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Westlake Legal Group > Biden, Joseph R Jr

Biden and Warren Avoid Direct Conflict — But for How Long?

If Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Elizabeth Warren are headed for a showdown, neither of them appears in a hurry to get there.

The two candidates have seemed to be on a collision course for much of the last few months: Mr. Biden as the Democratic front-runner and de facto leader of the party’s moderate wing, with a steady but hardly dominant lead in polls, and Ms. Warren as his rising challenger, slowly trimming his lead and perhaps surpassing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as the focal point of progressive energy in the race.

Despite some pre-debate chest-thumping by Mr. Biden’s camp, no great clash occurred in Thursday’s debate in Houston, the first time he and Ms. Warren have been onstage together during the primary.

It is almost inevitable that the race will grow more combative, and in the wake of the debate there were signs that some of the leading candidates were ready for conflict. Mr. Biden, who only challenged Ms. Warren in a single exchange on health care Thursday, delivered a veiled swipe at her policy-heavy campaign at a fund-raiser on Friday, saying that the country needed not just plans but also “someone who can execute a plan.” And Mr. Sanders sought to reignite his own clash with Mr. Biden, releasing a statement from his campaign manager that accused Mr. Biden of “echoing the deceptions and falsehoods of the health care industry.”

Ms. Warren, for her part, ignored the back-and-forth, seemingly content with a debate performance that her campaign said had presented her “like a president.”

Supporters of Mr. Biden claimed encouragement from what they called the best of his three debates, but his tendency to garble his words, and his dated instincts on sensitive matters of culture and race, are sure to be tested even more strenuously in the coming months.

[Here are six takeaways from the September Democratic debate.]

Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts senator, and Mr. Sanders are plainly unintimidated by Mr. Biden’s lead in the polls. While he has a solid electoral base, made up chiefly of moderates, older voters and African-Americans, he has not gained new support since he entered the race, and now appears vulnerable to defeat in at least three of the four early primary and caucus states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

“The question is, who is trying to play a long game, against Biden and for the nomination,” said Dan Sena, a strategist who helped oversee the Democratic takeover of the House last year.

Mr. Sena, who is now advising Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a presidential candidate who failed to qualify for the Houston debate, suggested that Ms. Warren appeared satisfied with pursuing her own gradual and disciplined strategy.

“My suspicion,” he said, “is that the Warren campaign in particular is looking at a much, much longer runway.”

Among Ms. Warren’s goals in the near term are to consolidate her backing from liberals and expand her appeal to lower-income voters and minorities. Attacking Mr. Biden might not serve either goal. In the debate, Ms. Warren spent far more time highlighting her upbringing in a working-class Oklahoma family than engaging on any level with Mr. Biden. She must also still navigate the enduring presence of Mr. Sanders on the left.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160702203_c6bff26a-1474-4d23-acd4-58aeffb5d2f0-articleLarge Biden and Warren Avoid Direct Conflict — But for How Long? Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Richmond, Cedric Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party Debates (Political) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr

Ms. Warren in the spin room on Thursday following the debate. She mostly avoided criticizing Mr. Biden. CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

And Mr. Biden may have more immediate challenges. On Thursday night, he repeatedly expressed himself imprecisely — saying at one point that no nonviolent criminals should be in jail, when he meant to refer only to nonviolent drug offenders. He also referred to himself as the vice president of the United States, without appending the modifier “former.”

In a moment that drew criticism after the debate, Mr. Biden responded to a question about the legacy of slavery with a meandering answer that wound up involving a recommendation to place social workers in the homes of parents who “don’t quite know what to do.” Those parents, he suggested, might do well to “make sure you have the record player on at night” so that young children grow up hearing more words — a suggestion he has made more broadly at other times, though he does not typically allude to that particular technology.

[Sign up for our politics newsletter hosted by Lisa Lerer and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

Mr. Biden’s obvious unsteadiness at certain moments opened the way for other candidates to question his strength as a challenger to President Trump. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, appearing on CNN after the debate, noted that Mr. Biden “tends to go on sometimes,” and depicted him as out of touch.

“At one point, he’s talking about people in communities like mine listening to record players — I don’t remember the last time I saw a record player,” Mr. Booker said, adding, “There are definitely moments when you’re listening to Joe Biden and you just wonder.”

Mr. Biden and his campaign surrogates have taken umbrage at suggestions that he has slipped in his political acuity, and on Friday they pushed back particularly hard on Julián Castro, the former federal housing secretary, for having bitingly questioned Mr. Biden’s recall of his own policies in the debate. Mr. Castro, who is polling near the bottom of the field, was the only candidate to attack Mr. Biden in such strong terms, drawing backlash that illustrated why other candidates had shunned that approach.

Asked by a reporter Friday whether he would release his medical records to address “concerns,” Mr. Biden, 76, said he would do so before votes are cast.

“What the hell concerns, man, you want to wrestle?” he said lightheartedly. He continued, “When I get the next physical. Look, I’ll release my — before there’s a first vote, that’s — I’ll release my medical records. There’s no, I mean there’s no reason for me not to release my medical records.’’

In Mr. Biden’s camp, there is a persistent sense that his rivals and the news media are underestimating him and giving him too little credit for the blocs of support he has already claimed. Whatever the flaws in Mr. Biden’s performance in Houston, there was no exchange in which an opponent obviously routed him, as Senator Kamala Harris of California did in the first debate and Mr. Booker did in the second.

He has faced many controversies throughout the campaign, his allies note, and he is still in the lead — a reflection, they argue, of the good will he enjoys from rank-and-file Democrats who feel that they already know him and who see him as best positioned to defeat Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden’s advisers and allies indicated ahead of Thursday’s debate that he was prepared to challenge Ms. Warren, but he mostly refrained from doing so. CreditBrittainy Newman/The New York Times

Still, Mr. Biden may have exposed his anxieties about Ms. Warren in the one debate exchange that pitted him against her. He used his very first answer of the night to chide Ms. Warren for calling for the replacement of the Affordable Care Act with a “Medicare for All”-style system. Ms. Warren declined to swipe back; instead, she praised the A.C.A. but said it could be improved upon.

[Here’s the latest data on who’s leading the race to be the Democratic nominee.]

Mr. Biden never went after Ms. Warren again. It was a more restrained performance than what several of his campaign surrogates had seemed to forecast, suggesting that he would question the pragmatism of Ms. Warren’s policies.

Instead, the differences that emerged between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren arose largely by implication: the side-by-side contrasts between Mr. Biden’s manner of speech and Ms. Warren’s crisp, detailed answers; or between his proud ownership of the ideological middle and her refusal to be outflanked by other liberals.

Allies of Mr. Biden pointed to the exchange over health care as an example of how he would draw contrasts with Ms. Warren and other candidates without becoming venomous.

“He made clear that everybody knew about the differences in their two health care plans,” said Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat and Mr. Biden’s campaign co-chairman. Asked about Mr. Biden’s aversion to making personal attacks onstage, Mr. Richmond said: “It’s not his style, he would never do that.”

Indeed, Mr. Biden, who served for decades as a senator from Delaware, at times acted more like a man on the Senate floor than someone in a crowded presidential field, referring to Ms. Warren as his “distinguished friend” as he raised questions about her plan to pay for single-payer health care.

“There’s no pressure at this point for either one of them to go on the attack,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. “The potential downside is, frankly, much more likely than the upside.”

The relative lack of engagement between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren may carry risks, too. For Mr. Biden, there is the chance that holding back against Ms. Warren could allow her to amass momentum that would make her harder to overcome later on. And for Ms. Warren, there is the possibility that her status as the challenger who is creating the most buzz could pass to a rival candidate — perhaps someone more eager to make the case against Mr. Biden directly.

Kathy Sullivan, a former head of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said it would be a mistake to write off the rest of the field in favor of the top two or three candidates.

“I know people still want to focus on Sanders and Biden and Warren and say it’s a three-person race,” she said. “I don’t think that’s accurate. I think it’s a mistake and it would be unfortunate if people didn’t give all of these other candidates a good look, too.”

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Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Who Won the Debate? Experts Weigh In

Twitter can’t tell us whether, or how, Thursday’s debate might change voters’ minds. But it can give us the perspectives of some of the people with expertise on primary races: veteran campaign strategists and consultants from both parties. Here is a sampling of their reactions.

While there was no consensus on a single winner of the debate, the strategists generally agreed that Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was near the top.

“The special thing about Warren is — she is the world’s biggest wonk and she is also the world’s best communicator of wonkishness. This is an extremely rare skill.” — Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

“I love how whatever the question, @ewarren widens our perspective — to think about the broader, structural problems at play.” — Sally Kohn, progressive commentator and former campaign strategist

“While Warren didn’t come near to dominating things the way she has in earlier debates, it was not a loss as she was (as always) solidly on message.” — Mike Murphy, Republican strategist

But some also noted that she (and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, with whom Ms. Warren is ideologically aligned on many issues) faced more effective counterarguments than she had in past debates.

