As it was, there was plenty of sparring involving many of the candidates, even if there were fewer fireworks than there might have been given how much was at stake, especially for the lower-ranked candidates seeking to break through in name recognition.
Ms Warren did come under fire, perhaps most notably from Pete Buttigieg, who decided he needed to deliver a jab or two.
Overall, Ms Warren was impressive and smart, though perhaps did no more than hold the ground. Whether she will see her numbers move as a result of what happened tonight is debatable.
The same is probably true for Joe Biden, who almost appeared more relaxed now he was no longer the frontrunner.
He deftly dealt with a question about accusations made by Donald Trump about his business activities and those of his son in Ukraine. All lists are subjective and open to discussion, but here are six candidates who stood out for different reasons.
After making lots of noise in the first debate when she challenged Joe Biden on his record on race relations, the California senator has rather slipped away at the subsequent encounters. On Tuesday night she appeared to be back in the fight. Her best line was about women’s access to reproductive healthcare.
“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle. Not one word with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to reproductive health care. It’s outrageous,” she said. “People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their own lives.”
Most polls show the Indiana mayor alternating with Kamala Harris for fourth place in the race behind Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. He knew he needed to mix things up a bit with the front runners and he did so, arguing for expanding the Affordable Care Act rather than moving to Medicare for All, the government-backed health care programme supported Mr Sanders and Ms Warren. He said: “I don’t understand why you believe the only way to deliver affordable coverage to everybody is to obliterate private plans, kicking 150 million Americans off of their insurance in four short years.”
Some will hate the notion that the Hawaii congresswoman had a good night, but those people have likely already written her off as a Bashar al-Assad-loving outlier. Her supporters say she speaks truth to power and her line about the US’s involvement in the Middle East was delivered with gusto. “The slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime-change war that we’ve been waging in Syria. Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand — but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime-change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime-change war. ”
Twitter was apparently lit up with admiration for the 62-year-old billionaire’s tie. Yet having spent up to $30 million of his own money on ad campaigns and outreach to qualify for the race, he revealed he had very little to say. What a waste.
The Texan got praise, and some criticism, after the previous debate in Houston for asking tough questions about whether Joe Biden was physically and mentally up to the job. He was smart, quick on his feet, and had lots of good stuff to say on immigration. In Ohio, he might as well not have been there. Barely a murmur.
The last debate in Houston came days after the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, an event to which the congressman responded with passion and empathy. He won huge praise for calling out Donald Trump on gun control, and accusing him of stirring the sort of hatred that let to the shooting. Debates are not his best venue. But his supporters will be disappointed that he did so little in Ohio to follow up the more passionate performance in Houston.
Bernie Sanders deserves a shout out for simply being there, just a few weeks after suffering a heart attack. He was vigorous, loud and delivered the same answer regardless of the question – as he always does. He gets an extra shout out for thanking everyone, including his rivals, for their well wishes, a moment that appeared utterly genuine.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies