They tried to grab the spotlight, offered policies, interrupted each other and mostly steered clear of President Donald Trump (although the biggest applause line was directed right at Trump). The Democratic contest to beat Trump next year ramped up on Wednesday with the first of two debates among the large field of candidates.
Ten candidates took the stage in Miami, and another 10 will Thursday night in match-ups hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
The field is large and the 10 Democrats struggled to break out. Here are some of the top moments during the two hours of questions.
REMAKING THE AMERICAN ECONOMY
The first question went to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and it was on one of her top issues: the economy. With 71 percent of Americans saying the economy is doing well, 60 percent of them Democrats, are the significant changes she calls for risky?
“Who is this economy really working for?” she asked. “It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”
The economy is doing great for giant drug companies, not for Americans who needed prescriptions filled, for those who want to invest in private prisons, not for African Americans and Latinx whose families are being torn apart, and giant oil companies, not for Americans hurt by climate change, she said.
“When you’ve got a government, when you’ve got an economy, that does great for those with money but isn’t doing great for everybody else. That is corruption pure and simple. We need to call it out, we need to attack it head on and we need to make structural change in our government, in our economy and in our country.”
The economy is the top issue for all Americans regardless of political affiliation, at 33%, according to Emerson College Polling.
Warren was the only candidate in Wednesday's debate who is polling in the double digits. She has made a name for herself for comprehensive plans that would remake the economy, from eliminating student debt to increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke was the first, speaking Spanish as he addressed the need for an economy that works for everyone. A short while later, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey did the same.
“When people come to this country they do not leave their human rights at the border,” he then said in English.
The Hispanic population in the United States stood at 57.5 million in 2016, making it the country’s largest ethnic or racial minority, according to the Census Bureau. Hispanics constituted 17.8 percent of the country.
And in his closing statement, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro -- the only Latino candidate in the field -- added that he would say, "Adiós to Donald Trump." Adiós was its own trending item afterward on Twitter.
AN AFRICAN AMERICAN SON
In such a crowded field, the Democrats need to stand out. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tried one way, interrupting the other candidates a number of times.
And then on the question of guns, he went for another: as the only candidate on the stage raising a black son, with whom he has had to have direct conversations with about police.
De Blasio has raised the topic before, telling New Yorkers about warning his son, Dante, about the dangers he might face in encounters with police. De Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American.
While many reacted well to his comments, the leaders of the police union took them as a sign of disrespect.
IRAN’S NUCLEAR THREAT
Booker, of New Jersey, tried another tactic. When all of the candidates were asked to raise their hand if they'd sign the Iran nuclear deal today, Booker was the only one to keep his hands down.
Booker said he supported the deal, which was signed by former President Barack Obama but rejected by Trump, who claimed it would not stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. But if he had an opportunity to leverage a better deal, he said, he would take it.
And by keeping his hand down, he ensured he'd get a little more face time during the crowded debate.
TWO TEXANS TALKING OVER EACH OTHER
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke went head to head in a battle over immigration.
But their differences were small compared to the gulf between the Democrats and Trump. Castro wants crossing into the United States to be decriminalized for everyone while O’Rourke would keep it as a misdemeanor for non-asylum seekers.
HOT MIC INTERRUPTION
An unplanned break came after Chuck Todd asked Warren a question about gun control. Instead of her answer, the audience heard from the previous moderators, Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie.
“We are hearing our colleague’s audio,” Todd said. “If the control room could turn off the mics.”
The problem persisted.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow joked that they had prepared for everything, but “we didn’t prepare for this.”
NBC cut to an extra commercial break while the technical problem was fixed.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT HEALTH INSURANCE
Lester Holt asked the candidates who would abolish their private insurance in favor of a government-run plan.
Only de Blasio and Warren raised their hands and Warren promoted Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal.
"Yes, I’m with Bernie on Medicare for all,” Warren said. When families in the United States go broke, one of the top reasons is medical costs, she said. And those families often have health care insurance.
“Health care is a basic human right,” she said.
De Blasio jumped in as O’Rourke said he would not abolish private insurance. When O’Rourke said that he thought the choice was fundamental to get everyone insured, de Blasio insisted that private insurance was not working for tens of millions of Americans.
“How can you defend a system that’s not working?” de Blasio asked.
THE COUNTRY’S GREATEST THREAT
What is the biggest threat to the United States?
The answered ranged from China to Iran to Russia to nuclear proliferation to climate change.
But Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's answer delivered the biggest applause of the night: Donald Trump.