“Fascinating dynamic tonight. Up until now, Warren and Sanders have pushed their health care plans with values-based argument. Biden, Klobuchar, Buttigieg tonight all pushed back with a values-based argument of their own.” — Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service and former Democratic National Committee spokesman

More debate coverage
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Mr. Sanders had some good moments, the strategists agreed, but not as consistent or energizing a performance as Ms. Warren.

“Bernie just gave the best definition of Democratic Socialism I’ve ever heard. The key is to link it to quality-of-life improvements for Americans.” — Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and consultant

“Yes, he is authentic and consistent. But in a campaign you need to find some way to talk to people who don’t already support you. I never hear that case from him.” — Laura Belin, Iowa political commentator

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who had inconsistent showings in the last two debates, did very well in the first part of the debate, several strategists said.

“This is the Joe people were hoping to get as the front-runner.” — Jess McIntosh, SiriusXM host and former spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton

“When Biden talks about international issues, his entire demeanor changes. He is so tight, his posture changes. He should just hang on to this lane so hard, no one else can touch him in it.” — Jess Morales Rocketto

But when the moderator Linsey Davis asked him about his record on race and desegregation, he faltered.

“@JoeBiden demonstrating a deep weakness on understanding and discussing race. Asked a question about #slavery and he stumbled through a nonsense answer that went from segregation to Venezuela.” — Anna Sampaio, professor of ethnic studies and political science at Santa Clara University

Senator Kamala Harris of California got good reviews for several exchanges, as well as for her focus on — baiting of, really — President Trump.

“@KamalaHarris aces her opening statement with a powerful direct address to @realDonaldTrump, then closes with wit: ‘And now you can go back to watching Fox News.’ Very effective. Allows the audience to see her going toe-to-toe with Trump.” — Paul Begala, former adviser to President Bill Clinton

“Frankly, I think @KamalaHarris is trying to provoke @realDonaldTrump to go after her on Twitter. She wants him to insult her (‘punch down’), which would help her rise in electability (and the polls) vis a vis @JoeBiden.” — Lara M. Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University

Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, went after Mr. Biden early and hard, suggesting that his memory was failing. Strategists and commentators on both sides of the aisle cringed.

“Yeah, not sure the goading on age/forgetfulness is a good look.” — Kelly Dittmar, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers

“Democratic voters are not going to like Julian Castro’s badgering of Joe Biden. That might play well with parts of Dem Twitter, but not the rest of the Dem electorate.” — Frank Luntz

“@JulianCastro with a cheap shot on @JoeBiden. Joe fights back, then pulls up, knowing better than to punch down. Castro looks desperate; Biden ends the fight with a smile.” — Paul Begala

But Mr. Castro did earn some praise at other points, including for his discussion of race, and some argued that — whatever the merits of his jab at Mr. Biden — his boldness was admirable.

“Really the thing about @JulianCastro is that he has been totally fearless in these debates and he’s moved the conversation forward at every stage.” — Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of Indivisible, a liberal advocacy group

Several other candidates had bright moments but did not manage to stand out in the overall reckoning.

@BetoORourke is really moving on this issue of banning assault weapons. Very, very powerful.” — David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama

“Cory Booker speaks so passionately and compassionately on issues of racial justice that it’s hard not to be moved.” — Mo Elleithee

“@amyklobuchar just delivered a strong case for the public option & even had a good zinger (‘While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill.’) @ewarren is right that a single-payer system would be more efficient. But I am not confident Ds can win that argument in the suburbs.” — Laura Belin

“Powerful personal testimony from @PeteButtigieg about coming out … he’s right — this election is about the voters and empowering/trusting them.” — Kurt Bardella, Democratic media strategist and former Republican congressional spokesman

As for the entrepreneur Andrew Yang, he drew a great deal of attention at the start for announcing that he would give 10 Americans $1,000 a month for a year. But by the time the debate ended three hours later, he had been greatly overshadowed.

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Zingers, Groaners and a Trump Pile-On: ‘That’s Called the Democratic Primary’

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. jammed his finger skyward, eyes narrowing like his polling advantage, accusing the “socialist” to his right, Senator Bernie Sanders, and the “distinguished friend” to his left, Senator Elizabeth Warren, of hawking infeasible health care proposals loaded with dubious math.

Mr. Sanders, raspier than usual but no gentler on the sound system, insisted that Mr. Biden has “got to defend” a status quo that bankrupts cancer patients, drawing a steely glare from a front-runner well-versed in the disease’s ravages.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg tried to play the peacekeeping millennial, cutting in after Julián Castro — the former federal housing secretary, disinclined to leave the squabbling to the three favorites — interjected from the stage’s periphery to suggest that Mr. Biden, 76, had forgotten what he said just minutes prior.

“This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington.”

“Yeah, that’s called the Democratic primary election,” Mr. Castro shot back. “That’s called an election.”

It is getting there.

Onstage together for the first time, with less than five months to go before the voting begins, the top 10 candidates made clear on Thursday that the moment for oblique contrast and above-the-fray wishcasting is quickly passing.

For the favorites, the new urgency yielded the most conspicuously fractious forum yet to air the central divide in the race: whether Mr. Biden’s beat-Trump-now-make-change-later relative incrementalism holds more appeal than the structural upheaval promised by Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders.

Less than a year after many young and nonwhite Democrats helped lead the party to success in the midterm election, the debate also highlighted an uncomfortable truth: The top three candidates are all white septuagenarians, potentially hampering a generational argument against President Trump.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160692030_6c0e57df-79f1-4671-ae6e-f7e800d68f94-articleLarge Zingers, Groaners and a Trump Pile-On: ‘That’s Called the Democratic Primary’ Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010) Democratic Party Debates (Political) Castro, Julian Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr

In certain moments from the debate, it can be difficult to imagine any of the current front-runners transcending their liabilities to become the nominee.CreditBrittainy Newman/The New York Times

For the seven other candidates in Houston — to say nothing of the more than a dozen others who have either dropped out or failed to qualify for this debate — the heightened testiness implied a determination to break through or deliver on their early promise as the campaign enters an unforgiving phase of field-culling and relevance-seeking.

Some tossed out jokes at their own expense. “I’m the only person on this stage who finds Trudeau’s hair very menacing,” said a shiny-scalped Senator Cory Booker, cracking about the well-coiffed Canadian prime minister. Mr. Buttigieg said, of his time serving in Afghanistan: “You know, I served under General Dunford, way under General Dunford.” Senator Amy Klobuchar came armed with one-liners: “He is treating our farmers and our workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos,” she said of Mr. Trump.

And Mr. Castro was eager to lash Mr. Biden over his age and his efforts to “take credit for Obama’s work, but not have to answer to any questions” about his administration’s record.

It is still early in the race, these campaigns all say. There is still time. But it is also not so early.

Many Democrats have been hopeful that defeating an unpopular, rampaging president would be as simple as nominating a sentient adult with minimal political baggage.

Though Mr. Biden, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders — and lower-polling candidates like Senator Kamala Harris and Mr. Buttigieg — have outpaced Mr. Trump in some hypothetical general election surveys, party officials are cleareyed about the potential vulnerabilities dogging any of the present favorites.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg and other candidates tossed out jokes at their own expense during the debate.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

In certain moments — and Thursday supplied a few — it can be difficult to imagine any of the current front-runners transcending their liabilities to become the nominee. Can Mr. Biden, nostalgic and blunder-prone, really convince an anxious party that he is a man in tune with the times? Can the Brooklyn baritone of Mr. Sanders really move the masses to the political revolution he promises? Can Ms. Warren erase voters’ concerns, sometimes whispered even at her own rallies, about her general election viability?

“There’s just a real anxiety about not making a mistake,” said David Axelrod, the former chief strategist to President Barack Obama, citing the party’s angst about defeating Mr. Trump. “That may raise the sensitivity to people’s potential liabilities. But I think what campaigns are about in certain ways is to put these theories to the test and explore people’s strengths and weaknesses and see who emerges. In 2007, there still was this chatter about ‘can Obama actually win a general election?’”

Mr. Biden and the two progressive senators are making radically different bets on the electorate.

“There’s enormous, enormous opportunities once we get rid of Donald Trump,” Mr. Biden said in his opening, before pledging to build on the Affordable Care Act, unlike rivals who prefer a “Medicare for all” system.

“Let’s be clear,” Ms. Warren said in one exchange with Mr. Biden, joining Mr. Sanders in suggesting that the former vice president was not being bold enough, “I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.”

