Dear Commons Community,
Last night was the first debate of the 2020 presidential cycle, with 10 Democrats gathering in Miami. (Tonight, 10 more Democrats — will be on the same stage.)
The time was very limited for each candidate but there were some differences among them. There also was a glaring technical issue when a loud hot-mic behind the stage could be heard as Chuck Todd attempted to ask questions. Regardless here are some takeaways.
- The field is divided on health care
The first — and perhaps most — contentious issue of the night was health care, as the assembled Democrats compared the merits of a more comprehensive single-payer plan like Medicare For All, which would completely eliminate private insurance versus a more incremental step of a government-funded public option. The standout moment came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who gave an impassioned defense of the more expansive position, her first time really doing so.
“There are a lot of politicians who say it’s just not possible, we just can’t do it, have a lot of political reasons for this,” said Warren of the fight for single payer. “What they’re really telling you is they just won’t fight for it. Well, health care is a basic human right and I will fight for basic human rights.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota made the case for a public option, pointing out that it was the position of then-President Obama in the early stages of passing the Affordable Care Act. Klobuchar said she was “simply concerned about kicking half of America off their health insurance in four years, which is exactly what this bill says.”
- Castro had a strong night.
One of the lower-tier candidates who managed to distinguish himself was former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. His main push came on immigration, where he was the first Democrat to lay out an expansive plan for an issue that a recent Gallup poll found to be the most important problem overall cited by Americans. Castro, who aims to be the first Hispanic president, said the photo of Oscar and Valeria Martinez, two migrants who died crossing into the United States, “should piss us all off.” He also tussled with fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke over decriminalizing border crossings, continuing to take shots at him in the spin room following the debate.
Castro also came on strong for abortion rights, promoting “reproductive justice” and receiving cheers in the room. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather inquired via Twitter if anyone thought Castro had a good night, receiving hundreds of positive replies — including from Castro — with many suggesting him as a running mate for Warren.
I would also give honorable mention to Amy Klobuchar.
- Three candidates showed off their Spanish skills
Beto O’Rourke answered his first question at Wednesday’s debate in both English and Spanish.
The former Texas congressman was asked whether he would support taxing higher-earners, as has been proposed by some of his Democratic rivals. “This economy has got to work for everyone and right now we know that it isn’t,” O’Rourke said. “And it’s going to take all of us coming together to make sure that it does.”
Without pausing, the El Paso native switched briefly to Spanish. (Later, he even fielded a question in Spanish from Telemundo’s José Diaz-Balart.)
But O’Rourke wasn’t the only candidate to flex his bilingual abilities on Wednesday. Castro and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey did so also.
- Corey Booker Kept Referring Back to His Neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey!
Corey Booker kept referring back to his neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. The first two times it was effective and squarely put him on the side of the poor and black and brown communities. However, it got tired after a while.
It was also an historic night in that it was the first time more than one woman stood on a presidential primary debate stage as Warren, Klobuchar and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joined seven men in the forum. It was a block noted by Klobuchar when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee mentioned his record on reproductive rights.
“I just want to say there’s three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose,” she said to loud cheers in the room.
Below are some video highlights via NBC News!