Takeaways From the First Democratic Debate

Julian Castro had breakout moment, analysts say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2019 1:55 AM CDT
Takeaways From the First Democratic Debate
Democratic presidential candidate former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro speaks during a Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Miami.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

With no fewer than 20 candidates debating over two nights, a lot of Democrats are seeking a breakout moment—and on Wednesday night, it was Julian Castro who got one, according to the New York Times, which declares him the winner of the first 10-candidate debate in Miami. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary "was assertive in key moments but didn't appear desperate," the Times says, and "took ownership" of the immigration discussion. But with big names including Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders debating Thursday, it's not clear whether Castro will receive a lasting boost. More:

  • Bad night for Beto. Beto O'Rourke needed to have a great night, but instead he got his "butt kicked" in an exchange on immigration with Castro, who accused him of not doing his homework, according to CNN analysts including Van Jones. He was the first candidate to speak Spanish during the debate—but he did so while ignoring the question he had been asked, about whether he supported a 70% tax on people who make more than $10 million.

  • Booker breakout? The New Jersey senator "struck a balance of introducing himself to a broader audience and leaning into race issues, while detailing his policies, including on guns," according to Politico. Booker not only had the most speaking time, at 10 minutes 50 seconds, Google says he saw the most search traffic during the debate. Tulsi Gabbard was second.
  • Trump's fiercest critic. Amy Klobuchar hit Trump harder and more often than any other candidate, especially on foreign policy, USA Today reports. "This president is literally, every single day, 10 minutes away from going to war, one tweet away from going to war," she said during discussion of tensions with Iran.
  • Warren in the winners' column. The Washington Post lists Elizabeth Warren, the highest-polling candidate onstage, among the night's winners, saying she "used her platform to do what she has done to great effect on the campaign trail: talk about her bold, liberal policy ideas." Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, "made perhaps the most far-reaching case for government activism outside of Warren—exactly as he wanted." The Hill also considers the "forceful, succinct, and substantive" Warren to be the winner. Warren and de Blasio were the only candidates who said they supported fully replacing private health insurance with a "Medicare for all" system.

  • The also-rans. In an "awkward" debate where candidates "disappeared" for long periods, "Tim Ryan and Tulsi Gabbard, who have to contend with low name recognition, received few opportunities to make their pitch," according to Anthony Zurcher at the BBC. "Poor John Delaney seemed to constantly try to get a word in edgewise, only to be batted down by more forceful speakers, like De Blasio, or the moderators themselves," he writes.
  • Joe who? Analysts had expected Joe Biden to be a major target during the debate, but none of the candidates tried to draw contrasts between themselves and the frontrunner, who will debate Thursday night, Politico notes.
  • Trump targets glitch. Apart from labeling the proceedings "BORING," Trump's only comment was a tweet calling NBC and MSNBC "horribly unprofessional" over a sound glitch that delayed the debate's second half, reports Reuters. His campaign had more to say in a statement: "Perhaps it’s fitting that Democrats held their first debate in Miami, Florida, where so many Latinos have fled the ravages of socialism and understand its devastating effect on society in a real and personal way."
(More Democratic debate stories.)

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