But the three do share some surface similarities as prospective opponents for Mr. Trump, aside from their age. They are all veterans of the public eye, their weaknesses familiar to many Americans. And they have all been underestimated at various points in this primary, their manifest campaign warts — Mr. Biden’s gaffe-making, Ms. Warren’s fraught history with Native American ancestry, Mr. Sanders’s competition from Ms. Warren for liberal hearts and minds — misdiagnosed as politically lethal.

For Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, a clash at center stage was perhaps inevitable. Over their decades in Washington, they have taken divergent paths to the top of Democratic politics.

Mr. Biden has played the unrepentant insider, firm in his belief that making change is a matter of gradual progress and warm relations with ideological foes. And Mr. Sanders has been the unkempt agitator, long convinced that his uncompromising liberalism would take hold through sheer force of organizing.

Ms. Warren in some ways has instincts that fall between those two approaches, pushing for “big, structural change” but also identifying as a capitalist and making overtures to Democratic Party leaders.

Yet until Thursday night, Ms. Warren, who is rising in the polls, had not yet faced serious scrutiny on the debate stage from her most prominent rivals.

That changed as a host of more centrist candidates ripped into some of the proposals she supports, especially “Medicare for all.” But Ms. Warren was often unruffled. She largely avoided being drawn into extended back-and-forths with her opponents, responding to overt and implicit criticisms by hewing closely to the populist progressive pitch she often makes on the trail, while also speaking in personal terms about her background.

“I wanted to be a public-school teacher,” she said. “And I invested early, I used to line my dollies up and teach school. I had a reputation for being tough but fair.”

Ms. Harris, who spent the first two debates locked in several tense exchanges with Democratic opponents, sought in the third debate to bring the focus back to defeating Mr. Trump, an effort she began in her opening statement and returned to throughout the evening.

“The only reason you’ve not been indicted is because there was a memo in the Department of Justice that says a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime,” Ms. Harris said, addressing Mr. Trump in her first moments onstage. She pledged to emphasize “our common issues, our common hopes and desires and in that way, unifying our country, winning this election and turning the page for America. And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.”

Senator Kamala Harris used her time to deliver sharp lines of attack against President Trump.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Later, in an exchange about trade, she compared Mr. Trump to the Wizard of Oz.

“When you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude,” she said.

“O.K., I’m not even going to take the bait,” replied George Stephanopoulos, the moderator, who stands at about 5-foot-5.

“Oh, George. It wasn’t about you!” she exclaimed.

The candidates did project broad agreement on issues such as the need to combat gun violence, even if consensus on specific policies such as mandatory buybacks of assault rifles proved elusive. And several of the candidates used foreign policy and trade to draw biting contrasts with the Trump administration.

Some flourishes were more curious. Toward the end of the evening, Mr. Biden was read a controversial statement he had made decades ago about race, and asked about the nation’s responsibility for repairing the legacy of slavery. He offered a meandering response, preaching the importance of exposing young children to as many words as possible.

“Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night,” he said.

On Thursday, parents were afforded another option: a debate that lasted nearly three hours.

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Attacks on Biden in Debate Highlight Divide Over the Obama Legacy

HOUSTON — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. clung tightly to the legacy of the Obama administration in a Democratic primary debate on Thursday, asking voters to view him as a stand-in for the former president as an array of progressive challengers, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, brandished more daring policy promises and questioned Mr. Biden’s political strength.

Facing all of his closest competitors for the first time in a debate, Mr. Biden, the Democratic front-runner, repeatedly invoked President Barack Obama’s name and policy record as a shield against rivals who suggested his own record was flawed, or implied his agenda lacked ambition. On health care, immigration, foreign wars and more, Mr. Biden’s central theme was his tenure serving under Mr. Obama.

By constantly invoking Mr. Obama, a popular figure among Democrats, Mr. Biden sought to mute the ideological and generational divisions that have left him vulnerable in the primary race. To voters who might see him as a candidate of the past, Mr. Biden seemed to counter that the past was not so bad.

In an early exchange over health care, Mr. Biden referred to Ms. Warren’s support for Mr. Sanders’s “Medicare for all” plan. “The senator says she’s for Bernie,” Mr. Biden said. “Well, I’m for Barack — I think the Obamacare worked.”

Explaining his preference for more incremental health care improvements, like the creation of an optional government-backed plan, Mr. Biden challenged Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders to defend the cost of their plans, warning that they would require tax increases on middle-income Americans.

Mr. Biden was steadier in what was his third debate of the primary contest, rattling off statistics and parrying attacks with good cheer, though he still rambled at other moments. And despite their criticism, none of the nine other candidates onstage appeared to significantly damage his candidacy.

But Mr. Biden’s challengers were undeterred by his embrace of Mr. Obama, and the progressive candidates made clear the choice before primary voters.

Several of them argued — some subtly, some stridently — that the party needed to move well beyond the policies of the last Democratic president. And if Mr. Biden appealed to voters’ sense of nostalgia, his rivals pressed the case for broader change.

Ms. Warren, of Massachusetts, argued that her and Mr. Sanders’s approach would build upon Mr. Obama’s legacy rather than unraveling it. She credited Mr. Obama with having “fundamentally transformed health care,” but said the next president had to go further.

“The question is, how best can we improve on it?” Ms. Warren said, promising: “Costs are going to go up for giant corporations, but for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down.”

[Here are the highlights from the September Democratic debate.]

Mr. Sanders sidestepped the mention of Mr. Obama altogether, asserting to Mr. Biden that a single-payer system would save consumers money by breaking the influence of insurers seeking to “protect their profits.”

“Americans don’t want to pay twice as much as other countries,” Mr. Sanders, of Vermont, said.

Other challengers in the 10-candidate field were less diplomatic in demanding a break from the center-left policy framework that guided the Obama administration. Julián Castro, who served as Mr. Obama’s housing secretary, echoed the news anchor Jorge Ramos in questioning the Obama administration’s record of deporting millions of illegal immigrants. When Mr. Ramos pressed Mr. Biden to say whether he had made any mistakes on immigration as vice president, Mr. Biden pleaded personal loyalty.

“We didn’t lock people up in cages, we didn’t separate families,” Mr. Biden said, adding, “The president did the best thing that was able to be done.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160693980_f4e43032-4185-4955-a33f-617ee3be05c7-articleLarge Attacks on Biden in Debate Highlight Divide Over the Obama Legacy Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Obama, Barack Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Castro, Julian Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor, pressed Mr. Biden with questions on immigration.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

But pressed by Mr. Ramos about his own role, Mr. Biden deflected: “I’m the vice president of the United States,” he said. That prompted an impatient reaction from Mr. Castro, who repeated a criticism previously leveled at Mr. Biden by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

“Every time something good about Barack Obama comes up, he says, ‘Oh, I was there, I was there, I was there, that’s me, too,’” said Mr. Castro, who was the most aggressive combatant against Mr. Biden on Thursday. “And then every time somebody questions part of the administration that we were both part of, he says, ‘Well, that was the president.’”

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

Mr. Biden responded as if Mr. Castro was asserting that Mr. Biden was insufficiently defensive of the former president.

“I stand with Barack Obama all eight years,” Mr. Biden said. “Good, bad and indifferent.”

Mr. Biden’s fealty to Mr. Obama, throughout the debate, was consistent with his overall approach to the campaign. He has staked out a position, unapologetically, as a candidate of the Democratic center, building a sizable but far from dominant base of support, anchored in the admiration of moderates, older voters and African-Americans. But he has yet to expand his appeal beyond that base, which appears to make up between a quarter and a third of the Democratic electorate.

Julián Castro, far right, questioned Mr. Biden during a fiery exchange early in the debate.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

His resilience, though, has prompted some of his rivals to recalibrate their approach as the race enters the fall. After unleashing one of the contest’s toughest attacks against Mr. Biden in the first debate, Senator Kamala Harris of California steadfastly avoided critiquing the former vice president or any of her Democratic opponents.

Ms. Harris used her opening statement to speak directly to, and criticize, President Trump. During the health care contretemps she lamented that “not once have we talked about Donald Trump.” And when she made the case for using executive action to overcome legislative gridlock, she turned to Mr. Biden, let out a laugh and borrowed Mr. Obama’s signature line. “Hey Joe, let’s say ‘yes we can,’” she said.

Ms. Harris’s attempt at a strategic makeover was hard to miss, but other candidates also tried to show voters a fuller version of themselves. Ms. Warren stayed true to her vision for sweeping policy proposals, but she also used a debate that was held in the city where she went to college to talk more about her personal story, which many voters are only dimly aware of. She recalled her Oklahoma youth, repeatedly cited her brothers’ military service and talked about being a public school teacher.

If Ms. Warren seemed determined to unfurl her biography, Mr. Sanders came prepared to take on Mr. Biden. The Vermont senator was assertive about drawing contrasts between his progressive credentials and Mr. Biden’s far more varied record. Where Mr. Sanders shied away from direct conflict when he shared a debate stage with Mr. Biden in June, this time he sought out areas of sharp disagreement, including over the NAFTA trade deal and the war in Iraq. Mr. Biden supported both; Mr. Sanders opposed them.

