Ten hopefuls for the 2020 Democratic nomination took the stage Wednesday evening in Miami, Florida, to begin to articulate their positions on issues that will define their candidacies.
NBC News broadcasters, who hosted the debate, were looking to create separation between the candidates on a handful of important topics. During the first hour, the panel was asked questions about universal health care (universal Medicare); proposals to reform immigration, particularly around the U.S.-Mexico border; and the handling of current tensions with Iran, including amending the current U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement.
The second hour’s questions focused on gun control; challenging the Republican’s Senate majority on important decisions, including nominations to the Supreme Court, civil rights, military engagement in Afghanistan, and climate-change policies.
The sheer number of candidates on stage, given just a few moments to speak publicly for the first time, limited the depth of the evening’s discussion. It also resulted in the candidates trying to shout over one another, on more than one occasion.
The candidates’ remarks were also limited by time restrictions, whereby candidates were given one minute to answer direct questions and no more than 10 – 30 seconds to follow up their answers if they were challenged.
While the debate itself intended to distinguish the candidates from one another, it is not clear that this was the effect. The candidates, as a whole, were in agreement on most issues—from needing to reduce the influence of corporations on the political process; to income inequality; to aggressive, government-sponsored social and economic programs; to wanting to protect women’s rights to abortion.
Candidates primarily focused on domestic policy issues, hoping to strike a chord with working-class Americans. However, most were less prepared to speak on two issues related to foreign policy—specifically, the handling of tensions with Iran and U.S.-Mexico border security. Both are issues where President Trump has shown strong leadership in recent weeks.
A few of the candidates did have strong moments, occasionally showing flashes of personality and conviction that drew applause from the small audience in attendance, though it is difficult to say if any one or two candidates clearly won the evening.
Participating candidates included the following:
Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey
Julian Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Bill De Blasio, Mayor of New York City
John Delaney, congressman from Maryland
Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii
Jay Inslee, governor of Washington
Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota
Beto O’Rourke, congressman from Texas
Tim Ryan, congressman from Ohio
Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts
The next debate will take place Thursday evening on the same stage, and will feature the remaining 10 candidates, including the current Democratic front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden.