The third Democratic debate brought the top-polling candidates together on stage for the first time. And those candidates, in turn, brought some of the most cringe-inducing lines of this presidential cycle.
While politicians are rarely without a corny zinger at the ready, Thursday’s debate appeared more chock full of them than normal. Here are some of the buzziest — for better or worse — one-liners of the third debate.
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Andrew Yang pokes fun at his ethnicity
Yang made clear he’s fine with self-deprecating humor in an exchange about his insights into the health care system.
“Now, I am Asian, so, I know a lot of doctors,” he said, going on to say that the doctors he knew complained about the bureaucracy of the current system.
Joe Biden appeals to … vinyl lovers?
In one viral exchange about education, Biden suggested a novel idea to help students from less affluent areas.
“Play the radio, make sure the television — the, excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the phone — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time we get there.”
Amy Klobuchar nods to the local crowd
In her opening statement, Klobuchar gave a shout out to the debate’s host city of Houston and its NASA roots.
“Now, I may not be the loudest person up here, but I think we’ve already got that in the white house. Houston, we have a problem.”
Cory Booker makes a bald joke
Booker took issue with President Donald Trump’s decision to pick trade wars with U.S. allies, which the president has defended as a way to address national security threats.
“You literally have him using a national security waiver to put tariffs on Canada,” he said. “I’m the only person on this stage that finds Trudeau’s hair very menacing, but they are not a national security threat.”
Kamala Harris misfires with a ‘Wizard of Oz’ joke
Harris pulled out a peculiar reference when discussing her gripes about Trump’s trade policies.
“But the bottom line is this: Donald Trump, in office on trade policy, you know, he reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude?” she asked.
Moderator George Stephanopolous, who is 5’5″, did not appear amused by the question. “OK, I’m not even going to take the bait, Senator Harris,” he responded.
Castro invokes Biden’s gaffes
Castro challenged the former vice president on his health care plan, and appeared to allude to a string of recent misstatements from Biden on the campaign trail.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?” he asked.
Biden takes his own shot at Castro
During the same exchange over the legacy of Obamacare, Castro asserted that his health care plan would insure more than Biden’s, therefore building more off Obama’s signature achievement.
“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not,” Castro said.
“That will be a surprise to him,” Biden retorted.
Klobuchar swoops in to play peacemaker
After a clash broke out between several candidates on stage, Klobuchar stepped in and invoked Abraham Lincoln.
“Yeah, but a house divided cannot stand. And that is not how we’re going to win this.”
Kamala Harris turns an Obama-Biden slogan back on Biden
During an exchange about executive orders, Harris knocked Biden for being pessimistic.
“I would just say: Hey Joe, instead of saying no, we can’t, let’s say yes, we can.”
Booker gets blunt about his veganism
Asked by moderator Jorge Ramos about whether Booker would encourage Americans to adopt his vegan diet to fight climate change, the New Jersey senator appeared genuinely surprised by the question.
“Um, you know, first of all, I want to say: No. Actually I want to translate that into Spanish: No,” he responded.
Harris speaks to an audience of one
In her opening statement, Harris spoke directly to the president, who she said she knew was likely watching. At that moment, however, Trump was delivering a speech to congressional Republicans at their annual retreat.
“I plan on focusing on our common issues, common hopes and desires and in that way, unifying our country, winning this election and turning the page for America,” Harris said. “And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.”
Biden takes a dig at the Democratic socialist on stage
During a debate over differences in Biden’s and Sanders’ health care plans, Biden knocked Sanders’ roots as a Democratic socialist.
“Let me tell you something. For a socialist, you have a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.”
Booker gets retrospective about his biggest setback
While explaining his past electoral failures in his closing statement, Booker went off on a bit of a tangent to gripe about the documentary made about one of the aforementioned failures.
“Here’s a bit of advice to everybody. If you’re going to have a spectacular failure, have a documentary team there to capture it, because it made for an Oscar-nominated documentary called ‘Streetfight,'” he said. “But then unfortunately, another setback, it lost in the Oscars to a movie called March of the daggum Penguins for crying out loud!”
Pete Buttigieg has to follow Andrew Yang’s $120,000 opening statement
“It’s original, I’ll give you that.”