A nearly three-hour Democratic presidential debate Thursday saw the party's top candidates and those with lesser polling numbers clash over health care, gun control, education and foreign policy.
A call to collect all the assault weapons in the country and a series of testy exchanges were highlights of an evening that saw front-runner Joe Biden defending not only his record as a U.S. senator and vice president but also his ability to recall facts.
Biden was the target of several candidates, but none of the attacks were as personal as the one delivered by former Obama administration colleague Julian Castro who seemed to suggest that Biden could not remember simple facts he had just delivered.
Another highlight of the evening came when former U.S. House Rep. Beto O'Rourke was asked if he would ban assault weapons in the U.S. if he were to be elected president.
"Hell yes," was his answer.
Below are live updates from Thursday's debate
Who was onstage:
Sen. Cory Booker, of New Jersey
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Indiana
Julián Castro, the former housing secretary
Sen. Kamala Harris, of California
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota
Former Rep, Beto O’Rourke, of Texas
Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts
Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur
Good evening, and welcome to live updates from the third Democratic presidential debate.
Let’s get started.
Who were the protesters?
11 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: The protesters taken from the room earlier were wearing these shirts:
Sanders on resilience
The last question
10:42 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: All the candidates are asked the same last question about the quality of resilience and how it was manifested in the professional failures they have suffered in life. Here are their answers.
Biden: After being interrupted by protesters, Biden talks about losing his son and how he dealt with it and how it changed his life.
Warren: She talks about being denied a job as a teacher because she became pregnant. So, she became a lawyer. She says she wants to be in the fight for a better America.
Sanders: He is the son of an immigrant. He talks about his several unsuccessful campaigns for public office until he became mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He says he took on big business and special interests and that makes him qualified to lead.
Harris: She says she has always been told “it can’t be done.” But, she says, she didn’t listen to naysayers and she persevered.
Buttigieg: He is talking about coming out as gay. He learned, he said, that trust can be reciprocated. You have to know what is the most important thing in your life, he said.
Yang: If you want to start a company, tell everyone you know you are going to do it, Yang said. His first business failed, he said, but that experience is invaluable.
Booker: He is talking about the election he lost. He learned not to give up, he said, and he reformed his city then won during the next election. “There’s nothing we can’t do as a nation together.”
O’Rourke: He is speaking about the shooting in El Paso, saying “we were not defeated by that, nor were we defined by that.” He a girls’ soccer coach who was injured in the shooting defines resilience for him.
Klobuchar: She talks about her father, an alcoholic, and how his struggle shaped her. She also talked about being sent home from the hospital 24 hours after giving birth, even though her daughter was born with health problems. She said that experience pushed her to public service.
Castro: He grew up in a single-parent household, he says. He talks about his work as a lawyer early in his career and how he gave up a lucrative career because of a conflict of interest.
Protestors are yelling
10:25 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Some protestors are yelling from the audience. They are being escorted from the room.
Buttigieg on the secretary of Education
On to education
10:15 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: Everyone says teachers need to be paid more. Warren, who is the only former teacher on the stage, says local school funding needs to stay in local schools. Buttigieg said teachers need better pay so schools can get the best possible candidates. Harris talked about the need for black children to see black teachers while they are young. Booker says underfunded schools are only part of the problems. He says environmental problems, like lead poisoning, are just as big a problem.
O'Rourke's campaign is tweeting
Sanders: I didn’t believe Bush, Cheney
9:50 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Sanders asks Biden why he voted in favor of authorizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, then said the difference between him and Biden is that he “never believed” George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.
Yang asks a question online
How long do you think until we talk about the future of work? #DemDebate— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) September 13, 2019
Afghanistan troop withdrawal
9:45 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Would Warren withdraw troops from Afghanistan? Yes.
Buttigieg, a veteran of Afghanistan, says Trump has used the troops as “props.”
Booker on the 'threat' from Canada
9:35 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: The debate is now moving to Trump's tariffs. More than one candidate has said that Trump “doesn’t have a clue” how to deal with China. Booker says Trump’s America first policy is an “America alone” policy.
Who has the most airtime?
To end the filibuster or not:
9:20 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Warren wants an end of the Senate filibuster to enact gun-control legislation, meaning it would take only 50 Senate votes to pass such a bill. Sanders said he would not be in favor of ending the filibuster.
Castro keeps up the attack
9:15 p.m.ET Sept. 12, 2019: After Biden's answer on immigration, Castro asks the former vice president why he takes credit for the successes of the Obama administration but does not accept any blame for the things that did not work as well.
Biden on immigration
9:10 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Jorge Ramos asks Joe Biden about the high number of deportations under the Obama administration. “Are you prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake on deportations?” Biden at first said Obama is nothing like Trump, but after being pressed Biden says, “The president did the best thing that was able to be done.” Ramos pushed, saying, “What about you?” Biden replied, “I’m the vice president of the United States.”
"We cannot sacrifice progress on the altar of purity," Sen. Cory Booker says.— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 13, 2019
"We've got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president, and we cannot lose it by the way we talk about each other." https://t.co/tkquTDa6Zh #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/EGVwZFc0Hn
‘Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15’
9:05 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: O'Rourke receives the loudest cheers of the night so far when he said he supports taking assault weapons away from Americans.
"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.
9 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Biden says he has the longest record on gun control. “I’m the only up here who’s ever beat the NRA,” he said. He noted O’Rourke’s efforts after the shooting at Walmart in El Paso in August. Harris applauded O’Rourke, as well. She says that while Trump may not have pulled the trigger but has been “tweeting out the ammunition.”
