The first debate of the 2020 presidential campaign, with 20 candidates squaring off last week over two nights, introduced many voters to the Democratic field, furnished plenty of drama and scrambled some expectations. The rematch is July 30-31 in Detroit. Below is a brief recap of how each candidate performed. If you missed the debates, check out our roundup of key quotes from night one and night two.
Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.)
Making immigration personal, he detailed his mom’s separation from her parents during the Holocaust in Poland. He spoke nearly twice as long as fellow Coloradan Hickenlooper.
Joseph Biden (Former vice president)
Attacking the front-runner is a debate staple, and he was pressed on race, health care, immigration and age. That detoured him from his core message: the need to defeat Donald Trump.
Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
He was well-reviewed for his focus on LGBTQ rights and gun issues — hearing “gun shots in my neighborhood.” His side-eye reaction to O’Rourke’s use of Spanish became an internet meme.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Ind.)
Analysts liked the mayor’s humility for a rare political act: admitting failure. Asked after police killed a black man why his city has few black officers, he said, “I couldn’t get it done.”
Julián Castro (Former HUD secretary)
A relative unknown before the debate, an overnight poll found that 47% of respondents had a favorable view of him after. A flash point: a dispute with O’Rourke on immigration.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (New York City)
Although he spoke for fewer than 6 minutes, his under-the-radar campaign got a bump from his descriptions of raising a black son and problems created by income inequality.
John Delaney (Former Maryland congressman)
Fact-checkers whacked him for saying that many hospitals would be forced to close under Medicare for All. During the debate, he fought for airtime, asking when it would be his turn to speak.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii)
She was the most-searched candidate on Google after her debate — a boost for the little-known Iraq veteran. A sharp exchange with Rep. Tim Ryan over foreign threats might have piqued curiosity.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
Her campaign has gotten little attention so far and during the debate she clamored for it. “Now it’s my turn,” she said at one point. Her closing pitch: She’s the women’s rights candidate.
Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.)
Her fiery critique of Biden’s record on race was a breakout moment. But she had to backtrack on why she raised her hand when asked if private insurance should be eliminated.
John Hickenlooper (Former Colorado governor)
Sometimes distinguishing yourself from the crowd can be a winning strategy, so he admonished his party for its embrace of socialist policies, calling them a dangerous path to a Trump victory.
Gov. Jay Inslee (Wash.)
Climate change is the rationale for his campaign, and the topic got only seven minutes in his debate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s reality check on women candidates and abortion rights was aimed at him.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
A viral abortion-rights remark, adherence to her centrist stances and a lack of gaffes earned her positive but mostly not effusive reviews. Key question: Will a boost in polls follow?
Beto O'Rourke (Former Texas congressman)
The once-high expectations surrounding his candidacy continued to ebb. Some post-debate pathologists thought he seemed cautious and awkward and dodged straight answers.
Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio)
He committed an unforced error when he claimed incorrectly that the Taliban committed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (al-Qaida did). Gabbard schooled him with a terse history lesson.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)
Like Biden, he’s near the top of polls and would be the oldest president elected. But unlike Biden, he wasn’t a prime target. His Medicare for All plan defines the party’s health care debate.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.)
“Pass the torch” to a new generation of leaders was the refrain he used to attract attention and provoke Biden, 76. Swalwell is 38. Biden’s retort: “I’m still holding onto that torch.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
She was moving up in polls before the debate and used it to underscore the reasons: her progressive plans to address front-burner issues and her pledge to curb corporate greed.
Marianne Williamson (Author and activist)
The author/lecturer’s shortage of policy prowess was evident, but some of her quirky comments definitely made her stand out from the crowd — and captured social-media buzz.
Andrew Yang (Entrepreneur)
He spoke for less than 3 minutes, so his entrepreneurial message was muted. Still, he did qualify to be onstage and could benefit from even that brief turn in the spotlight.