By Aaron Blake, Washington Post–

The first night of the first debate of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is over, with the first 10 candidates jousting Wednesday night in Miami.

Below are our winners and losers.


Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator went into the debate with the biggest target on her back as the highest-polling candidate onstage. But she largely skated. Other candidates didn’t seem to have the appetite to put her on the spot. After the first question, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) all got a chance to offer differences with Warren on her proposals — free college, a huge tax increase on the wealthy, and breaking up big companies, respectively. None of them took the bait, with only Klobuchar offering a quibble — the idea that taxpayers pay for rich kids’ tuition — and even she didn’t actually tie that to Warren’s proposal. From that point on, Warren got a pass. And she used her platform to do what she has done to great effect on the campaign trail: talk about her bold, liberal policy ideas. It’s about the best she could have hoped for after being slotted onto the Joe Biden- and Bernie Sanders-free debate stage.

Julián Castro: For someone on the periphery of much of the 2020 debate, he made a splash. He made a strong statement about the father and daughter who drowned earlier this week in the Rio Grande, saying everyone should be “pissed off” about it. Later, after a joust with O’Rourke on immigration, other candidates emphasized their agreement with Castro. It’s a great sign when other candidates are straining to show they agree with you.

Bill de Blasio: Since making a late entry into the 2020 field, the New York mayor has been the butt of more than a few jokes in D.C. and New York media. He’s also by far the most unpopular candidate in the field. But he was on his game: He cut in to get more time. He talked about having hard conversations with his black son. He talked about his dad’s PTSD, which eventually led to suicide. And he made perhaps the most far-reaching case for government activism outside of Warren — exactly as he wanted.

Raise-your-hand questions: Candidates hate having to answer questions with yes-or-no answers, but sometimes moderators must make them. Good news: You can get all of them to do it at once! The NBC moderators asked the 10 candidates onstage whether their health care plans would get rid of private insurance in favor of single-payer health care. Only Warren and de Blasio raised their hand. Then they all discussed the details. It worked — and it can continue to for the right kind of question.