"When you had the power, why didn't you try to affect change then?" @LinseyDavis asks Sen. Kamala Harris about her record as a prosecutor.— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 13, 2019
Harris: "I'm glad you asked me this question and there have been many distortions of my record" https://t.co/T37EaVOvlU #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/tDAPYH5p6M
Harris asked about her history on criminal justice
8:50 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Harris was asked why she didn’t do more to change the criminal justice system when she was San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general – a question that has dogged her campaign. Harris said she tried to affect change from the inside as a prosecutor. The audience didn’t seem to support her answer.
Buttigieg plays peacemaker. Sort of.
8:46 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: After the exchange between Biden and Castro, Buttigieg says such nasty exchanges are the reason people don’t participate in politics. Castro answers, “That’s called an election.” Klobuchar says a “House divided cannot stand.”
Julián Castro tangles with Joe Biden on health care.— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 13, 2019
Biden: "They do not have to buy in."
Castro: "You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in ... Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?" https://t.co/T37EaVOvlU #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/pxl7TvPtAi
8:42 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Biden and Sanders go back and forth again. When Sanders references the case of a cancer patient, Biden says he knows “a lot about cancer.” His son Beau died of brain cancer.
Castro attacks Biden asking, “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” He repeats the phrase several times, with some in the crowd booing and some gasping. Biden says he did not misspeak. Castro repeated the phrase.
Health care continues
8:32 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Klobuchar is asked which politician has the most radical health care plan and she refuses to answer. She says that while “Bernie wrote the bill, she read it.” Harris says she credits Obama for “getting us this far” when it comes to health care. She says she has a modified Medicare for all plan.
Buttigieg said Medicare-for-all doesn’t take options such as private insurance away. He says he trusts the American people.
The first question is health care
8:22 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: The first question is about health care. It goes to Biden. Biden said Warren is “for Bernie,” and he is “for Barack” when it comes to health care plans. Warren answers that her health care plan would allow middle-class families to pay less, thanks to more being paid by big corporations and wealthy Americans. Sanders said he wrote “the damn bill” reiterates his support for Medicare-for-all. After an exchange with Biden about the cost of the plan, he says that America can’t afford the “status quo” which he estimates would be $50 billion over 10 years.
Opening statements are beginning
8:06 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: Castro says there will be life after Trump and universal health care.
Klobuchar: "Houston, we have a problem." She says Trump is a liar, she is not. “I’ve got a better way.” She says she is the middle between the extremes.
O’Rourke: He is talking about the shootings in El Paso. He is blaming Trump and his policies – “inspired to kill by our president.”
Booker: He tells a story about living in a tough neighborhood and a neighbor who spurred him to find the problems and fix them.
Yang: He tells the audience he plans to give 10 families $1,000 a month for a year. Goes to his website, he says.
Buttigieg: He recalls the spirit of the country in the days after 9/11 and says he will work to bring that spirit back.
Harris: She attacks Trump and says he was not indicted only because there is a “piece of paper at the Justice Department” that keeps a sitting president from being indicted.
Sanders: He says he will take on the American “oligarchs” and implement universal health care.
Warren: She recalls her time in Texas and says her brothers were stationed in Texas and it was a pathway to their being able to move into the middle class.
Biden: He recalls JFK’s moonshot speech. He says he refuses to postpone finding a cure for cancer, working on climate change and giving young kids a good education.
8 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2019: The candidates are on the stage, and the debate is starting.
Biden says he’s not targeting Warren
7:45 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: Biden has denied he will have the knives out for Warren during Thursday’s debate. “I’m just going to be me, and she’ll be her, and let people make their judgments. I have great respect for her."
Biden is expected to go after Warren for failing to disclose details of private income during the 1990s and 2000s. But his charge of a lack of transparency is badly undercut by his own financial opacity — not decades ago, but in the last two years. https://t.co/sUleMLumgz— The Intercept (@theintercept) September 12, 2019
We will see soon as the debate begins in 15 minutes.
Warren’s Social Security plan
7:35 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: Warren introduced a plan Thursday that would increase Social Security benefits by $200 a month and extend the program’s solvency by 20 years. She says she will do that by requiring the top two percent of earners in the U.S. to increase their contributions.
And it is loud enough that you can hear the plane's engine inside the press filing center https://t.co/atLGWow6wI— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) September 12, 2019
Harris announces plan to end mass incarceration
7:15 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: Kamala Harris tweeted Thursday, “As president, I will end mass incarceration and build a system that treats people humanely and creates public safety by ending fines and fees that criminalize the poor; ending money bail; ending solitary confinement; ending the death penalty.
As president, I will end mass incarceration and build a system that treats people humanely and creates public safety by:— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 11, 2019
→Ending fines and fees that criminalize the poor
→Ending money bail
→Ending solitary confinement
→Ending the death penalty
Trump may miss it
6:59 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: President Trump said he will miss the debate tonight but will ask someone to “record it” for him. He is visiting Baltimore tonight for a rally.
Who is asking the questions?
6:50 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: George Stephanopoulos, "World News Tonight" Anchor David Muir, ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos will moderate the debate. The debate is set for three hours, from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. ET.
What’s Yang gonna do?
6:40 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: Sam Stein of The Daily Beast tweeted Thursday that Andrew Yang’s campaign manager called to tell him that during Thursday’s debate, Yang will do “something no presidential candidate has ever done before in history.” Yang tweeted a teaser, as well.
AndrewYang) September 12, 2019
The rules for the night
6:30 p.m. Sept. 12, 2019: ABC, the network hosting the debate, has announced tonight’s debate rules. The candidates will have one minute and 15 seconds for direct responses to questions asked by the moderators. They will get 45 seconds for rebuttals.