The Democratic Party’s lively, sometimes heated internal disagreements were on vivid display throughout the night, on subjects as diverse as gun control, trade with China, the war in Afghanistan and the Senate filibuster. And if the clearest philosophical gulf separated Mr. Biden from the prominent populists who flanked him — Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren — the debate made plain that the party was in the midst of a far more complex process of defining its identity.

The remaining field of candidates arrayed themselves around the same philosophical dividing line, most of them aligning more closely with Mr. Biden. And for the first time in this primary race, a few of the trailing contenders sharpened their attacks.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota derided Mr. Sanders’s single-payer health care bill as a “bad idea,” while Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., accused Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren of seeking to take away choice from consumers.

“I trust the American people to make the right choice for them,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “Why don’t you?”

A harshly contentious clash between Mr. Biden and Mr. Castro provided one of the most heated exchanges of the evening, at least in terms of political theatrics. Seizing on a moment in which Mr. Biden described his health care proposals imprecisely, Mr. Castro questioned Mr. Biden’s memory — a charged subject for the former vice president, who is 76.

“Are you forgetting already what you said two minutes ago?” Mr. Castro said, prodding insistently before boasting, “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not.”

Mr. Biden shot back, “That would be a surprise to him.” (The former vice president did, however, show his fondness for a bygone era later in the forum when he dropped in a reference to record players.)

Julián Castro, far right, the former housing secretary, questioned Mr. Biden during a fiery exchange early in the debate.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

There was more consensus on the stage when it came to praising the leadership of former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas in the aftermath of the mass shooting last month in El Paso, his hometown. And Mr. O’Rourke won a booming ovation from the audience when he was asked whether he would try to confiscate some weapons.

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

Mr. Booker, who lives in Newark, said the outrage over gun violence was long overdue. “I’m sorry that it had to take issues coming to my neighborhood or personally affecting Beto to suddenly make us demand change,” he said. “This is a crisis of empathy in our nation. We are never going to solve this crisis if we have to wait for it to personally affect us or our neighborhood or our community before we demand action.”

From left, Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., during the debate.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

There were, though, plenty of lighter moments in Houston.

Mr. Booker, a vegan, assured viewers he would not push Americans away from eating meat.

“First of all I want to say: No,” he said, before adding with a touch of comedic timing, “I want to translate that into Spanish: No.”

Ms. Harris drew titters for saying Mr. Trump “reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” adding that “when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude.”

And Andrew Yang left many of his competitors onstage all but speechless when he used his opening statement to unveil a new gambit aimed at drawing attention to his proposal to offer Americans a universal basic income.

“My campaign will now give a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month for an entire year to 10 American families, someone watching this at home right now,” he said. “If you believe that you can solve your own problems better than any politician, go to yang2020.com and tell us how $1,000 a month will help you do just that.”

More coverage of Democrats and Debates
Amy Klobuchar Is Tired of Debate Questions About Other Candidates

Sept. 11, 2019

Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden Will Finally Debate. Here’s What to Expect.

Sept. 11, 2019

Bernie Sanders Went to Canada, and a Dream of ‘Medicare for All’ Flourished

Sept. 9, 2019

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6 Takeaways From the September Democratic Debate

Thursday’s Democratic primary debate was the first time all the leading candidates were onstage together. The most illuminating exchanges were not between Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Elizabeth Warren, who met onstage for the first time, but from other pairings. Here are six highlights from the debate.

Once again this debate season, Mr. Biden came under the fiercest and most sustained scrutiny, from his ideological foes, from a former cabinet mate and even from the moderators. He was pushed on race, on deportations, on health care and, in an intense exchange, on his age.

But in the end, Mr. Biden exited the stage the same way he entered it: the embattled-yet-clear front-runner, no matter if his meandering syntax and twisting verbal gymnastics sometimes failed to land clear points.

One difference from the past two debates: He did begin to articulate more of his own case for the White House, rather than simply saying President Trump must be stopped. In particular, Mr. Biden came armed on the crucial topic of health care, with lines to joust with Senator Bernie Sanders and Ms. Warren over their support of an expansive Medicare for All plan.

“I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie, well, I’m for Barack,” Mr. Biden said to Ms. Warren, speaking not only about the Affordable Care Act but also the legacy of a popular former president.

The Biden strategy to bearhug Mr. Obama at every opportunity was questioned by rivals, but none figured out how to drive a wedge between the two men.

By evening’s end, however, Mr. Biden’s performance was uneven. Asked about a comment decades ago in regards to reparations for slavery — “I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago” — he ended up talking about playing the radio for small children to expand their vocabulary, and used an outdated reference if there ever was one.

“Make sure you have the record player on at night,” he said.

It was Mr. Biden’s most tweeted about line of the night.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160688613_3389d43e-0b81-46c2-af7e-d1bb5e0aeb5f-articleLarge 6 Takeaways From the September Democratic Debate Yang, Andrew (1975- ) Warren, Elizabeth Univision Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto Klobuchar, Amy Houston (Tex) Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Castro, Julian Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr ABC Inc

Senator Elizabeth Warren once again got off scot-free in a presidential debate. CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

While Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders argued to her right, and Julián Castro lobbed grenades at Mr. Biden from her left, Ms. Warren walked away unscathed.

Nobody attacked her. Nobody questioned her electability. Nobody said anything she’s done in her life was misguided. She wasn’t involved in the night’s most memorable exchanges.

In other words, she was exactly where she wanted to be.

For the one candidate in the race who has been steadily rising in the polls and seen her popularity among Democratic primary voters increase, Ms. Warren once again got off scot-free in a presidential primary debate. She didn’t instigate tension with the other candidates, and nobody said anything about her.

Along the way, Ms. Warren was able to define herself as the candidate with specific plans without getting into the muck of those arguing over policy specifics.

This approach has fed her steady rise from the mid-single digits to a virtual tie for second place with Mr. Sanders, and it will take another debate to see if anyone in the field will try to stop her.

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CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Mr. Sanders walked onto the stage with an offensive plan — attack Mr. Biden.

On health care, trade and the Iraq war, the Vermont socialist took square aim at the former vice president. It was a choreographed onslaught of Mr. Sanders’s greatest hits, allowing him to argue over and over that he is the tribune of the left wing of the Democratic Party while Mr. Biden has been beholden to corporate interests and would not be a true agent of change.

The question is, will it change things?

Aides for both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden agree the two are fighting over the same subset of voters: a lower-income, less-educated set of the electorate who are not paying close attention to the day-to-day proceedings of the presidential campaign.

No one is quite clear on what will happen if Mr. Biden starts bleeding support. Iowa surveys show Mr. Sanders is the leading second-choice candidate among Mr. Biden’s backers. But several others — Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., most explicitly among those onstage Thursday — are touting themselves as a Biden-style unifier who can win over moderate Republicans in a general election.

As for Mr. Biden, he defended himself from the Sanders onslaught and lobbed a few shots back at his fellow septuagenarian. He reminded the audience that Mr. Sanders is “a socialist” and suggested he has confidence in corporate America to fix the health care system, a confusing argument Mr. Sanders let be.

Senator Kamala Harris had a noticeable number of set pieces that sounded rehearsed on Thursday.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

If Senator Kamala Harris’s plan in the first Miami debate was to take on Mr. Biden, her objective in Houston seemed to be to pivot to the politically safer terrain of attacking Mr. Trump. Indeed, she addressed him directly in her opening statement, ending it with this: “Now, President Trump you can go back to watching Fox News.”

The crowd roared.

One liners are a fact of life in political debates. But string too many together in one setting and they can go from zinging to cloying, and Ms. Harris had a noticeable number of set pieces that sounded rehearsed on Thursday. (Ms. Klobuchar — “Houston we have a problem,” she said in Houston — rivaled her.)

The president, Ms. Harris said, “conducts trade policy by tweet.”

And on the hate-fueled shooting in El Paso, Ms. Harris said that Mr. Trump “didn’t pull the trigger, but he certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”

Those two are well-worn from Ms. Harris’s appearances on the stump. She had new lines, too.

“He reminds me of that guy in “The Wizard of Oz,” when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude,” she said of Mr. Trump at another point.

The lines all landed individually. Collectively, they left the distinct impression of a politician.

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CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

It was the line of the night, for better or worse.

Mr. Castro, the former Obama housing secretary, who parried with Mr. Biden on deportation policy in the last debate, went for the jugular this time: questioning the 76-year-old’s mental agility in an exchange about the particulars of health care policy.

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago,” Mr. Castro, 44, asked Mr. Biden. He then repeated himself for emphasis. “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?”

It was the most tweeted about moment of the entire debate.

