Democrats face off in third 2020 primary debate

FAN Editor

The 10 leading Democratic candidates focused heavily on health care and gun control Thursday in the first debate where they have all been on the same stage.

Beto O’Rourke got some of the loudest cheers of the night when he said “hell yes, we’re going to take away your AR-15s, your AK-47s.” Other cheers went to Andrew Yang, when he used his opening statement to promise $1,000 a month for 10 American families — a comment that propelled him to a top trending topic on Twitter.

Follow live updates of the Democratic debate as it happens:

Biden confronted on deportations during Obama administration

9:11 p.m.: Biden was asked about the three million undocumented immigrants deported during the Obama administration, and specifically whether he was willing to say he had made a mistake by not preventing those deportations.

“Comparing this president to [President Obama] is outrageous,” Biden said. He said that the Obama administration did not separate families at the border and praised him for implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I’m proud to have served with him,” Biden said of Mr. Obama.

Biden deflected when asked again whether he was willing to say he made a mistake.

“The president did the best thing that was able to be done at the time,” Biden said. He added “I’m the vice president of the United States.”

Castro criticized Biden for the second time of the night, accusing the former vice president of only touting his time in the Obama administration when it was convenient for him.

“He wants to take credit for Obama’s work but not have to answer any questions,” Castro said.

“I stand with Barack Obama all eight years. Good, bad and indifferent. That’s where I stand,” Biden rejoined.

Grace Segers

Sanders and Warren weigh in on eliminating the filibuster

9:09 p.m.: Warren, who has been a senator since 2012, noted she supports eliminating the filibuster rule. The controversial Senate filibuster requires the support of 60 senators to move legislation forward. Dispensing with the filibuster would, in essence, mean that legislation could be passed in the Senate with a simple majority vote of 51 senators. If there are not 60 votes to support moving forward with a bill, it will fail. The filibuster, Warren suggested, is the reason for congressional inaction on guns.

“If we don’t roll back the filibuster, we’re not going to get anything done on guns,” Warren said.

Sanders, a senator since 2006, begged to differ, saying he does not support ending the filibuster.

Kathryn Watson

O’Rourke on gun control: “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15”

O’Rourke received one of the loudest cheers of the night when he said he supported taking assault weapons away from people.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow them to be used against Americans anymore,” O’Rourke said.

Biden praised O’Rourke for his empathetic response to the shooting in El Paso. Harris also praised him, saying, “Beto, God love you.”

Biden was asked by a moderator about how he could expect to lead on gun control legislation when the Obama administration failed to achieve meaningful legislation after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

“I’m the only one up here who’s ever beat the NRA,” Biden said, referring to his work getting the Brady Bill signed into law. The bill, passed while Biden was a senator in 1994, mandated federal background checks in the U.S.

Harris challenged Biden about whether some gun control measures could be enacted through an executive order.

“Instead of saying ‘no we can’t, let’s say ‘yes we can,'” Harris laughed, invoking President Obama’s inspirational 2008 campaign slogan.

Grace Segers

Harris pressed on her prosecutorial record that’s affected people of color

8:46 p.m.: Harris was pressed by one of the moderators on her record as a former prosecutor who was tough on drug crimes. The moderator asked Harris why she didn’t start changing the system when she had the power to.

“There have been many distortions,” Harris said of her record.

Harris argued she did attempt to change the system from the inside. Harris emphasized the need to end for-profit prisons, end solitary confinement, and vowed she would accomplish that and more as president.

Klobuchar also had to defend her record as a federal prosecutor in Minnesota, after the moderator asked about the number of black men shot by police during her tenure.

Klobuchar said she “took a stand to make sure outside investigators” handled these cases. She also talked about her efforts to find justice for young black children who were shot and killed during her time as a prosecutor.

Booker noted that he helped with the bipartisan criminal justice bill that passed and the president signed.

Kathryn Watson

O’Rourke says he would sign a slavery reparations bill into law

8:42 p.m.: When asked about the problem of racism in the country, O’Rourke said racism was “endemic” and “foundational.” He said the true founding of the country was in August 1619, when the first enslaved African was taken to America against his will.

