going to pay for it, but it gets him halfway there.”
California Sen. Kamala Harris targets President Donald Trump: “But here’s what you don’t get. What you don’t get you is that the American people are so much better than this. And we know that the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us, regardless of our race, where we live or the party with which we’re registered to vote … And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pitched his long-standing message of fundamental economic change to benefit the country’s working class: “It goes without saying that we must and will defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country. But we must do more. We must do more. We have got to recognize that this country is moving into a form of society where a handful of billionaires control the economic and political life of this country.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talks up her Houston roots before touting why she should be at the top of the ticket: “I got my big opportunity about a half mile down the road from here at the University of Houston, back when it cost $50 a semester … I know what’s broken, I know how to fix it and I’m going to lead.”
Former Vice President Biden called back to a speech President John F. Kennedy gave when he launched the “Moonshot Program” to land on the moon: “We’re walking around with our heads down like “woe is me.” We’re the best-equipped nation in the world to take this on. It’s no longer time to postpone. We should get moving. There’s enormous, enormous opportunities once we get rid of Donald Trump,” Biden said.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke invokes the shooting of El Paso in his opening remarks: “On August 3rd, in El Paso, Texas, two things became crystal clear for me … The first is just how dangerous Donald Trump is the cost and the consequence of his presidency … The second is how insufficient our politics is to meet the threat that we have right now.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker struck a unifying tone in his opening statement: “That’s the story of America. At our best, we unify, we find common cause and common purpose. The differences amongst us Democrats on the stage are not as great as the urgency for us to unite as a party, not just to beat Donald Trump, but to unite America in common cause and common purpose,” Booker said.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg harkened back to the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, saying he wants to focus on the future of the country: “We just marked the anniversary of 9/11. All day today I’ve been thinking about September 12th, the way it felt when for a moment, we came together as a country. Imagine if we had been able to sustain that unity,” Buttigieg said.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang announced on tonight’s debate stage 10 new people to receive the “Freedom Dividend,” a $1000 a month payment, his signature campaign policy, according to a Yang campaign source. Three people already received the payment from Yang, bring the total number of people receiving the dividend to 13. The source tells ABC News he will use campaign funds to make the payment.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ribbed President Donald Trump in her opening statement at Thursday’s debate.
“I may not be the loudest person up here, but I think we’ve already got that in the white house. Houston, we have a problem. This — we have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show. He would rather lie than lead,” Klobuchar said.
At the onset of the ABC News/Univision debate in Houston, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro delivers his opening statement, the first of the 10 candidates on stage:
“There will be life after Donald Trump. But the truth is that our problems didn’t start just with Donald Trump and we won’t solve them by embracing old ideas. We need a bold vision,” he said. “We have to win… it’s what I can do in this race get back Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and Arizona and finally turn Texas blue and say good-bye to Donald Trump.”
The third Democratic debate, hosted by ABC News and Univision, is starting from Houston’s Texas Southern University.
Here’s how to watch the debate: The three-hour event airs on ABC, on Univision with a Spanish translation, locally on KTRK-TV and on ABC News Live. The streaming channel is available on the ABCNews.com, Good Morning America and FiveThirtyEight websites and mobile phone apps, as well as on Hulu Live, The Roku Channel, Facebook Watch, AppleTV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube, Apple News, and Twitter.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang will announce on tonight’s debate stage 10 new people to receive the “Freedom Dividend,” a $1000 a month payment, his signature campaign policy, according to a Yang campaign source. Three people already received the payment from Yang, bring the total number of people receiving the dividend to 13. The source tells ABC News he will use campaign funds to make the payment.
The four moderators for the third Democratic debate – ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, ABC News “World News Tonight” Anchor and Managing Editor David Muir, ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos will moderate – introduce the candidates on stage in order of their podium placements:
DNC Chair Tom Perez criticized the president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others in Republican leadership, admonishing the president to “stop tweeting” and start governing.
“It’s great to be in this battleground and let me reiterate: This is a battleground, my friends!”
As ten presidential candidates arrive in Houston for the third round of Democratic debates, Houstonians say they will find America’s future: young, multicultural and, two years after Hurricane Harvey laid waste to parts of this city, reckoning with the very real threat of climate change. With 2.3 million residents, sprawling Houston is the fourth biggest city in the country, while according to the most recent census, close to two-thirds of the population is non-white and a quarter of residents are foreign-born.
“We know that we cannot let our diversity divide us. We recognize diversity is our strength,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told the crowd.
Learn more about the diverse and vibrant city here.
