The candidates addressed age and experience but hardly discussed climate as they showcased their best quips
And then there were 12. A debate Tuesday night in Ohio among the biggest group of Democrats yet was notable for attacks directed at the new perceived frontrunner, the emergence of some fresh issues and the playing of some greatest hits (read: healthcare). Here are the key takeaways:
Elizabeth Warren attacked in new role as frontrunner
In earlier debates, the former vice-president Joe Biden was the candidate to scrap with for lesser-known candidates who wanted to make a splash. In Ohio, that torch passed to the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who has popped to the top of some recent polls. Whether the topic was healthcare or wealth inequality, the Democratic field turned their answers into challenges to Warren, who ended the night with a lions share of the speaking time.
Early in the debate, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, attacked Warren over what he said were the hidden costs of her plan for Medicare for All. Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything except this, Buttigieg said, accusing Warrens healthcare policy of having a multitrillion-dollar hole.
The Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar piled on: We want a plan, not a pipe dream.
The California senator Kamala Harris tried to get Warren to say Donald Trump should be kicked off Twitter, while former representative Beto ORourke attacked Warren on her wealth tax proposal: Sometimes I feel that Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive, or pitting some part of the country against the other, instead of lifting people up.
But Warren appeared to handle the fire well, saying she backed policies, not punishment. I understand that this is hard, she replied on healthcare. We are going to succeed when we dream big and fight hard.
A unified chorus on impeachment (almost)
The debate began with a chorus call for the presidents impeachment, with the candidates taking turns articulating why they thought the president had betrayed the public trust and why Democrats in Congress must forge ahead.
Impeachment is the way that we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over again without consequences, Warren said.
Our Framers imagined this moment, a moment when we would have a corrupt president, said Harris. This is one of those moments and Congress must act.
Klobuchar slammed Trump for what she said was the sale of US foreign policy to the highest bidder. It doesnt make America great again, it makes Russia great again, and thats what this president has done, Klobuchar said.
He should be removed, said the former housing secretary Julin Castro.
The only minor note of dissent was sounded by the Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard, who is polling at less than 1% nationally: If impeachment is driven by these hyper-partisan interests, it will only further divide us, she said.
The (elderly) elephant in the room
All three leading Democratic candidates Biden, Warren and Bernie Sanders are in their 70s, and the question of whether they are too old to take up the presidency was made explicit for the first time on Tuesday night.
Warren, 71, had the sharpest answer: I say I will outwork, out-organize and outlast anyone and that includes Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or whoever the Republicans get stuck with, she said.