O’Rourke said he would sign a bill into law to instate reparations for descendants of slaves, mentioning legislation introduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Jackson Lee has introduced a bill that would study reparations, but not implement them.

O’Rourke also explicitly targeted Mr. Trump, calling him a “white supremacist” who presents a “mortal threat” to people of color.

Booker responded to O’Rourke by saying that while the president was racist, “there is no red badge of courage for calling him that.”

Grace Segers

Castro slams Biden over forgetfulness and gets scolded by fellow Democrats on stage

8:36 p.m.: When Castro and Biden got into a heated exchange over health care, Castro suggested repeatedly that Biden had forgotten what he’d just said. “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago,” Castro asked, clearly a jab meant to highlight Biden’s gaffes that critics have attributed to his age.

When Castro did not back down, other Democrats said he’d taken things too far.

“This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington,” Buttigieg chided Castro.

“That’s called an election, Pete,” Castro replied.

Booker chimed in, too. “We’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president,” the New Jersey senator said.

Grace Segers and Kathryn Watson

Sanders hits Biden on bankruptcy rates for cancer patients

8:35 p.m.: After being challenged by Biden for the cost of his plan, Sanders said “500,000 Americans are going bankrupt” because of the cost of treating cancer and other diseases. “You’ve got to defend the fact that 500,000 Americans are going bankrupt,” Sanders said.

“I know a lot about cancer and let me tell you something: it’s personal,” replied Biden. Biden’s son Beau died of cancer in 2015. “They will not go bankrupt because of that.”

He hit Sanders’ plan as being too aspirational, saying, “people need help now, hope now, and do something now.”

Grace Segers

Sanders may have written the bill, but “I read the bill,” Klobuchar says

8:25 p.m.: Klobuchar said that although Sanders may have written the Medicare for all bill, she actually read the bill. On page 8, Klobuchar noted, “it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it.” Millions of Americans will lose their own private health insurance, she said.

That put Sanders and Warren on defense. Sanders said Americans are already losing their health care insurance. Buttigieg said he trusts Americans to know what health care insurance is best for them.

“I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you, not my way or the highway,” the Indiana mayor said.

Kathryn Watson

Biden hits Warren, Sanders on Medicare for all

8:18 p.m.: The first question of the debate was to Joe Biden, with moderator George Stephanopoulos asking Biden about Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders’ plans to implement “Medicare for all.

“The senator says she’s for Bernie. Well, I’m for Barack,” Biden said about Warren’s support for Medicare for all, alluding to an earlier debate, when Warren said she completely agreed with Sanders on Medicare for all.

Warren praised Obama before pivoting to promoting her own plan.

“We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America,” Warren said, to applause. “Those at the very top…are going to pay more. And middle-class families are going to pay less.”

When asked if middle-class taxes will go up to pay for Medicare for all, Warren demurred. “What we’re talking about here is what’s going to happen in families’ pockets,” she said. She said costs would go down, but did not explicitly say whether taxes would go up.

For his part, Sanders repeated a popular line from an earlier debate, saying of Medicare for all that he “wrote the damn bill.” He also claimed that insurance companies would be advertising against Medicare for all on ABC during the debate.

Biden hit back against Warren, accusing her of not being honest about the cost of Medicare for all for the middle class.

“This is about candor, honesty, big ideas,” Biden said. “That’s not a bad idea if you don’t like it. I don’t like it.”

Grace Segers

Candidates deliver opening statements, as Andrew Yang announces free money

8:18 p.m.: Julian Castro kicked off opening statements with a greeting in both English and Spanish. “There will be life after Donald Trump,” Castro said, calling for a “bold vision.”

Amy Klobuchar opened by saying what divides the Democrats on stage is more important than what divides them.

“Houston, we have a problem,” she said, noting the president would “rather lie than lead.”

Beto O’Rourke began by speaking about the El Paso shooting. That day revealed how “dangerous” the president is, O’Rourke said. It also revealed how “insufficient” today’s Washington is to address the country’s real problems.

Cory Booker emphasized the need to “unite America in common cause and common purpose.”

The audience cheered Andrew Yang when his name was called. Yang, who is campaigning on giving every American $1,000 a year, announced he’ll be giving $1,000 a month for a year to 10 American families.

