8:01 PM: This debate opens with just two candidates: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. The third candidate still running, 38-year-old Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, is not present, presumably social-distancing herself to protect the two elderly and more-vulnerable candidates.
8:02 PM: CNN Moderator Jake Tapper begins the debate with an intensely confused, “You told me we were out of hot dogs, so why do I see you eating a hot dog right now” look on his face. He says no audience will be present tonight because coronavirus has made people reevaluate what sort of life choices they’ve been making to want to be locked in a room with two old men and a few CNN employees. He directs the first question to Biden, noting that events consisting of 50 people or more must be canceled and postponed, and asks what he tells people dealing with stressors from the pandemic. Biden responds by coughing and touching his face in sympathy.
8:08 PM: Tapper points out that Trump has said he takes no responsibility for the coronavirus response because he inherited the red tape of having to have a CDC and a staffed pandemic response team. He asks Biden what he thinks of Trump not taking any blame. Biden points out that the World Health Organization offered the US test kits and President Trump refused them. Tapper then turns to Sanders and asks if he were president, what would he do to make sure every sick American gets treatment. Sanders asks if Tapper knows what the word “all” means, like when people say “all for one” or “Medicare for all.” Biden interrupts and says this has nothing to do with Medicare for All. Bernie responds, “OK, pretend a wife gets sick, and her husband needs to see a therapist, and their kid breaks their leg — what do they do? Explain it to me like I’m five years old.” Biden shakes his head and says, “Look, I’m not going to stand here and go back and forth with you on politics, taking turns and clarifying positions, while people ask questions like some sort of blasted debate. We’re in a war here!” Tapper asks him if he’d call in the military. Biden answers, “You’re darned right, I’d call in the army, and the navy too — look, we got a crisis here and we need to respond like it’s a crisis. This is like when we fought Ebola, and now we’ve got this new malarky SARS, and if I have to call in the generals, then we’re going to get that war room going and fire the ol’ missiles.” Bernie stops him and says, “The problem with Ebola is you can’t just keep treating Ebola like it’s the same thing as SARS, you keep talking about Ebola, you’ve got Ebola in my head — NOT ACTUALLY IN my head, I’m very healthy. I would love to challenge you to a foot race right now, but I have been told by some of my staff to stop doing that. The bottom line is you have to understand the fragility of the economy.” Biden laughs.
8:37 PM: The debate gets heated when Sanders talks about who holds power in the United States and calls for Biden to stop accepting money from super PACs. Biden responds, “You have nine super PACs funding you right now, want me to list them?” Sanders answers, “Go ahead and list them.” Biden waves him away with an “Oh, give me a break,” to which Sanders replies, “I won’t give you a break, list them.” Biden then asks the moderators if Bernie is allowed to make him list them. The moderators consult their rules, but since the rulebook is long and was instituted at the start of the presidential race, they get lost somewhere between “What to do if Marianne Williamson materializes onstage?” and “Why is John Delaney here again?”
8:48 PM: The discussion turns to social safety nets. Sanders calls out Biden’s past remarks on his willingness to consider cutting social security. Biden calls him a liar. Sanders responds, “Oh yeah, go to the YouTubes!” Biden squints his eyes, “Listen, you little snot-nosed shit with your yous and your tubes, I know what I say, and I’m the one who made it happen!” Moderator Ilia Calderón tries to rein in the conversation and asks, “Vice President Biden, yesterday you endorsed a Warren plan you’d opposed, and earlier today you supported Sanders’ proposal to make college tuition-free. What’s changed?” Biden laughs, “Well, you see, I say a lot of things! Look, who can keep track.” He stands very presidentially and nods.
9:07 PM: Via video, an Arizona professor asks the candidates how their cabinet members would best advise them on women’s issues. Sanders responds that his cabinet will look like the country, adding, “Unlike Joe, I have a consistent voting record on a woman’s right to own her own body.” Biden says, “My cabinet will look like the country — wait, did Bernie take that answer already? No fair. OK, then I’ll commit to picking a woman to be my vice president.” Everyone looks at Bernie, who looks around and says, “Me? OK, yeah, I’ll probably do that too.” The livestream continues, “Yes, but it’s time for women to be truly equal, so would you commit to picking a woman to be your arch-nemesis?” Biden squints his eyes, “Ma Beagle, I’m coming for you — you and your Beagle Boys!” Sanders looks over both of his shoulders, “I will fight the ghost of Margaret Thatcher whenever and wherever she chooses to fight me. Again.” Biden laughs.
9:37 PM: Calderón says there are 1.5 million Cuban Americans in Florida. She asks Sanders, “Why would they vote for you when they hear you praise a program of Castro’s?” Sanders responds that he has opposed authoritarians across the world. Calderón then turns to Biden, stating he, too, said similar things about Cuba’s education program. Biden says that Obama was trying to change Cuban policy and that no one should praise authoritarians. Bernie throws his hands up in exasperation. “I didn’t say I was praising them, I was just saying I wasn’t praising them, but this is the problem with politics, you need to be able to acknowledge when something is positive,” Biden interrupts, “That’s like saying Jack the Ripper was good because—” Sanders interrupts him, “No! OF COURSE I DON’T LIKE AUTHORITARIANISM.” Biden responds, “Yes, you do, you totally want to kiss authoritarianism!” Sanders counters, “I said I like ONE authoritarian’s hair ONE time. That does NOT mean I want to kiss authoritarianism! I ABSOLUTELY do NOT!” To which Biden laughs and says, “Whatever, authoritarianism-boyfriend, you’re, like. going to marry authoritarianism.” Sanders sighs. “What I’m hearing is a lot of talk of Joe and who he pictures kissing, and the bottom line is this: it’s an unprecedented time.” Biden nods. "I agree with Bernie. It’s a crisis — a crisis of kissing.”
9:47 PM: Dana Bash asks Biden why his message is not resonating with Latino voters? Biden ignores her. She then asks Sanders why his message is not resonating with African-American voters. Sanders says, “OK, Joe, on this we agree,” and ignores Bash as well.
9:57 PM: For closing statements, the candidates are asked to reiterate their opening remarks because coronavirus is making us all sort of light-headed and only a few people know if any of this is real, or if we’re just trapped in a collective fever dream anyway. I mean, we’re all trapped in our homes, watching old men talk on the TV about what they’ll do if humanity still exists, and at this point, maybe we’re already doomed, so what’s the point of any of this really, other than an excuse to do shots any time Biden asks Sanders how he’s going to pay for Medicare for All?
SANDERS: The bottom line is either you want Medicare for All or you don’t.
BIDEN: Look, Trump’s awful.
TULSI GABBARD: [off to the far side] I have literally been standing here the whole time, did you just not see me or?