Not only was discussion over their policies on health care and trade central to some of the night’s biggest exchanges, they also offered notable responses to attacks from moderates like Rep. Tim Ryan. (See: Sanders’s “I wrote the damn bill!” when Ryan questioned his claims about Medicare-for-all.)
According to a Washington Post tracker, Warren spoke the most of the 10 candidates onstage, for a total of 17.9 minutes. Sanders came in a close second, talking for 17.6 minutes. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, meanwhile, came in a distant third and fourth behind them, with 14.4 and 10.9 minutes, respectively.
Across gender lines, women talked more than men overall, speaking for 12.5 minutes on average, compared to men, who spoke for 11.8 minutes. This was consistent with the breakdown in June, when female candidates, on average, spoke more than the male candidates — even though both times they spoke less overall, because there were still far more men onstage than women.
In total, female candidates on Tuesday spoke for 37.5 minutes, while male candidates spoke for 82.6 minutes.
Although the candidates who spoke most on Tuesday were closely in line with those who are currently polling the highest, one candidate who stood out for his unexpected presence in the debate, at least early on, was former Maryland Rep. John Delaney. Delaney has consistently polled among the lowest of the crowded Democratic field, most recently hitting around 1 percent in the Morning Consult Democratic tracker. At one point in the debate, however, he ranked in the top four in speaking time, trailing Warren and Sanders by only a couple of minutes.
Overall, Delaney helped serve as a foil for both Warren and Sanders, who attacked his positions as too moderate and complacent. At one point, Warren delivered one of her most pointed lines of the night when Delaney questioned the practicality of her policies. “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” she said.
It’s worth noting that speaking time is a relatively simplistic measure, though several Democratic frontrunners did ultimately lead last month’s debates in Miami. The top four across the two nights of the June debates, according to the Post tracker, were former Vice President Joe Biden, leading with 13.6 minutes of speaking time; Sen. Kamala Harris, with 11.9 minutes; Sen. Bernie Sanders, with 11.0 minutes; and Sen. Cory Booker, with 10.9 minutes.
This time around, Tuesday’s top candidates appeared to command the conversation as well.