Included here are excerpts from opinion pages across the country about Thursday’s Democratic presidential primary debate and the 2020 race.

Moderates stood out in the third debate

Jennifer Rubin

The Washington Post

The good news was that we finally got all top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination on the stage at the same time, for a single debate. The bad news was that it was three hours long and that 10 participants vying for attention still make for a sometimes rancorous event. …

What was most striking was the strength of the moderate wing of the party, and the inability or refusal of the two most progressive candidates to directly respond to questions about the cost and logistics of “Medicare-for-All.”

Former vice president Joe Biden, still the front-runner, needed to show that his shaky debate performance in June was a fluke and that he has the stamina to go for three hours. He started strongly, ably defending the public option and indignantly insisting his plan would protect anyone with cancer. He had another strong moment in tipping his hat to Beto O’Rourke for his leadership in the wake of the El Paso mass murder. Without rancor he also admonished [U.S. Sen. Kamala] Harris on the constitutionality of an executive order to ban assault weapons. …

It’s worth remembering that beyond initial reviews, we’ve seen no evidence that debates fundamentally shift the race.

Biden, Warren and Sanders still have the best shotsJim Gerahty

National Review

The conventional wisdom will remain that this is a three-person race, with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders having far and away the best shots at the nomination. …

Perhaps the most dramatic moment came when Julian Castro “went there” on Biden’s age. …“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Everyone knew what Castro was hinting at—forgetfulness. …

Biden…came out with vigor, and he seemed to be enjoying himself early on. But his answers got sloppy, choppy and verbally messier as the night wore on. …

Warren is playing it safe; she may not be throwing haymakers against anyone for a while. ... Someone must have told Warren to avoid any tone or comment that could be labeled “shrill”; this was the softer, kinder, more uplifting Warren. …

Poor Bernie Sanders. He desperately needed a throat lozenge. He still shouts almost every answer, he still rattles off statistics, he’s still insisting that the United States has the highest child poverty rate in the world...

These debates are pretty painful, watching 10 candidates offer variations of bumper-sticker slogans, pretending that we can withdraw our way to world peace, regulate our way to good health, release our way to no crime and spend our way to prosperity.

Democrats believe a normal candidate can’t win

Daniel Henninger

The Wall Street Journal

There is an air of weirdness around the [Democratic] party’s candidates. …

It is virtually impossible to have a conversation with a Democrat older than, say, 40, who doesn’t go into eye-rolling over this slate of candidates. …Their frustration is born of the belief that a “normal” Democratic candidate should be able to beat the increasingly mercurial Mr. Trump. It’s a plausible scenario, but what really depresses many Democrats is the expectation that a normal candidacy isn’t going to happen.

It won’t happen because the Democratic left holds the commanding heights of politics now—traditional and social media whose combined powers of candidate intimidation ... seem impossible to overcome. Building out from this “base” the Democratic left thinks it has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win the presidency. Any such victory won’t have much to do with the beliefs or policy preferences of the electorate. Instead, the progressives—with the Trump 2016 campaign as their model—will turn the election into a … bullfight. The incumbent president is the bull. They’ll let the picadores of the press enrage and ennervate him with barbs until the raging bull stumbles into defeat before the relentless Elizabeth Warren. It could happen.

One big winner and two surprise losers

Doug Schoen

Fox News

In the most contentious Democratic debate thus far, a winnowed field of 10 Democratic candidates took the stage in Houston Thursday night and sparred over hot issues such as health care and immigration.

Notably, this was the first time front-runners Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden shared the stage. At the end of the night, Biden emerged as the winner and Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders were the surprise losers.

Warren and Biden exhibited stark differences on style, policy and vision for the Democratic Party, embodying two opposing theories of what the party should be.

This divide was apparent during an explosive debate over health care, during which Biden went on the attack against Warren, D-Mass., and Sanders, I-Vt., for the costs associated with their “Medicare-for-All plans.” …

Though many were watching Warren expecting her to deliver a knockout performance, the senator fell somewhat short of that expectation. While this will likely not impact Warren’s standing in the presidential race at this early stage—which according to most polls is a close second behind Biden—she did not have the debate moment that many were anticipating.

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