Hard-hitting highlights from the first night of the Democratic debate

Photo illustration of Amy Klobuchar, Bill de Blasio, and Beto O'Rourke.
The first Democratic debate — a two-night event — is hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo. The first night aired Wednesday; the second will air live across all three networks starting at 9 p.m. ET Thursday. Copyright Chelsea Stahl NBC News
Copyright Chelsea Stahl NBC News
By Lauren Egan with NBC News Politics
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A few of the most notable showdowns at the party's first primary season faceoff.


The Democratic presidential primary has been largely — though not completely feud-free — to date. But during the first night of the primary debate in Miami, some took the opportunity to draw sharp contrasts with their opponents — with the targets themselves standing just a few feet away on stage. Here are a few of those memorable moments:

Health care hits

In one of the more heated moments, candidates clashed over health care. Beto O'Rourke said he favored keeping some private insurance. Bill de Blasio disagreed. John Delaney piled on, too, and Elizabeth Warren took the opportunity to voice her support for Medicare for All.

Lone Star showdown

The two Texans, Julián Castro and O'Rourke, shared sharp words over whether they would decriminalize border crossings as president. Castro said he would decriminalize, alleging that O'Rourke — who did not completely clarify his position — would not.

Taking exception to an 'exceptional' claim

As candidates debated health care and abortion access, Jay Inslee said he was "the only candidate here who has passed a law protecting a woman's right of reproductive health in health insurance." Amy Klobuchar pushed back: "I just want to say there's three women up here [on stage] who have fought pretty hard for women's right to choose."

Foreign policy faceoff

Tulsi Gabbard, a veteran, took aim at fellow member of Congress Tim Ryan, who said a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan remained necessary. "Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just 'have to' be 'engaged'?" she asked. "As a soldier, I will tell you, that answer is unacceptable."

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