Bringing an event of this caliber to the school will not only raise national attention to the issues that matter to African American voters, but it will highlight the mission of historically black colleges and universities, also known as “HBCUs”, around the country, school officials, graduates and students said.
“We are beyond thrilled to serve as the host for this historic event — one that adds to the incredible legacy of this 92 year-old institution,” Texas Southern University President Austin Lane told the gathering.
Notable alumni of Texas Southern include Rep. Al Green, who graduated from the university’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, NFL Hall of Famer and Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan as well as former congresswoman and civil rights leader Barbara Jordan, who the School of Public Affairs is named after.
Read more here.
The crowd warmly receives ABC News president James Goldston as he addresses the gathering and erupts in cheers as GMA cohost Michael Strahan sends his former school warm wished via video message.
The crowd is gathering, debate hall is filling and excitement is growing ahead of the debate.
ABC News is live from the spin room in Houston, Texas, with complete coverage and analysis of the Democratic presidential debate.
Catch every minute on ABC News Live or on your favorite streaming device.
Check out this cool time- lapse video showing crews setting up for the third 2020 Democratic primary debate in Houston, Texas.
Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Kamala Harris shouted out debate host site, Texas State University, a public historically black college and the location of ABC News’ presidential debate.
“Later today I’ll step on stage at @TexasSouthern. As a proud graduate of an HBCU, I’m hopeful this debate will shine a light on what we can do as a nation to strengthen and improve some of our nation’s most important higher education institutions.”
Later today I’ll step on stage at @TexasSouthern. As a proud graduate of an HBCU, I’m hopeful this debate will shine a light on what we can do as a nation to strengthen and improve some of our nation’s most important higher education institutions. https://t.co/ynjSXAIzqs
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 12, 2019
He won’t be tuning in live, but President Trump still plans to watch tonight’s debate.
“It’s too bad I’m going to miss it,” Trump said when asked by ABC’s Kyra Phillips what he expects from the debate. “I’ll have to have it taped. I didn’t even tell them about that.”
Phillips asked Trump who he thinks his strongest opponent is, and he said he has his eyes on the top three in polls — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.
“They all have their weaknesses and their strengths. I think that they are very different. You certainly have a lot of different voices up there. But it would look to me like it would be Elizabeth Warren and looks like Joe maybe will be able to get there, maybe not. I don’t know. And certainly Bernie is there. He’s number three. But I think that’s — because they are so far in the lead, the three of them,” Trump said.
Trump was also asked if he respects any of the Democrats on the debate stage. He said he respects “all of them,” despite having made fun of the top contenders numerous times.
“I respect everyone,” he said. ‘Let me tell you, it takes a lot of courage to run for office. I respect all of them. See that. I’m getting to be much better as a politician. You never thought you’d hear that answer.”
ABC News’ Meridith McGraw and Kyra Phillips contributed to this report.
Senior advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden told ABC News that they have three objectives they hope to accomplish in tonight’s debate: (1) Argue that action — not just plans — is needed, and that Biden has a proven record of getting things done; (2) defend the Obama administration’s record, and argue that building on that legacy is the best course of action; (3) push back on the notion that Biden’s ideas are merely incremental.
The advisors said that Biden is not on the stage to attack other Democrats, but said that he would be pointing out substantive policy differences between himself and other candidates on the stage—listing Warren and Sanders by name.
“You will see him raise questions about how some of these plans that not just Senator Warren but Senator Sanders and others bring forward. how they’re going to be paid for and how they’ll be implemented,” a senior adviser said.
The advisers were twice asked about how Biden would deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell specifically on guns, to which they said Biden would work with the other side in a bipartisan manner where he could. But if they prove uncooperative, Biden would take the fight directly to the American people and name check those in the GOP when he does, the advisers said.
Biden’s team downplayed the suggestion that his recent missteps on the trail were having an impact, and repeated their belief that voters know who he is, and that they will watch him on the trail and make their own determination on whether his age is an issue.
“I think the biggest mistake we can make in the campaign would be to not let Joe Biden be Joe Biden. People love that he speaks candidly, they know that sometimes he’s going to misstate a date or a name or a location. But that’s not you know–they also know that they’re getting the real deal from him, when they hear from him,” a senior advisor said.
ABC News’ Mary Bruce and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.
The Massachusetts lawmaker arrives at Texas State University for the debate.
Sen. Cory Booker says he’s “doing great” and still deep in debate preparations according to his press secretary, Sabrina Singh. She said to expect Booker to try to convey how he will “unite” and “heal” the country. Singh said Booker doesn’t have any pre-debate rituals, but he “really likes Mountain Dew” and is “crushing those constantly.”
