I picked the best and the worst from the night. They’re below.
*Beto O’Rourke: Supporters of the former Texas congressman have been waiting for months for the O’Rourke that showed up on Thursday night. “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15,” O’Rourke pledged when the topic turned to gun control and the recent mass shootings in Texas. And the audience went wild. Yes, O’Rourke was helped by his opponents — including Biden and Elizabeth Warren — taking time out to praise him for his statements on gun control. And, yes, that speaks to the fact that they don’t believe he poses any threat to their chances at the nomination. Still, for a candidate who has been losing altitude for months now, O’Rourke had a night to remember.
*Kamala Harris’ opening statement: I thought a bunch of the California senator’s prepared one-liners — and she had a LOT of them — fell flat. (Case in point: “Instead of saying ‘no we can’t’ let’s say ‘yes we can.'” Oomph.) BUT Harris dedicating her entire opening statement to directly addressing Trump was smart. And her closing line — “And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News” — was a huge applause line in the room and likely will be replayed dozens of times over the next 24 hours.
*Julián Castro: The former San Antonio mayor had a clear plan going into this debate: Go after Biden and paint himself as the true heir to the Obama legacy. Unfortunately for Castro, he went way too hard at Biden on the age issue with his “are you forgetting” line — that he repeated four times. The attack wound up making Biden look sympathetic — and the former vice president’s response, measured and in control, made Castro look small.
*Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator wasn’t bad — she just wasn’t super involved in the debate, which is weird given that she is widely seen as the strongest challenger to Biden at the moment. For a chunk of the first hour of the debate, Warren sort of disappeared. Some of that is a function of not getting questions from the moderators. But Warren also needs to find ways into conversations — especially given how centrally located she was on the stage. When she got questions, Warren was solid, particularly when talking about teachers and her own personal narrative. But she didn’t get enough questions.
*The economy: This was a looooong debate. And we know that, in election after election, voters say the state of the economy (and how they feel about it personally) has a huge impact on their vote. Which makes the fact the economy wasn’t the subject of a single question in that time remarkable. And bad.