Winners and losers from the third Democratic presidential debate

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The top 10 Democratic candidates shared a single debate stage for the first time in the 2020 race, trading body blows while drawing stark contrasts on issues like health care and criminal justice reform.

WINNERS

Joe Biden: The first 30 minutes of this debate — typically the time with the highest viewership — were Biden’s best moments in his entire campaign to date. He didn’t stumble as he had in previous debates and was able to show off his righteous anger side when Bernie Sanders seemed to suggest the former vice president was responsible for people getting cancer. (Worth noting: As the debate went on, Biden stumbled more.) Biden also got a bit lucky; Julián Castro’s blatant attempt to make Biden’s age an issue — he kept asking the former vice president if he was “forgetting” what had been said a few minutes before. Low blow.

And sort of ugly — and likely to boomerang back on Castro (more on that below). Biden’s full embrace of Obama — all eight years, “good and bad” — was also smart, since Obama remains a hugely popular figure in the Democratic Party especially among black voters. Overall, Biden looked strong and presidential although it wasn’t perfect — most notably in his meandering (and Trumpian) answer on the way forward on Iraq and Afghanistan. Overall, however, a good night for the vice president.

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