The Trump campaign is flying a banner over the location of tonight’s Democratic debate.
Read more about that here.
Here are some fast facts about the candidates who will be on the debate stage tonight.
There will be over 177 years of political experience on the debate stage tonight.
1 Vice President: Biden
5 United States Senators: Booker, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren
1 United States Representatives: O’Rourke
2 Mayors: Buttigieg and Castro
1 entrepreneur: Yang
Debate stage podium positions (left-right)
Klobuchar, Booker, Buttigieg, Sanders, Biden, Warren, Harris, Yang, O’Rourke, Castro
Oldest candidate – Bernie Sanders (78)
Youngest candidate – Pete Buttigieg (37)
Most political experience – Former VP Joe Biden (46 years)
Least political experience – Andrew Yang
Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be the lone candidate on the stage tonight who has served in the United States military.
And here are some common themes
· 8 candidates attended law school – Biden, Booker, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, and Yang
· Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and Yale will be represented on the debate stage.
· Warren and Klobuchar were both the first female Senators to represent their perspective states.
· Castro and O’Rourke both have represented the state of Texas.
· Harris, Sanders, and O’Rourke have made campaign appearances to Texas Southern University prior to the ABC debate.
And some Senate themes
· Booker, Harris, Klobuchar all serve on the Senate Judiciary committee.
· Warren and Sanders both serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
· Harris and Sanders are on the Senate Budget committee.
ABC News’ Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.
The Trump campaign sent around an email to supporters ahead of Thursday’s ABC Democratic primary debate running down “the top things” they are expecting from tonight—with “banning plastic straws” at the top of the list, of course.
“Here’s a list of the top things we expect to hear the Democrats debate tonight:
Banning plastic straws
Destroying all fossil fuels
Banning fracking everywhere
Raising your taxes to pay for illegal criminals
No more offshore drilling – taking jobs away from tens of thousands of people
Light bulb ban
And, no more cheeseburgers!”
The email, which doesn’t openly ask for donations, also has a countdown clock for tonight’s debate along with familiar messaging from the Trump campaign arguing that the candidates will be trying to prove who’s “the BIGGEST SOCIALIST.”
ABC News’ William Steakin contributed to this report.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign shared a video on social media ahead of tonight’s debate, seemingly to get out in front of any attacks on Former President Barack Obama’s record. “The Obama-Biden record. Joe Biden is proud of it, will defend it, protect it, build on it,” the video says at the end.
DNC Chair Tom Perez gaggled with reporters after a roundtable with voters from the Houston suburbs. He said about tonight’s debate winnowing the field of Democratic candidates:
“If you look at past primaries, This is exactly what happens on the Republican and the Democratic side. I’m very excited about tonight, what I know will happen tonight is we’re going to talk about issues. No one’s nobody’s gonna be talking about hand size tonight. We’re going to talk about how we reduce, how we address the gun epidemic, we’lll have a number of victims and family members there. We’re going to talk about, again, health care, climate change, we’re two years removed from a catastrophic storm. And we got a president who’s drawing Alabama In the aftermath of storms.”
Montana governor and one-time debate stage attendee Steve Bullock will watch tonight’s debate and play bar games with his campaign staffers at the 3-star Yelp rated Tipsy Crow Tavern in Des Moines, Iowa.
Bar games include, but are not limited to, cornhole and a large Connect 4.
While there is no giant Jenga, Tipsy Crow is dog friendly meaning there could be an appearance by the #TeamBullock office dog, Walter the Doodle.
ABC News’ Samantha Sergei contributed to this report.
In an interview that appeared in Heated, a new climate newsletter from New Republic contributor Emily Atkin, Former Washington State Gov. Inslee says he isn’t seeking a position in a Democratic administration and more on the candidates’ adopting some of his climate plans and what he hopes to see tonight. He is a former presidential candidate who advocated unsuccessfully for the Democratic National Committee to hold a climate change-themed debate.
ABC News’ Stephanie Ebbs contributed to this report.
The debate will be held at Texas Southern University, a public, historically black university, and will air from 8 to 11 p.m. ET across ABC, on Univision with a Spanish translation, locally on KTRK-TV and on ABC News Live. The streaming channel is available on the ABCNews.com, Good Morning America and FiveThirtyEight websites and mobile phone apps, as well as on Hulu Live, The Roku Channel, Facebook Watch, AppleTV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube, Apple News, and Twitter.