And while others have made the case for generational change and new leadership, Mr. Castro’s frontal assault on Mr. Biden’s acuity, and by extension the his age, left some Democrats shocked. (After the debate, Mr. Castro said on ABC, “I wasn’t taking a shot at his age.”)

Had Mr. Castro overreached in so personally going after one of the party’s most popular figures? Would there be backlash? Plus, it was not clear about whether Mr. Castro was even correct in his attack. Biden supporters said he was wrong; Castro aides litigated whether one could “automatically buy in” to programs, as Mr. Biden said.

The fact that Mr. Castro repeatedly challenged Mr. Biden throughout the night only intensified his attempted takedown of the former vice president. “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not,” Mr. Castro said at another point.

“That,” Mr. Biden shot back, “would be a surprise to him.”

The praise being heaped upon Beto O’Rourke, right, is indicative of how far he has fallen since his March campaign launch.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Beto O’Rourke, the one candidate whose entry and brief rise elicited the most mockery and jealousy among rival campaigns, became a figure of admiration at Thursday’s debate, following his response to the mass shooting that killed 22 people at a Wal-Mart in his hometown El Paso.

“The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful,” said Mr. Biden, after seemingly forgetting Mr. O’Rourke’s surname.

“Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the midst of that tragedy,” Ms. Harris said.

“I so appreciate what the congressman’s been doing,” Ms. Klobuchar said, before she offered a disagreement with his proposal to require owners of assault-style weapons to sell them to the government.

The El Paso shooting certainly changed the stature of Mr. O’Rourke, who took a two-week break from the campaign trail. The former congressman has since shifted his campaign to adopt more a confrontational stance against racism and gun violence.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,” he said. His campaign quickly tweeted the quip.

But the praise being heaped upon Mr. O’Rourke is also indicative of how far he has fallen since his March campaign launch as a presumptive front-runner on the cover of Vanity Fair. Now languishing at around 1 percent to 2 percent in most polls, he’s not seen as a threat by the others.

Isabella Grullón Paz contributed reporting.

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Live Updates at the September Democratic Debate

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160691538_90e2eac8-23f9-4a6e-8a49-2dd9f6143016-articleLarge Live Updates at the September Democratic Debate Yang, Andrew (1975- ) Warren, Elizabeth Univision Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto Klobuchar, Amy Houston (Tex) Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Castro, Julian Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr ABC Inc

CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

After a meaty discussion on Mr. Trump’s tariffs on China, Mr. Sanders pivoted to a contrast between his views on trade policy and Mr. Biden’s, citing his opposition to the Obama administration’s push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Nafta.

“The average American today, despite an explosion of technology and worker productivity, is not making a penny more than he or she made 45 years ago. And one of the reasons is that, for decades, we have had disastrous trade policies,” Mr. Sanders said. “I have to say to my good friend Joe Biden, Joe and I strongly disagree on trade.”

Mr. Biden shot back, saying only an American-led coalition can win a trade war with China.

“You need to organize the world to take on China, to stop the corrupt practices that are underway,” he said, parrying the attack from Mr. Sanders without directly answering it.

What should Democrats do about Mr. Trump’s China tariffs? None of them really want to say, though they were happy to criticize the president.

Mr. Yang would leave them stand, at least at first. “ I would not repeal the tariffs on day one, but I would let the Chinese know we need to hammer out a deal,” he said.

Mr. Buttigieg trashed the president for not reaching the trade deal he promised. “I remember President Trump scotched and said he’d like to see me make a deal with Xi Jinping,” he said. “I’d like to see him make a deal with Xi Jinping.”

Mr. Castro said he “would immediately begin to negotiate with China to ratchet down that trade war.”

And Ms. Klobuchar said Mr. Trump’s steel tariffs aren’t focused. They are, she said, “like poker chips in his bankrupt casinos.”

Only Ms. Warren brought anything close to specifics in making an argument on trade policy, though she was heavier on who she would align with than what she would actually seek to do.

“I want to negotiate trade with unions at the table. I want to negotiate it with small farmers at the table. I want to negotiate it with environmentalists at the table. I want to negotiate with human rights activists at the table,” she said.

One of the moderators, Jorge Ramos, asked Mr. Biden a blunt question, citing the record of deportations under President Obama: “Why should Latinos trust you?”

Mr. Biden began by pivoting to Mr. Trump. “What Latinos should look at, comparing this president to the president we have is outrageous, number one. We didn’t lock people up in cages. We didn’t separate families. We didn’t to all of those things,” Mr. Biden said.

Pressed further, Mr. Biden would not distance himself from Mr. Obama’s deportation record: “The president did the best thing that was able to be did at that time.” He added without further explanation that he was vice president.

Mr. Castro wanted to hear more, mocking Mr. Biden. “Every time something good about Barack Obama comes up, he says, “oh, I was there, I was there, I was there, that’s me, too.”

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

Mr. Biden, as he has done throughout the campaign, bear-hugged Mr. Obama. “I stand with Barack Obama all eight years. Good, bad and indifferent. That’s where I stand.”

Candidates’ Speaking Time So Far

By Weiyi Cai, Jasmine C. Lee and Jugal Patel ·Each bar segment represents the length of a candidate’s response to a question.
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CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Mr. O’Rourke is no longer standing at center stage. And it showed on Thursday because his rivals kept praising him for his role in healing the community in El Paso after the recent shooting.

Mr. Biden first: “He way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful.” Ms. Harris: “Beto, god love you for standing to courageously in the midst of that tragedy.”

When Mr. O’Rourke got his chance, his voice rose in a crescendo as he invoked a curse word — albeit one that can air on national television, calling for mandatory buybacks of assault rifles.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore,” Mr. O’Rourke declared.

The crowd gave him one of the loudest cheers of the night.

Ms. Klobuchar wouldn’t endorse a mandatory buybacks of assault-style rifles, instead praising the various gun control proposals backed by all of the Democratic presidential candidates.

“I personally think we should start with a voluntary buyback program,” she said.

Mr. Booker was less laudatory of Mr. O’Rourke, as he said communities like his own have long been plagued by gun violence.

“I’m sorry that it had to take issues coming to my neighborhood or personally affecting Beto to make us demand change,” Mr. Booker said.

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CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Harris got tough questions about their records as prosecutors not being sufficiently progressive — and both largely dodged the specifics in responding.

“That’s not my record,” Ms. Klobuchar said when told that the A.C.L.U. was sour about her record responding to police shootings of black men when she was the district attorney in Minneapolis.

“What changes did we make?” she said. “Go after white collar crimes in a big way. Diversity in office in a big way. Work with the Innocence Project to make sure we do much better with eyewitness I.D.”

Ms. Harris said she “glad you asked me this question,” though mostly avoided answering it, claiming “many distortions” of her record.

Ultimately, she took some ownership of that record. “Was I able to get enough done? Absolutely not,” Ms. Harris said, pitching her new criminal justice plan as ambitious going forward.

After Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Harris spoke, Mr. Biden made sure to note he became a public defender, leaving unsaid the contrast with the other prosecutors onstage.

Fact-Check

One split that’s clear early in the debate is between the fighters and the peacemakers.

Half the candidates onstage want to have a principled fight about policy, and half are trying to present themselves as unifiers.

It’s a divide that encompasses much of the discussion among Democratic voters in early states and now has taken over the debate stage, with Mr. Biden squaring off with Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren about health care policy.

Others, like Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Harris and Mr. Booker — who were excluded from the early food fight on health coverage — sought to portray the fighters as “all that’s wrong” with politics, as Mr. Buttigieg put it.

“I know we cannot sacrifice progress on the altar of purity, because people in my community, they need help right now,” Mr. Booker said.

Westlake Legal Group 12debate-livechat-promo4-videoSixteenByNine1050 Live Updates at the September Democratic Debate Yang, Andrew (1975- ) Warren, Elizabeth Univision Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto Klobuchar, Amy Houston (Tex) Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Castro, Julian Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr ABC Inc

Live Analysis: The Democratic Debates

Follow along as our reporters analyze tonight’s debate in real time.

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CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

In his first opportunity to speak, Mr. Castro went aggressively after Mr. Biden, opening with the fact that a fact-check after the last debate showed that Mr. Biden’s health plan “leaves 10 million people uncovered” despite Mr. Biden’s claim otherwise.

As Mr. Biden pushed backed, about whether his plan was an opt-in system, Mr. Castro questioned the 76-year old candidate’s memory.

“Are you forgetting what you said just two minutes ago?’ said Mr. Castro, 44, repeating himself more than once.

Mr. Biden looked taken aback.

Mr. Castro kept going. “If you lose your job, for instance, his health care plan would not automatically enroll you, you would have to opt in. My health care plan would. That’s big difference. I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not.”

“That would be a surprise to him,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Buttigieg interjected to play peacemaker, saying the food fight was what people “cannot stand about Washington.”