Kamala Harris opened by saying she has a few words for President Trump, accusing the president of spending the last two years trying to “sow hate and division among us.”

Bernie Sanders opened by saying the Democrats must and will defeat Mr. Trump.

Elizabeth Warren repeated a story she’s used many times before, about how she only made it in life because of her family.

Joe Biden said he will refuse to postpone curing cancer, universal pre-K, and addressing climate change, among other needs.

Kathryn Watson

Yang promises to give $120,000 to 10 families over the next year

8:05 p.m.: In his opening statement, Yang promised to do something “unprecedented”: Advertising his plan to give every American $1,000 a year if elected, he announced he’ll be giving $1,000 a month for a year to 10 American families –$120,000 in total.

Yang’s announcement was met with loud cheers from the audience, and with bemused laughter from other candidates on stage.

“It’s original, I’ll give you that,” Buttigieg, whose opening statement followed Yang’s, noted wryly.

Grace Segers

Texas is “firmly in play” says O’Rourke’s campaign manager

Democrats focus on Texas as a battleground state

7:48 p.m. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign manager thinks that Texas could go blue in 2020, she told CBS News’ Caitlin Huey-Burns before the debate.

“This idea that Texas is not in play, or it’s not in play in the general election, is not true,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon. “We believe it is firmly in play, and Beto is the best candidate to get the 38 electoral votes in the general election.”

Dillon also talked about O’Rourke’s advocacy of gun control in the wake of a spate of mass shootings, including one in his hometown of El Paso last month.

“I think that Democrats, independents, all voters are looking for their leaders to stand up on this. For us, we believe this a critical issue. We don’t have to wait until Donald Trump is defeated. We can actually do something about it now,” she said.

Grace Segers

How did the candidates qualify for the debate?

Candidates had to reach at least 2% support in at least four polls, which could be national polls or polls in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. Candidates also had to receive donations from at least 130,000 unique donors, with 400 donors per state in at least 20 states.

The Democratic National Committee will hold its fourth primary debate on October 15 and 16 in Ohio. Since more than 10 candidates have qualified for the October debate, the debate will take place over two nights.

Campaigns will have until 11:59 p.m. ET on October 1 to meet donor and polling thresholds to qualify. The thresholds are the same as those for tonight’s debate, meaning that a candidate who did not meet the requirements for the September debate can still make it onto the debate stage in October .

Trump thinks Democratic primary race is between Warren, Biden and Sanders

President Trump put on his political pundit hat hours before the third Democratic presidential debate in Houston and said he thinks the crowded Democratic primary race is now a three-person contest between Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Before heading to Baltimore to attend a retreat for House Republicans, the president told reporters at the White House that he doesn’t expect much to change after the debate, since a top tier has already emerged.

“I don’t expect too much difference,” he told reporters on the White House south lawn when asked about Thursday’s debate. “I mean you have three people that are leading. I sort of think that those three people are going take it to the end it’s going to be one of those three.”

Asked about the candidate he believes can mount the most formidable challenge to his reelection bid, Mr. Trump largely demurred, offering an unusual diplomatic answer.

“They all have their weaknesses and their strengths,” he said, before reiterating that he expects to face either Warren, Biden or Sanders in the general election.

Kamala Harris bringing DACA recipients as guests to debate

California DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients will be accompanying Kamala Harris to Thursday night’s debate in a move that the Harris campaign says is “critical” to acknowledge as the Trump administration continues to strip away protections for immigrants in the U.S.

“As a child of immigrants and a fierce advocate for our country’s Dreamers, I will not stop fighting until our immigrant communities get the protection and respect they deserve,” Harris said in a statement before the debate.

Senator Harris will be joined by Jung Woo Kim and Eric Yang, two young DACA recipients from Southern California.

“When DACA was under threat in 2017, I remember seeing Senator Harris speak in support of undocumented young people at a UCI rally for the DREAM Act. By giving us a national platform to speak on issues that are important to our people, it’s clear that Senator Harris is still a champion for our community,” Kim said in a statement.

“I want everyone watching the debate to know about the danger that DACA is in and hear the stories of people like me who will be impacted if the Supreme Court takes it away. I ask that everyone who shows up to the debate also show up for immigrant youth,” echoed Yang.

