October Democratic Debate Recap

Published on: Oct 17, 2019fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Primary Debates


The Story

Last night's Democratic presidential debate was the first where impeachment wasn't just a talking point.

But they did talk about it…right?

Of course. All of the candidates agree that the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is necessary. Things got a little awkward since former VP Joe Biden was there. He defended himself and his son, saying they didn't do anything wrong and that everyone should be focusing on the fact that Trump has called for foreign interference in our elections. Three times.

Where do things stand on impeachment?

The House is holding off on a formal vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry...even though one is already underway. The White House and Republicans have called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to hold a vote, arguing that it's an illegitimate probe without one. One reason why the House may hold off is to not risk losing voters ahead of 2020. Meanwhile, VP Mike Pence and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani aren't interested in cooperating with the inquiry.

What about Turkey? Did it come up?

You bet. The candidates criticized Trump for pulling US troops out of northern Syria and leaving the Kurds on their own to fight off the Turkish military offensive. Biden called it "shameful." Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg – the two military veterans on the stage – faced off over US involvement in Syria. And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) no longer considers Turkey a US ally.

What else...

A lot. Especially since the debate was a glorious three. Full. Hours. Here are some of the other big moments…

Meet the new front-runner...Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She's been rising in the polls recently and others like Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were ready to pounce. She fended off attacks on whether the wealth tax is the best way to handle income inequality and how she'll pay for her Medicare for All plan (something she didn't directly answer).

Abortion…candidates criticized the red states that have passed restrictive abortion bills. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) voiced concerns that they disproportionately affect low-income women, and wants to implement a White House office to focus on abortion rights. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said she'd have the Justice Dept review state laws on this issue. Some, including former HUD Sec Julián Castro, Booker, Gabbard, Klobuchar, and Biden said they'd codify Roe v Wade. Biden also warned against making changes to the Supreme Court bench if it were to overturn the 1973 SCOTUS ruling.

Guns…the debate took place 80 miles east of Dayton, OH, where a gunman killed nine people over the summer. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) wants a mandatory buyback program for assault-style weapons. But Buttigieg says he doesn't have a comprehensive enough plan, and that time is running out on the issue.

Age is (maybe) just a number…this was Sanders' first time back since he suffered a heart attack. But he showed no signs of slowing his campaign down – and is expected to get a major "squad" endorsement this weekend. Biden wants everyone to know he'd be happy to turn 80 in the White House and that he can most definitely handle the job with little to no onboarding. Gabbard, who'd be the youngest-elected president if she won, says we should be asking who is fit to serve as commander-in-chief rather than looking at age.

Say hi to the new guy…the name's Steyer. Tom Steyer.


This debate went down in Ohio – typically a swing state – where Trump won by eight points in 2016. Dem candidates used the opportunity to make the case for impeachment, their agendas, and their friends. But with 19 of them still in the race, there's a long road ahead before we know which two names will end up on the Dem ticket.

Skimm More: Missed last night's debate? Download theSkimm App so it doesn't happen again. Our cal syncs with yours to keep you in the know on important events like this one.

PS: Want more 2020 info? We've got you covered.

live smarter.

Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter.

Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.