If the political talk heading into the debate was on the first face-off between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren, the early fireworks came in exchanges between Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Biden came out strong attacking Medicare for all and Mr. Sanders’s support for it.

“For a socialist you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do,” the former vice president said.

Mr. Sanders shot back: “You know why they’re going bankrupt? Because they suffered a terrible disease, cancer, or heart disease.”

Mr. Biden, whose son Beau died of cancer, flared in anger.

“I know a lot about cancer,” he said. “Let me tell you something. It’s personal to me.”

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CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

At first the health care coverage included only Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, to the exclusion of everyone else. Finally Mr. Stephanopoulos threw it to Ms. Klobuchar, who sought to separate herself from Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren.

“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” Ms. Klobuchar said, saying that eliminating private health insurance is “a bad idea.”

Ms. Klobuchar and then Mr. Buttigieg tried to reframe their opposition to Medicare for All in more muscular terms.

Mr. Buttigieg went right after Mr. Sanders: “The problem, Senator Sanders, with the damn bill that you wrote, and that Senator Warren backs, is that it doesn’t trust the American people. I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you. Not my way or the high way.”

Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden, and Mr. Warren.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

The opening question, to Mr. Biden, cut to the core of the ideological divide of the party: How ambitious should the Democratic Party be in crafting plans for health care, climate change and raising taxes.

Mr. Biden choose to focus on health care, where he wants to build on the Affordable Care Act while Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren want to implement a Medicare for All system.

“I think we should have a debate on health care. I think — I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie, well, I’m for Barack,” Mr. Biden said. “I think the Obamacare worked.”

Ms. Warren sought to neutralize any forthcoming attacks from Mr. Biden about not respecting the legacy of Mr. Obama. She praised Mr. Obama for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and said she wants to build on it.

Pressed on how to pay for it, she said, “We pay for it, those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations, are going to pay more. And middle class families are going to pay less.”

Ms. Warren refused to get drawn into the question about whether middle-class taxes will increase, returning the issue to whether total cost of health care will increase or not.

Mr. Sanders directly criticized Mr. Biden for his criticism of Medicare for All.

“Let us be clear, Joe, in the United States of America, we have spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians or any other major country on Earth,” Mr. Sanders said.

“This is America,” Mr. Biden shot back.

Join us for live analysis on debate night. Subscribe to “On Politics,” and we’ll send you a link.

Jonathan Martin and Astead W. Herndon contributed reporting from Houston.

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Thursday’s Democratic Debate: What Time Is It and How to Watch

Westlake Legal Group 12WHATTOWATCH-facebookJumbo Thursday’s Democratic Debate: What Time Is It and How to Watch Yang, Andrew (1975- ) Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Klobuchar, Amy Houston (Tex) Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Castro, Julian Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr ABC Inc

[Follow our live coverage of the 2019 Democratic debate tonight in Houston.]

  • The debate is 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern, and you can watch it on ABC and Univision. It is being held in Houston and will also be available on streaming services.

  • Ten Democratic candidates will debate: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Senator Cory Booker, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former housing secretary Julián Castro.

  • The candidates will have 60-second opening statements, followed by 60 seconds to answer questions from the four moderators: George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, Linsey Davis and Jorge Ramos. There will be no closing statements.

  • The New York Times will have extensive debate coverage, including a live analysis throughout the event by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Astead W. Herndon, Annie Karni, Sydney Ember, all hosted by Lisa Lerer.

Join us for live analysis on debate night. Subscribe to “On Politics,” and we’ll send you a link.

Quick, name the most substantive discussion of foreign policy you have heard during the nearly 10 hours of debates so far. Struggling? Yes, foreign affairs has played a minimal role so far in the Democratic primary debates but that could change on Thursday night.

In particular, Mr. Sanders has suggested that he wants to differentiate himself on international matters from Mr. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, especially focusing on Mr. Biden’s initial support for the Iraq War in 2003.

But there are plenty of international developments for the candidates to weigh in on:

  • President Trump’s plan to invite Taliban leaders to Camp David, before their secret Afghanistan peace talks collapsed.

  • The ouster of John Bolton, the former national security adviser.

  • The turmoil in the British Parliament over Brexit.

  • The pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank.

  • Turkey returning refugees to Syria, and refugees from the Bahamas arriving in Florida.

Like on so many matters, Mr. Biden’s long record leaves openings for his rivals to pick over. But it could also give him gravitas in the eyes of many voters, and an ability to position himself as a steady hand at a moment of turbulence.

Disagreements within the field over what to do on health care — the issue that most Democratic strategists believe propelled the party’s gains in the 2018 midterms — offer some of the clearest fissures in the race.

They are likely to be a major issue of debate on Thursday. One reason for that? Multiple campaigns see political advantage in highlighting their differences.

For Mr. Sanders, whose campaign has adopted the “no middle ground” mantra, his uncompromising push for “Medicare for all” is almost definitional. Of the 10 candidates onstage, only two have unequivocally stated that they support phasing out private insurers from the American marketplace as part of their plan to implement a “Medicare for all” system: Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren.

Advisers to other campaigns have seen that as politically treacherous — possibly ceding the party’s advantage on the issue back to the Republican Party.

Mr. Biden has portrayed his health care plan as building upon the Affordable Care Act, while positioning his pro-“Medicare for all” rivals as undermining that achievement.

As Mr. Biden said in a recent television ad, “Obamacare is personal to me. When I see the president try to tear it down, and others propose to replace it and start over, that’s personal to me, too. You’ve got to build on what we did.”

Our colleague Zolan Kanno-Youngs had a story on Wednesday looking at the immigration plans — or lack thereof — of the Democratic hopefuls. The story began:

One Democratic candidate would post asylum officers at the border to decide immigration cases on the spot. Others would create an entirely new court system outside the Justice Department. Some have suggested reinstating a program that would allow Central American minors to apply for refugee status in their home countries.

The Democrats running for the White House do not lack ideas on the hot-button issues of immigration and border control. But as they prepare to take the stage on Thursday for their debate in Houston, most would rather talk about the hard-line policies of the man they seek to replace, President Trump.

The candidates have disagreements: whether to repeal a statute that makes crossing the border without permission a criminal offense, for instance, and whether to provide undocumented immigrants with taxpayer-subsidized health care. And there are also a lot of unknowns about what the candidates favor in terms of who to deport and other areas of immigration that may be unpopular with some Democrats. The debate could bring additional clarity to one of the most hotly discussed and intensely felt issues facing Americans.

Ever since they sparred from across a Senate hearing room in 2005, Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren have represented the Democratic Party’s poles on economic policy. Now they will meet on a debate stage for the first time Thursday, an encounter that many Democrats have been eagerly awaiting.

There has been relatively little sword-crossing between the two on the campaign trail. Ms. Warren had a lone quip about Mr. Biden previously being “on the side of the credit card companies.” Mr. Biden pooh-poohs Ms. Warren’s plans without mentioning her name.

But pressed by Thursday night’s moderators and, perhaps, their fellow candidates, there will be little room for Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren to hide from the fight — one that Ms. Warren appears far more eager to re-enact than does Mr. Biden, who Ms. Warren told The Boston Globe in 2012, once referred to her as “that woman who cleaned my clock.”

With so much anticipation toward and attention to the Biden-Warren showdown, the big question is how long the moderators wait to tee up the confrontation. In the first two sets of debates, NBC and CNN spent the first 30 minutes focusing the candidates on health care policy. Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren differ there, too, but for two candidates hoping to focus on the future, real fireworks may come when they discuss the past.

Once upon a time — in 2015 — Ms. Warren and Ms. Harris were very close. Ms. Warren was among the first to endorse Ms. Harris’s Senate run, sending a fund-raising solicitation the day her senate campaign began.

The two were ideological partners, having worked together when Ms. Harris, as California’s attorney general, sued the big banks over her state’s mortgage crisis.

But in the 2020 campaign they have taken different paths while competing for the same set of Democratic voters — those with college degrees, especially women. Ms. Warren’s rise over the last four months has come as Ms. Harris has fallen.

Now they will appear on a debate stage for the first time Thursday night in Houston. Ms. Harris has edged away from the firebrand liberalism Ms. Warren espouses. She’s hedged on her support for a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health care system and stumbled when talking about policy specifics, both areas in the Warren wheelhouse.

Ms. Warren, far ahead of Ms. Harris in public polling, is unlikely to go on the attack first, but she is certain to be ready if Ms. Harris seeks to draw a contrast between them or declares that Ms. Warren’s politics are too risky for a general electorate.

For Ms. Harris, who has shown great skill at made-for-social media moments, the stakes are much higher. Having seen her debate moment with Mr. Biden dissipate over the summer, she must find a way to strike a permanent vision in voters’ minds in Houston. That may mean taking a bite out of Ms. Warren’s popularity.