Why voters aren’t considering certain candidates

According to the latest CBS News polling of early primary and caucus states, the top three candidates — Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders — are each being considered by at least about half of Democratic likely voters. But for all the other candidates, fewer than half of voters are considering them.

After voters told us which candidates they are considering, we randomly presented one of the candidates not under consideration and asked them to choose from a list of reasons why they weren’t considering the candidate (voters could pick more than one).

The main reason voters gave for not considering a candidate was that they just hadn’t heard enough about them yet. Voters say this half the time.


The next most common reasons given were that the candidate “can’t defeat Donald Trump” (31%) — perhaps unsurprising, given that Democrats have been prioritizing electability — and that they are “not prepared to be president yet” (26%).

Less common reasons were disagreeing with the candidate’s ideas (15%) and concern that the candidate would take the party in the wrong direction (12%).

Read more about this poll here.

Kabir Khanna

Harris reflects on time at Howard ahead of debate at an HBCU

The only Democratic candidate educated at a historically black college will have an opportunity to debate at at an HBCU Thursday evening when the field takes the stage for the third presidential debate, at Texas Southern University in Houston. Harris, who graduated from Howard University, cherished her time there and that was a message she wanted to convey to TSU’s students.

She took out a full-page ad in the student newspaper and wrote the students an open letter about her experience at Howard, which she ranked as one of the two things that had a “profound impact” on her life, just behind her mother and her family.

“I’ll always remember freshman orientation,” Harris recalled, “walking into the auditorium and seeing hundreds of people — and everyone looked like me.”

To attend an HBCU is, she said, to be “constantly reminded you are young, gifted and Black.” And that experience, she suggested, prepared her for spending “my career in rooms where I was the only one who looked like me. I know how important it is to center our voices in the conversation as we build an America we can all see ourselves in.”

Read more about Harris’ time at an HBCU, and how it shaped her, here.

LaCrai Mitchell and Stephanie Ramirez

Trump campaign flies anti-Socialism banner ahead of debate

The Trump campaign is flying a 4,800 square-foot aerial banner above the Democratic debate site in Houston on Thursday. The campaign is also running full-page ads in the area’s top newspapers — both read “Socialism will kill Houston’s economy. Vote Trump 2020”

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted a video of the banner being flown by a prop plane in the Texas sky, telling supporters “Hey Houston, look up!” He added the hashtag “Socialism Sucks.”

The president and his campaign have tried to frame all of the Democratic candidates as representative of some brand of socialism, an argument they hope will help them secure victory in next year’s presidential election.

Which candidates are in the debate?

Candidates will appear onstage from left to right.

  • Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
  • South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • California Senator Kamala Harris
  • Andrew Yang
  • Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

Who didn’t qualify for the debate?

Here’s a look at who didn’t make the cut to appear on stage Thursday night

  • Colorado Senator Michael Bennet
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock
  • Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard
  • Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan
  • Tom Steyer
  • Marianne Williamson

What to look for

Biden, who is the front-runner in most polls, has been targeted by other candidates for his record on issues of race and criminal justice. Kamala Harris challenged him in the first debate for his opposition to federally-mandated busing in the 1970s, and by Cory Booker in the second for his vote on a crime bill in the 1990s which disproportionately affected black Americans.

Thursday could shape up to be a test of whether the former vice president can fend off attacks on a political career that spans 40 years. Off stage and years ago Warren famously sparred with Biden before she was elected senator for supporting a bill making it more difficult for individuals to declare bankruptcy.

But candidates may also go after Warren, who has been rising in the polls, and Bernie Sanders for their support for single payer health care. In earlier debates, Warren and Sanders were targets for moderate candidates who argued that their positions were too extreme. However, several of those candidates did not meet the DNC’s threshold to appear on stage Thursday.

How to watch the third 2020 Democratic debate

  • Date: Thursday, September 12
  • Time: 8 to 11 p.m. ET
  • Location: Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas
  • TV Channel: ABC and Univision
  • Free online stream:, Good Morning America and FiveThirtyEight websites and mobile apps
  • Analysis: Watch CBSN for live coverage of the debates before, during and after
  • Follow live: CBS News debate live blog for real-time updates

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