With almost 500 days to go before the 2020 General Election, and more than 200 days before the first caucus in Iowa, the Democratic National Committee hosted it’s first primary debate — half of it, at least. There are 25 Democrats gunning for the nomination, and 20 qualified to the first debate, which is split over two nights. Last night, Wednesday, ten candidates sparred about healthcare, immigration, the economy, and other issues for about two hours.

The internet and the commentary press were quick to declare winners, losers, and takeaways on what the debate means for the field. We aggregated some of these voices.

Data nerds

Before analyzing any content, the data nerds of the world were quick to quantify the debate. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker had the most air time with 10.9 minutes, followed by former-Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who spoke for 10.3 minutes. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the person on stage who has ranked highest in recent polls, came in third with 9.3 minutes.

A similar analysis by FiveThirtyEight that included the moderators showed that Chuck Todd from NBC had a talkative night.

Others on the web crunched how candidates spiked in online searches:

Mentions of President Trump in the debate varied among candidates. While Amy Klobuchar and Tim Ryan named him eight times, Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren didn’t mention him once during the night.

And, this fact-check provides statistics and other details on each of the topics, issues, and plans mentioned in the first Democratic debate.


Julián Castro

Julián Castro made a statement in this first debate, Sarah Jones wrote for New York Magazine, especially when talking about immigration to the United States. He discussed how border crossing should be decriminalized, and he proposed the creation and implementation of a Marshall Plan for countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

He was also the first candidate to mention trans people in last night’s debate, while expressing his support for their abortion rights.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren took a stand in the discussion of the United States’ economy, which she mentioned that there is “corruption” in a system that has further widened a gap between the rich and the poor and called for a structural change to take place. Warren also supported Medicare-for-all and the elimination of private insurance companies, staying true to her central issues, observed Dylan Scott for the New Yorker.

Cory Booker

When talking about gun control, Booker mentioned his plan of requiring a special license to buy and own a firearm. He also shared his personal experience as a resident of Newark, New Jersey, expressing that “I think I’m the only one, I hope I am, that had seven people shot in their neighborhood just last week." His performance made him the breakout winner of the debate, argued Andrew Prokop for Vox.

Candidates speaking Spanish

Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke answered questions in Spanish. This is how people responded to Booker’s facial expression when O’Rourke switched to Spanish during a response (Booker himself spoke Spanish later in the debate):

Others reacted to O’Rourke speaking Spanish in general:

The Non-Democrat response

President Donald Trump was apparently watching the debate and was not impressed.

He even called out NBC for technical difficulties that occurred in the middle of the debate and led to an unplanned commercial break.

Michael Brendan Dougherty at the National Review was impressed when Tulsi Gabbard stated that “We need to put Americans first," writing that “she’s appealing."

Election takeaways

People had different takeaways as to what the first Democratic debate says about the election and candidate field:

Others criticized the debate format itself. First, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked candidates to respond to a question on foreign policy with a single word, disregarding an explanation for each of these responses.

Another critique is that the debate did not focus enough on some pressing policy topics, such as climate change and the climate crisis, which was discussed for less than ten minutes during the two-hour debate.