- The top ten contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination faced off Thursday night during the third primary debate of the 2020 election season.
- The biggest question heading into the night was how the candidates would position themselves against their competitors, and who would draw the most blood on the debate stage.
- While the frontrunners focused on promoting their policies, many bottom-rung candidates trained their sights on the one person who wasn’t in the room: President Donald Trump.
- Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke called Trump a white supremacist.
- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Trump is “treating our farmers and our workers as poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.”
- And California Sen. Kamala Harris called the president “a really small dude.”
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The big question going into Thursday night’s third Democratic primary debate was who the candidates would spend the most time attacking.
Former vice president Joe Biden, who’s been the frontrunner since entering the race in April, trained his sights on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Both are progressive firebrands, and Biden’s decision to target them was likely part of an effort to paint them as being too extreme and position himself as the better alternative.
Meanwhile, Warren, Sanders, and the entrepreneur Andrew Yang adopted a similar strategy. All three spent little time attacking their competitors — even when they were criticized — and instead focused on promoting their own policies.
The other six candidates trained their sights on the one person who wasn’t in the room: President Donald Trump.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke called Trump a white supremacist.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Trump is “treating our farmers and our workers as poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.”
And California Sen. Kamala Harris called the president “a really small dude.”
Scroll down to read more about how each of them drew blood tonight:
Former HUD secretary Julian Castro devoted a lot of his debate performance to focusing on his own policies and, at times, hitting back at top contenders like former Vice President Joe Biden.
But Castro, who also worked under former President Barack Obama as HUD secretary, didn’t hesitate to land some shots against Trump.
“Say goodbye to Donald Trump,” Castro said during his opening statement. He also went on to say Democrats will control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate by 2021.
Later, Castro went after Trump on immigration, saying the president has “a dark heart when it comes to immigrants” and adding that he built “his whole career” around scapegoating migrants.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar went hard after Trump in her opening statement and at a few other points in the debate. But like Castro, she also spent most of her time focusing on her own proposals.
“I may not be the loudest person up here, but I think we already have that in the White House,” Klobuchar said in her opening statement.
Later in the debate, she said the president is “running our country like a gameshow,” and that he would “rather lie than lead.”
She also attacked Trump’s handling of the trade war with China and pointed out the detrimental effect his policies have had on his own base.
“He’s treating our farmers and our workers as poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos,” Klobuchar said, as the audience applauded.
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke has made gun control a major platform issue, and he wasted no time in criticizing the president for his stance on firearms.
“On August 3, in El Paso, we realized just how dangerous Donald Trump is,” O’Rourke said, referring to the mass shooting in his hometown that resulted in 22 deaths and 24 injuries.
The suspect posted a racist manifesto online hours before carrying out the shooting that echoed much of Trump’s and white nationalists’ rhetoric toward immigrants.
O’Rourke said on Thursday that “the racism that had long been a part of America” was brought out into the open in El Paso on August 3.
He also called Trump a “white supremacist” later in the debate and said the president “poses a mortal threat to people all across this country.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker frequently calls out Trump for his record on race and immigration. Thursday was no different.
Booker called Trump a racist but added that “there’s no red badge of courage” for describing the president that way.
He added that Trump’s “America First” policy is instead an “America alone” policy.
Trump “is pulling us away from our allies” on every major issue, Booker said, like trade, climate change, foreign policy, and national security.
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, landed a few zingers, too.
On race, Buttigieg said the biggest thing that’s “depeened divisions in this country is the conduct of this president.”
He also said Trump has “no strategy” on trade. He pointed out how Trump made fun of him when he initially entered the race and said Buttigieg wouldn’t be able to make deals with other countries.
“I’d like to see him make a deal with [Chinese president] Xi Jinping,” Buttigieg said as the crowd broke into cheers.
Buttigieg, who is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, also slammed Trump for profiting off of US troops in the wake of recent revelations from Politico that Air Force crews repeatedly stayed at the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland while making military trips.
California Sen. Kamala Harris took the cake in going after Trump.
She spoke directly to the president in her opening statement and accused him of spending the last two years “trying to sow hate and division” among Americans.
“You have used hate intimidating fear and over 12,000 lives as a way to distract from your failed policies and broken promises,” Harris said. She added that “the only reason” Trump was not indicted was because of a Justice Department policy that says sitting presidents cannot be indicted.
“The American people are so much better than this,” Harris said. “And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.”
Harris also didn’t pull any punches when discussing the gun violence epidemic in the US, saying that Trump “didn’t pull the trigger, but he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”
On trade, Harris said he conducts policy “by tweet, frankly, borne out of his fragile ego.”
She later added: “Donald Trump, in office, on trade policy, he reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ who, you know, when you pull back the curtain, it’s like, a really small dude.”
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