Recap of Third Democratic Presidential Debate

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Capitol building with Republican elephant and Democratic donkey

On Sept. 12, the remaining 10 major Democratic candidates met for the third Democratic debate. The debate took place in Houston at Texas Southern University and was broadcast on ABC and Univision. The moderators were Linsey Davis, George Stephanopoulos, David Muir and Jorge Ramos.

To qualify for this debate, Election Central stated that candidates had to have achieved 2 percent of support in at least four of the 21 Democratic National Committee (DNC) polls and needed at least 130,000 individual contributions, with 400 unique donors per state from 20 different states. Because of these requirements, the candidate pool shrunk significantly, meaning only one night of debates was needed for the remaining 10 candidates.

The order the candidates stood on stage from left to right was as follows: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, businessman, Andrew Yang, Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro. Biden and Warren were situated in the middle, as they were at the top of the polls. This was also the first debate where they were both on the same stage.

As of Sept. 20, these are the rest of the Democratic candidates that are still running for president according to CBS New York: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Mayor of Miramar, Florida Wayne Messam, Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, Former hedge fund manager and activist Tom Steyer, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, and author and activist Marianne Williamson.

At the beginning of the debate, all candidates were given time for an uninterrupted opening statement, and most of them called out Trump’s divisive comments and actions.

Arguably the most memorable opening speech was Yang’s, as he did something he called “unprecedented.” Yang had the candidates and moderators laughing in shock as he announced that his campaign would give $1,000 a month to 10 American families who signed up on his website for a whole year. He called them freedom dividends.

Another funny moment was when Booker, who is bald, commented on the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s, “menacing” head of hair.

On a more serious note, Booker would later discuss his plans for criminal justice reform, citing the fact that although drug use is equal amongst most races, African Americans are four times more likely to be incarcerated for it.

Roughly 40 minutes of the debate was spent on healthcare, which Biden and Sanders debated thoroughly. Still standing by Obamacare, Biden said, “My plan for health care costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn’t cost $30 trillion, $3.4 trillion a year, it turns out, is twice what the entire federal budget is.” The $30 trillion number in reference to the cost of Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.

In response, Sanders said, “That’s right, Joe. But status quo over 10 years will be $50 trillion. 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. I, who wrote the damn bill, if I may say so…”

In a testy exchange between Castro and Biden, Castro claimed that his healthcare plan would automatically enroll every person in the country and that Biden’s would not. Biden responded that nobody would have to buy in. They then went back and forth about whether Biden’s plan was an opt-in plan or not before Castro said, “You said they would have to buy in. Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?”

“There’s something fundamentally wrong when one of the richest and most powerful countries can’t make sure a person can afford to see a doctor,” Warren added.

Another hot topic was gun control. O’Rourke, whose hometown of El Paso was the location of the Walmart mass shooting that left 22 dead in July of this year, was asked about his stance on getting rid of assault rifles. Applause followed his fiery answer as he said, “Hell yes we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore.” He later tweeted this response again, asking those who agree to retweet him.

Harris applauded O’Rourke for remaining strong after the shooting in his community. She also quoted herself by using the same phrase she used immediately following the El Paso shooting: “Obviously [Trump] didn’t pull the trigger, but he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”

Klobuchar touched on the need to close the loophole that allows domestic abusers to have access to guns. In addition, she said, “We have to send a message to Mitch McConnell, we can’t wait until one of us gets in the White House,” when confronting the fact that the Senate has not acted on gun control, while specifically denouncing the Majority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Buttigieg made history with his answer during the final question, which was about the adversity each candidate had faced in their life. He became the first presidential candidate to ever talk about his coming out moment and recalled wondering if it would be the end of his career. He said he, “…realized that you only get to live one life and [he] was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer.”

One last notable moment was shortly after Biden was asked a question, protesters from the audience started chanting. It was not clear what they were chanting when heard on the TV, but according to multiple Twitter sources, it was “We are DACA recipients. Our lives are at risk.”

CNN reported that the first poll since the third debate shows Biden leading at 31 percent, Warren at 25 percent, Sanders at 14 percent, Buttigieg at 7 percent, Harris at 5 percent, Yang at 4 percent, Klobuchar and Booker at 2 percent and the rest at 1 percent or less.

According to NBC News, Donald Trump responded to the debate before the House Republicans at a Baltimore retreat by saying he was surprised that Pocahontas, referring to Warren because of her controversial claims of having Native American ancestry, was still in the competition. He also said, “…now it looks like [Warren] could beat Sleepy Joe, he’s falling asleep. He has no idea what the hell he’s doing or saying,” when referring to Biden.

The next debate is scheduled at Otterbein University in Ohio Oct. 15.

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