Top 10 Candidates Debate, Race Looks Much the Same

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


We ran the numbers: There are 5819 news articles covering this topic. 56% (3243) are left leaning, 33% (1942) center, 11% (634) right leaning.

On Thursday, the ten highest-polling candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination met onstage in Houston in the third debate of the election. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Julián Castro all met the polling and fundraising requirements to participate in the CNN debate. Each of those candidates also participated in a CNN climate town hall earlier in the month. This was the first time that the three frontrunners-- Biden, Sanders, and Warren-- met on the same stage. However, there were no significant conflicts between the three of them. Sanders and Warren maintained the united front that they cultivated in previous debates. Instead of attacking each other, the two progressives focused on defending their shared ideals, particularly Medicare for All. The biggest aggressor of the night was, perhaps surprisingly, Castro. He repeatedly went after Biden, implying that the former vice president might be losing his mental acuity. Yang also tried to make an impression by suggesting that he try out his idea for a universal basic income by distributing some of his campaign funds back to his donors, giving 10 people $12,000 from his resources.


A right-leaning opinion column run in the New York Post and reprinted in Fox News declares President Trump, not any of the candidates, the winner of the debate. The columnist calls the debate “a long-winded, platitude-filled disaster where no single candidate could claim a clear victory.” According to the columnist, each of the candidates showed that they are unelectable in a general election against Trump, although Trump’s regular blunders do mean that he may still lose the general election. The article suggests that Biden was incoherent and wandering in his arguments, that Warren stayed in her comfort zone and called for a complete restructuring of American economics and politics, and that Sanders held his usual outraged course and neither gained nor lost from the debate.

Reuters and the New York Times published a left-leaning and  longer article that summarized each candidate’s performance in the debate and any notable moments they had. For instance, the article notes that Sanders and Warren presented a united front and that Yang put forward his idea to give $12,000 of his campaign funds each to ten campaign donors. The article also notes that O’Rourke emphasized the importance of gun control, as he has done increasingly in the wake of three mass shootings in the past several weeks.


Centrist coverage from NPR highlights several questions that watchers might have about the debate and answered each in turn—for instance, “Was Biden able to take the heat — again?” The article suggests that Biden performed better than he had in prior debates. The article also notes that the candidates avoided topics that are popular with progressives but controversial among general election voters. Issues such as reparations for slavery and decriminalizing illegal border crossings were discussed less than in previous debates. However, the candidates did extensively debate the idea of Medicare for All, with Sanders and Warren defending the proposal against the other candidates.


Media sources on both sides tend to agree that the debate played out much as expected and does not significantly change the shape of the 2020 primary field. The next debate will be held on October 15 and 16 in Ohio. The debate will span two nights, as 11 candidates have qualified to participate so far.