The Biggest Takeaways From The First Democratic Debate

Democratic presidential hopefuls (fromL) Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio, US Representative for Ohio's 13th congressional district Tim Ryan, former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, U... Democratic presidential hopefuls (fromL) Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio, US Representative for Ohio's 13th congressional district Tim Ryan, former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, US Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker, US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, former US Representative for Texas' 16th congressional district Beto O'Rourke, US Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar, US Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district Tulsi Gabbard, Governor of Washington Jay Inslee and former US Representative for Maryland's 6th congressional district John Delaney participate in the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The first night of the Democratic debates has concluded, giving viewers their first chance to see many of the candidates sharing a stage and exchanging ideas. Here are the biggest takeaways from night one:

Battle of the Texans 

If there was any doubt that the presidential hopefuls were acutely aware that this debate was being televised from Miami on Telemundo, the parrying between former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro put that to rest. Castro aggressively cut into O’Rourke’s answer on an immigration question, urging him to “do his homework.” Both candidates clearly realize that they need to take ownership on immigration, shoring up Latino support and highlighting the advantage of hailing from a red border state.

“As a member of congress I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure we don’t criminalize those seeking asylum,” O’Rourke said. “If you are fleeing desperation, I want to make sure you are treated with respect.”

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Castro cut in: “I’m not talking about those seeking asylum, I’m talking about everyone else.”

“You are just looking at one small part of this,” O’Rourke retorted. “I’m talking about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws.”

“That’s not true!” Castro said.

The two continued to talk over each other, with Castro sneaking in the “homework” jab before the moderators cut him off.

Everyone who speaks Spanish used it

O’Rourke, Castro and Sen. Corry Booker (D-NJ) all flipped to Spanish at different points in the night. It showed the candidates’ awareness of the critical Spanish-speaking voting contingent. Again, the debate was broadcast by Telemundo, NBC’s Spanish-speaking network.

Booker’s face seen ’round the world

Booker gaped while O’Rourke answered his first question in Spanish, a reaction that quickly spread through the Twitter-verse. It’s not completely clear what emotion he was feeling, but he whipped out his own bilingual abilities later in the night.

Warren started the night with a huge procedural advantage – though it subsided as the night went on 

To the chagrin of the candidates on the flanks, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) received a whopping four questions while the majority of the field had gotten only one at the start of the debate. That mattered less as candidates started disregarding the moderates’ orders, and the second half of the night saw more evenly spread questioning.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s sister thought the moderators were favoring Warren early on:

By the Washington Post’s count, she was only the third most talkative (9.3 minutes) after Booker (10.9) and O’Rourke (10.3) in total despite the early abundance of questions.

Aggression gets you everywhere 

In that same vein, candidates like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio got more airtime than they would have otherwise by shamelessly talking over other candidates and the moderators. As much as moderators always promise ruthlessness in enforcing the time limits, there’s only so much they can do.

Joe Biden was nowhere to be found

In a surprising twist given the recent controversies, neither the moderates nor the candidates invoked the former Vice President tonight. “Civility” didn’t come up at all, and Booker let sleeping dogs lie after going after Biden pretty aggressively last week.

It was not a great night for NBC tech-wise 

In an uncomfortable moment, there were issues switching the audio feeds from the first round of moderators to the second. When MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd came onstage, the threw it to a commercial break to sort things out. President Trump couldn’t help but use the moment to needle the network.

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