And here’s how to watch the debate in Spanish
Podrás seguir el evento en vivo y en español a través de las pantallas de Univision y las plataformas digitales de Univision Noticias, como Facebook, YouTube y Periscope. Además el minuto a minuto de lo que sucede en el debate en nuestro live blog en UnivisionNoticias.com.
8:10 a.m. FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos get down and dirty with the digits
FiveThirtyEight is partnering with Ipsos to poll voters before and after the candidates take the stage tonight.
Check out the “before” picture, with who voters are considering voting for, which candidates they think are most electable and more. But by Friday – same url, going live at ~1 p.m. EDT — we’ll have the “after” polling, showing who voters thought had the best (and worst) debate, who increased (and lost) support, whose electability ratings improved (or worsened) and more!
Also check out their …
The winnowing presidential primary field is five months out from the first ballots being cast – but Democrats all vying for the top of the ticket are still carving out their own paths to defeat President Donald Trump.
Those differing routes are never more apparent than when standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a debate stage.
“You know, we have a president, as everybody has acknowledged here, every day is ripping at the social fabric of this country, but no one man has the capacity to rip that apart,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in his opening pitch at the second Democratic debate. “It’s too strong. We’re too good … Mr. President, this is America. And we are stronger and great because of this diversity, Mr. President, not in spite of it.”
“Our problems didn’t start with Donald Trump,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told the crowd at the same debate one night prior, as she articulated her theme of striving for bold reforms. “Donald Trump is part of a corrupt, rigged system … We’re not going to solve the urgent problems that we face with small ideas and spinelessness. We’re going to solve them by being the Democratic party of big structural change.”
For the first time, the lineup includes polling front-runner Biden sandwiched in between Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, pitting “Middle Class Joe” against the leading progressives.
But as the former vice president relies on winning back the voters that propelled the first African-American president, Barack Obama, to the White House, liberals Sanders and Warren are running a different kind of race, seeking to forge their own coalition to capture the party’s presidential nomination.
Much like in 2008, the 2020 contest could see a state-by-state battle for the nomination — with each caucus and primary bringing a different front-runner and resetting the path to victory.
The divisions in the candidates’ strategies were made clear at the second debates in Detroit, when several Democrats took aim at Obama’s presidency — both directly and indirectly — and the very legacy Biden is running to extend.
Despite the former president being the party’s most popular member, the more liberal flanks and some lower-polling candidates forced Biden to fend off the attacks on his former boss, particularly on health care and immigration.
“Right now we have a dysfunctional health care system. Eighty-seven million uninsured or underinsured, 500,000 Americans every year going bankrupt because of medical bills, 30,000 people dying while the health care industry makes tens of billions of dollars in profit,” said Sanders, who along with Warren spent a large portion of their time vigorously defending Medicare for All.
“Medicare for All will fix that and that’s why I’ll fight for it,” said Warren about the legislation introduced by Sanders and seen by some as a more comprehensive replacement for Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act.
“The reality is that our plan will bring health care to all Americans under a Medicare for All system,” said California Sen. Kamala Harris, defending her plan which is more of a hybrid health insurance system that allows private companies to be able to offer health insurance plans within the Medicare system for consumers. “Your plan by contrast leaves out almost 10 million Americans,” she said of the Sanders.
On immigration, although the previous White House took steps to overhaul the immigration system — even using executive powers to protect Dreamers — several 2020 Democrats took aim at the three million deportations under the Obama presidency, leaving Biden as the sole navigator of those criticisms.
At one point, Booker interrupted the elder statesman: “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, too, challenged Biden over Obama-era immigration policies on that stage, without using Obama’s name.
“Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t,” said Castro, who served under Obama. “My immigration plan would also fix the broken legal immigration system because we do have a problem with that.”
Biden responded by calling out his fellow Democrats for unleashing friendly fire against Obama instead of railing against Trump.
“To compare him to Donald Trump, I think is absolutely bizarre,” Biden said at one point during the July debate.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg echoed Biden’s sentiment to reporters in Las Vegas days after the debate, saying, “[I’m] a little puzzled that when we’re all running against President Trump, some folks felt the need to run against President Obama.”
Even the president saw the last debate as more of a disavowing of Obama than of himself.
At a rally in Cincinnati following the second round of debates, Trump called out his Democratic rivals for unleashing on his predecessor, telling the crowd, “The Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me practically.”
Those who took aim at parts of Obama’s record — either by backing Medicare for All over Obamacare or by rejecting certain aspects of his immigration agenda — might run into a tougher road ahead as they seek to win back those voters who drifted from Democrats and turned to Trump.
