HOUSTON — A pared-down Democratic field took the debate stage Thursday night in Houston, pitting poll heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren against each other for the first time this cycle — but any early fireworks quickly fizzled into a snoozefest.
Biden, Warren and fellow top contender Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders largely played it safe, clinging to their respective oft-repeated talking points, and the seven trailing candidates did little to capitalize.
Reheated attacks on President Trump, as in earlier debates, often drowned out discourse between the 10 White House hopefuls.
Most of the highlights to be found came in the first third of the droning, three-hour affair.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro — the last of the 10 candidates to squeak past the Democratic National Committee’s polling and donor thresholds — took a swing at the front-runner, saying that he, not Biden, was doing the best job of honoring President Barack Obama’s legacy.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, playing with home field advantage, vowed that “Hell yes,” he intends to confiscate citizens’ assault rifles as part of a national gun crackdown.
Outsider candidate Andrew Yang ran out of gas even earlier, peaking in his opening statement in which he tried to entice voters with the promise of $120,000 gifts to 10 families as a teaser for his “freedom dividend” proposal.
The balance of the debate, however, offered little more excitement to millions of viewers — and voters — than the moderator-hampered second round.