It spotlights the key candidate pairings and political dynamics onstage, assessing how the top-tier Democrats are likely to engage and how the rest of the contenders will try to find breakout moments. Read the guide here.

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Summer Debate Recap: How Did the Top Four Candidates Perform Last Time?

HOUSTON — Ahead of Thursday’s debate, we looked back at how the leading Democratic candidates — Joseph R. Biden Jr., Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — performed in the first two debates.

Here’s a refresher on the high points, and low points, including some of the more memorable lines of the primary race so far.

LIVE UPDATES

After a shaky performance in the first debate, Mr. Biden was somewhat steadier in his second appearance, including when he reached for a classic Bidenism to respond to talk from his opponents about “Medicare for all” and the failings of the current health care system. “This idea is a bunch of malarkey,” he said, before warning about what a Medicare-for-all system would cost.

Mr. Biden was on the receiving end of the most memorable attack in the debates so far, when Senator Kamala Harris of California confronted him over his comments about segregationist senators and his record on busing.

“There are very few candidates who are able to connect on an emotional and personal level with voters the way Joe Biden typically does. But in that exchange with Harris, when she looked at him and gave an intensely personal anecdote, he fell far short of doing so.” Mo Elleithee, former spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, on the first debate

“@JoeBiden finally played the card he should have played in the last debate when @KamalaHarris challenged him on race. @BarackObama vetted his record and nominated him for Vice President.” David Axelrod, former chief strategist for President Barack Obama, on the second debate

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CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

It’s usually the moderator who cuts off a candidate. In this case Mr. Biden did it to himself, bringing to a close his lackluster response after Ms. Harris confronted him.

Ms. Harris’s attack on Mr. Biden over race and busing gave a jolt of energy to her campaign, attracting a surge in donations and a bump in the polls. By invoking her personal story, Ms. Harris also contrasted herself as a young, fresh face in the Democratic Party, as opposed to Mr. Biden’s elder statesman status.

In the second debate, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii targeted Ms. Harris with a fierce attack on her record as a prosecutor. Ms. Gabbard said Ms. Harris owed an apology to “the people who suffered under your reign.” Though Ms. Harris has defined herself as a “progressive prosecutor,” Ms. Gabbard’s attack highlighted a part of Ms. Harris’s career that can be wielded against her in the primary race.

“Harris directly confronting Biden on busing/segregationists was historic, powerful, and unimaginable on a presidential stage until very recently, which is itself symptomatic of a world Biden is struggling to defend.” Rebecca Traister, writer-at-large for New York magazine, on the first debate

“@KamalaHarris has been on defense all night. A stark difference from the first debate.” Patti Solis Doyle, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid, on the second debate

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CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

After Ms. Harris confronted Mr. Biden over busing, her campaign tried to capitalize on the moment by selling T-shirts showing a picture of Ms. Harris as a young girl.

Mr. Sanders has put a big focus on his signature policy proposal, creating a Medicare-for-all system in the United States. “I wrote the damn bill!” he declared during the second debate. He has not let voters forget it: He has used the line many times on the campaign trail since then.

During an exchange about climate change at the first debate, Mr. Sanders raised his hand to signal that he wanted to speak. But the moderators ignored him and turned instead to John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado. The moment typified the night for Mr. Sanders, who at times all but disappeared from the conversation even as his ideas took center stage at the debate.

“These Bernie lines seem very familiar. Is he there or just a hologram?” Mr. Axelrod on the first debate

“I tend to think candidates who do best in debates are the ones who appear the most committed to whatever it is they are selling. Hands down Bernie wins the health care section — most Dems are with him on it, and he showed outrage and anger when the gnats swarmed.” Scott Jennings, Republican strategist and adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell, on the second debate

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CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

The line came during an exchange with Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio. The Sanders campaign quickly offered “I wrote the damn bill” stickers in exchange for campaign donations.

Ms. Warren found a convenient foil in John Delaney, the former Maryland congressman, who argued in the second debate that the progressive policies she advocates were unrealistic. Ms. Warren’s candidacy revolves around the idea of fighting for sweeping change, and her comeback to Mr. Delaney — expressing bafflement about why someone would run for president with a message of discouraging big ideas — packed a punch.

Ms. Warren made it through the first two debates without any glaring missteps. But one moment could be used against her in the future: when she raised her hand in support of abolishing private health insurance. A supporter of Medicare for all, Ms. Warren makes no apologies for taking that position. But her stance could provide ammunition to those seeking to paint her as too extreme in her progressive policies, including President Trump if she were to become the Democratic nominee.

“They could teach classes in how @ewarren talks about a problem and weaves in answers into a story. She’s not just wonk and stats.” Christina Reynolds, spokeswoman for Emily’s List and former aide to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, on the first debate

“Big difference in communication style: Sanders answers health care question by railing against the big health care companies. Warren answers by personalizing the issue, telling the story of a real person. The first is designed to rile people up. The second, to draw them in.” Mr. Elleithee on the second debate

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Westlake Legal Group 11vid-warren-debate-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600 Summer Debate Recap: How Did the Top Four Candidates Perform Last Time? Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

One thing is certain on Thursday night: This particular fight will not be revived, as Mr. Delaney failed to qualify for the debate.

Sydney Ember and Katie Glueck contributed reporting from New York, and Astead W. Herndon from Houston.

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Tonight’s Democratic Debate: Live Updates From Houston

How to watch: 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern on ABC, Univision and on streaming services.

Moderators: The debate will be hosted by George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, Linsey Davis and Jorge Ramos.

Candidates: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Senator Cory Booker, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former housing secretary Julián Castro.

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160680825_30918437-2330-45b3-84c7-cc1bd6b41f2d-articleLarge Tonight’s Democratic Debate: Live Updates From Houston Yang, Andrew (1975- ) Warren, Elizabeth Univision Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto Klobuchar, Amy Houston (Tex) Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Castro, Julian Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr ABC Inc

The third Democratic debate is being hosted by ABC News and Univision at Texas Southern University in Houston on Thursday.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

It is the presidential campaign that brought hundreds of reporters and photographers to this sprawling, and still-steamy-in-September, city. But while Texas Democrats are happy to host the third presidential primary debate, it is not the White House race that many of them are most excited about.

One year after they beat a pair of veteran House Republicans, Democrats here are downright giddy about the possibility of picking up even more seats in 2020. That’s because of what has been called the “Texodous” — the decisions of five, so far, House Republicans from Texas to retire rather than seek re-election.

“They see the handwriting on the wall,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Chair.

Three of the G.O.P. lawmakers who are retiring had won re-election by only five points or less and hail from districts filled with the sort of suburban and nonwhite voters who are uneasy with President Trump and are nudging this state toward the political center.

Even though he won Texas by nine points, Mr. Trump’s standing has plummeted in Texas: a new Quinnipiac poll found that 50 percent of the state’s voters disapprove of his job performance and 48 percent said they would definitely not vote for him next year.

While few officials in either party believe Democrats could capture the state from Mr. Trump next year, their prospects up and down the ticket here could depend in part on who they nominate.

And Mr. Hinojosa said most Texas Democrats were less focused on policy issues than who can make the best case against Trump. “They want a candidate that can beat him,” he said. “That’s the number one priority.”

But as for his own priorities, Mr. Hinojosa said he was more focused further down the ticket.

“Our main goal in Texas right now is to flip the state House,” he said, noting that many of the nine seats they are hoping to pick up in the legislature are in those same suburban districts where they may be able to win more congressional races.

And why is he so focused on state house races going into a year when Democrats have a chance at the White House? Because if Democrats control one chamber of the legislature they could at least slow Republican attempts to redraw legislative boundaries for another decade after next year’s census.

Below the marquee matchup between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren, perhaps the most intriguing subplot onstage will be among the candidates stuck in the single-digits in polling trying to position themselves as the leading, less ideological alternative to Mr. Biden.

For now, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders seem to dominate the left. Who can emerge as Mr. Biden’s leading rival for the center-left?

The various candidates each have different theories of the case. Mr. Buttigieg has been making a generational argument, though he has increasingly waded into more centrist and unifying grounds. “We need real solutions, not more polarization,” he said in his first TV ad that aired in Iowa.

Ms. Harris, who confronted Mr. Biden directly in the first debate, has tried to position herself as a tough former prosecutor who could take on President Trump one-on-one. Ms. Klobuchar is probably closest to Mr. Biden ideologically and has sold herself as a Midwestern moderate (who would also be a history-making first female president). Mr. Booker has, like Mr. Biden, promised to unify the nation and positioned himself as a healer. But while Mr. Biden has focused chiefly on beating Mr. Trump, Mr. Booker has said from the start that is “a floor not a ceiling” for 2020.

Senator Bernie Sanders has shown no inclination to squabble with Senator Elizabeth Warren.CreditNick Cote for The New York Times

If other candidates are itching to go after Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders has shown no inclination to squabble with the other leading liberal in the race.