At this next debate, the contenders outside of the top tier — standing on the edge of the stage and in need of a breakthrough — will likely be trained on finding their lane by giving Democratic primary voters more than just a return to the pre-Trump era (like what Warren and Sanders are pitching), without alienating moderates or disapproving of the Obama legacy (which Biden is campaigning on).
For some in the field hoping to pick up voters that might stray from the 76-year old Biden, that middle ground oftentimes reflects a message of “generational change,” “unity” and rising above the divisiveness.
Buttigieg, who touts a refrain fueled with urgency, said over the weekend in New Hampshire, “None of us can afford to wait to act on our current problems, because they’re becoming a crisis … It’s not enough to think up a good policy. We have to unify Americans around these solutions or nothing will actually get done.”
“The purpose of the presidency is not the glorification of the president, but the unification of the people,” he added.
Harris invokes her prosecutorial past and compelling backstory to appeal to a broad coalition — often telling voters as she did in the last debate, “I come from fighters … My sister Maya and I joke we grew up surrounded by a bunch of adults that marched about this thing called ‘justice.’ And I’m prepared to march with you, to fight with you for the best of who we are, and to successfully prosecute the case against four more years of Donald Trump.”
“I’m going to make sure the American people know about my strong, compelling vision for the future of our country. I believe that I can bring our country together, that we can reunite the old Obama coalition and then take that to the next level,” Castro, who frequently pushes for a fairer system to even the playing field, said in Beaufort, South Carolina last month.
Booker, who is looking to assemble support by inspiring his audience, told the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention over the weekend: “Beating Donald Trump is the floor it is not the ceiling. Beating Donald Trump gets out of the valley, but it does not get us to the mountaintop. I want to go to the mountaintop.”
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, newly impassioned by a mass shooting in his native El Paso that killed 22 people last month, is on an unvarnished quest to fill the void in moral leadership he sees in the era of Trump.
“Though we’re connected to a president with no values and no morals, we’re also connected as a people by our ambitions and aspirations,” he told reporters over the weekend, later admitting that he might swear on the debate stage. “Democrats, Republicans, independents, before any of those things, we are Americans first and need to start treating each other like it.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who traded few barbs at the previous two debates while focusing on her roots in the Midwest — and her ability to work across the aisle — seeks to restore dignity to the presidency for “all of America.”
“I don’t want to be the president for half of America, I want to be the president for all of America,” she said Saturday after her speech to the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
For entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who is carving out his own base in the shape of an eclectic cult-like following, the debate stage is an opportunity to attract a wide swath of voters, across the ideological spectrum, as his substantive campaign seeks to make the masses “think harder.”
“We automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. If those states sound familiar, those are all the swing states that Donald Trump needed to win and did win. So to me this was a straight automation story that immigrants are being scapegoated for economic problems they have little to nothing to do with … It’s not immigration, it’s automation,” he said in a recent interview with CBS This Morning.
In store this time around will be opportunities for the contenders to hash out differences that first drew sparks in the earlier rounds and across different stages.
But the main show will be at center stage, where Biden and Warren will face off side-by-side, as she continues to narrow the gap between them in recent polling. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll out this week, the former Harvard professor saw a six-point gain from June.
Biden argued at a campaign stop in Laconia, New Hampshire on Friday that sharing the stage “will be a good thing” because he says, “I’ve never had to break through.”
Warren, too, appeared to dismiss a potential clash with Biden, telling ABC News it does “not really” change her approach.
“The way I see this is, this is a chance to talk to people all across the country, about how we’ve got a government that works great for the wealthy and the well connected, just not working for everyone else. And we got a chance to change that in 2020,” she said.
While all eyes seem to be on the moderate vs. progressive showdown between the two, an advisor for Biden suggested that he will be ready to take on Warren’s “I have a plan for that” mantra — saying Biden’s plans were anything but middle of the road.
“I expect you’ll see Biden echo an important point he made during last week’s climate forum: We need more than plans, we need a president who can deliver progress on the most pressing issues facing Americans, which Joe Biden has proven he can throughout his career,” the official told ABC News.
ABC News’ John Verhovek and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.
The third Democratic debate, hosted on Thursday by ABC News and Univision, will feature a single night of debate between the top 10 highest polling candidates — the smallest roster yet in the third matchup of Democratic National Committee-sanctioned primary debates, with a field that still counts 20. Interested in 2020 Elections? Add 2020 Elections...
Democrats vying for the White House are entering a new phase of the election cycle with Thursday night’s third Democratic debate. Interested in 2020 Elections? Add 2020 Elections as an interest to stay up to date on the latest 2020 Elections news, video, and analysis from ABC News. How to watch the debate: The third...