At his debate preparations in Colorado this week, Ms. Sanders has focused on what he has been talking about his entire political career: limiting the power of corporations, installing a single-payer health care system and requiring billionaires to pay more to subsidize a broader social safety net.

That’s not likely to draw him into much of a contrast with Ms. Warren, but it may lead him into a fight with Mr. Biden, either as a tag-team partner with Ms. Warren or on his own.

Mr. Biden, aside from ideological differences, is Mr. Sanders’s chief competitor for Democratic primary voters. Their supporters tend to be lower-income, less educated and far less tuned in to the day-to-day machinations of the presidential campaign than those who back candidates like Ms. Warren or Mr. Buttigieg.

So for Mr. Sanders, a clash with Ms. Warren does less good than showcasing his ideological contrast with Mr. Biden and peeling support away from the former vice president.

Unlike many onstage in Houston, the question for Ms. Harris is not whether she can have a breakout moment. She can. She already has. The question — a harder one to answer — is whether she can turn a strong debate performance into sustained political momentum.

Ms. Harris’s first debate takeover of Mr. Biden of his past work with segregationists and busing led to a quick rise in the polls that quickly faded.

In the second debate, Ms. Harris arrived as the subject of attacks herself — most sharply by Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who will not be onstage this week — and delivered a more uneven performance.

Ms. Harris has herself among the top-tier candidates but that is the kind of phrase often best left for others to utter. Her mandate on Thursday is to show that to be the case, and then have public polling demonstrate the same.

Beto O’Rourke has dropped the F-word in several recent interviews while describing his anger about the spread of gun violence.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Our colleague Michael Grynbaum wrote today about ABC’s decision not to delay Thursday’s broadcast, leaving censors helpless to bleep any blurted profanities:

Faced with profligate profanities on the campaign trail — and at least one candidate who publicly threatened to work blue on its airwaves (ahem, Beto O’Rourke) — ABC News issued a warning this week to the 10 Democrats appearing on the debate stage in Houston on Thursday: Keep it clean, folks.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that, as the debate will air on the ABC broadcast network, we are governed by Federal Communications Commission indecency rules,” Rick Klein, the network’s political director, wrote in a memo forwarded to campaigns by the Democratic Party.

“Candidates should therefore avoid cursing or expletives in accordance with federal law,” Mr. Klein added, presumably sighing deeply.

The fact that the debate will be carried on regular broadcast airwaves — instead of cable — means the network could face penalties from federal regulators if obscenities are uttered.

Jonathan Martin and Astead W. Herndon contributed reporting from Houston.

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Tonight’s Democratic Debate: What Time Is It and How to Watch

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  • The debate is 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern, and you can watch it on ABC and Univision. It is being held in Houston and will also be available on streaming services.

  • Ten Democratic candidates will debate: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Senator Cory Booker, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former housing secretary Julián Castro.

  • The candidates will have 60-second opening statements, followed by 60 seconds to answer questions from the four moderators: George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, Linsey Davis and Jorge Ramos. There will be no closing statements.

  • The New York Times will have extensive debate coverage, including a live analysis throughout the event by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Astead W. Herndon, Annie Karni, Sydney Ember, all hosted by Lisa Lerer.

Join us for live analysis on debate night. Subscribe to “On Politics,” and we’ll send you a link.

Quick, name the most substantive discussion of foreign policy you have heard during the nearly 10 hours of debates so far. Struggling? Yes, foreign affairs has played a minimal role so far in the Democratic primary debates but that could change on Thursday night.

In particular, Mr. Sanders has suggested that he wants to differentiate himself on international matters from Mr. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, especially focusing on Mr. Biden’s initial support for the Iraq War in 2003.

But there are plenty of international developments for the candidates to weigh in on:

  • President Trump’s plan to invite Taliban leaders to Camp David, before their secret Afghanistan peace talks collapsed.

  • The ouster of John Bolton, the former national security adviser.

  • The turmoil in the British Parliament over Brexit.

  • The pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank.

  • Turkey returning refugees to Syria, and refugees from the Bahamas arriving in Florida.

Like on so many matters, Mr. Biden’s long record leaves openings for his rivals to pick over. But it could also give him gravitas in the eyes of many voters, and an ability to position himself as a steady hand at a moment of turbulence.

Disagreements within the field over what to do on health care — the issue that most Democratic strategists believe propelled the party’s gains in the 2018 midterms — offer some of the clearest fissures in the race.

They are likely to be a major issue of debate on Thursday. One reason for that? Multiple campaigns see political advantage in highlighting their differences.

For Mr. Sanders, whose campaign has adopted the “no middle ground” mantra, his uncompromising push for “Medicare for all” is almost definitional. Of the 10 candidates onstage, only two have unequivocally stated that they support phasing out private insurers from the American marketplace as part of their plan to implement a “Medicare for all” system: Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren.

Advisers to other campaigns have seen that as politically treacherous — possibly ceding the party’s advantage on the issue back to the Republican Party.

Mr. Biden has portrayed his health care plan as building upon the Affordable Care Act, while positioning his pro-“Medicare for all” rivals as undermining that achievement.

As Mr. Biden said in a recent television ad, “Obamacare is personal to me. When I see the president try to tear it down, and others propose to replace it and start over, that’s personal to me, too. You’ve got to build on what we did.”

Our colleague Zolan Kanno-Youngs had a story on Wednesday looking at the immigration plans — or lack thereof — of the Democratic hopefuls. The story began:

One Democratic candidate would post asylum officers at the border to decide immigration cases on the spot. Others would create an entirely new court system outside the Justice Department. Some have suggested reinstating a program that would allow Central American minors to apply for refugee status in their home countries.

The Democrats running for the White House do not lack ideas on the hot-button issues of immigration and border control. But as they prepare to take the stage on Thursday for their debate in Houston, most would rather talk about the hard-line policies of the man they seek to replace, President Trump.

The candidates have disagreements: whether to repeal a statute that makes crossing the border without permission a criminal offense, for instance, and whether to provide undocumented immigrants with taxpayer-subsidized health care. And there are also a lot of unknowns about what the candidates favor in terms of who to deport and other areas of immigration that may be unpopular with some Democrats. The debate could bring additional clarity to one of the most hotly discussed and intensely felt issues facing Americans.

Ever since they sparred from across a Senate hearing room in 2005, Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren have represented the Democratic Party’s poles on economic policy. Now they will meet on a debate stage for the first time Thursday, an encounter that many Democrats have been eagerly awaiting.

There has been relatively little sword-crossing between the two on the campaign trail. Ms. Warren had a lone quip about Mr. Biden previously being “on the side of the credit card companies.” Mr. Biden pooh-poohs Ms. Warren’s plans without mentioning her name.

But pressed by Thursday night’s moderators and, perhaps, their fellow candidates, there will be little room for Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren to hide from the fight — one that Ms. Warren appears far more eager to re-enact than does Mr. Biden, who Ms. Warren told The Boston Globe in 2012, once referred to her as “that woman who cleaned my clock.”

With so much anticipation toward and attention to the Biden-Warren showdown, the big question is how long the moderators wait to tee up the confrontation. In the first two sets of debates, NBC and CNN spent the first 30 minutes focusing the candidates on health care policy. Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren differ there, too, but for two candidates hoping to focus on the future, real fireworks may come when they discuss the past.

Once upon a time — in 2015 — Ms. Warren and Ms. Harris were very close. Ms. Warren was among the first to endorse Ms. Harris’s Senate run, sending a fund-raising solicitation the day her senate campaign began.

The two were ideological partners, having worked together when Ms. Harris, as California’s attorney general, sued the big banks over her state’s mortgage crisis.

But in the 2020 campaign they have taken different paths while competing for the same set of Democratic voters — those with college degrees, especially women. Ms. Warren’s rise over the last four months has come as Ms. Harris has fallen.

Now they will appear on a debate stage for the first time Thursday night in Houston. Ms. Harris has edged away from the firebrand liberalism Ms. Warren espouses. She’s hedged on her support for a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health care system and stumbled when talking about policy specifics, both areas in the Warren wheelhouse.

Ms. Warren, far ahead of Ms. Harris in public polling, is unlikely to go on the attack first, but she is certain to be ready if Ms. Harris seeks to draw a contrast between them or declares that Ms. Warren’s politics are too risky for a general electorate.

For Ms. Harris, who has shown great skill at made-for-social media moments, the stakes are much higher. Having seen her debate moment with Mr. Biden dissipate over the summer, she must find a way to strike a permanent vision in voters’ minds in Houston. That may mean taking a bite out of Ms. Warren’s popularity.

It spotlights the key candidate pairings and political dynamics onstage, assessing how the top-tier Democrats are likely to engage and how the rest of the contenders will try to find breakout moments. Read the guide here.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com