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Trump was a distant presence in the first Democratic debate

Castro and O'Rourke spar over immigration policy

There were 10 people on the stage in the first Democratic debate by NBC News Wednesday night in Miami. The 11th name on stage — President Trump — was a presence, but an intermittent one. 

Mr. Trump, who was en route to Asia during Wednesday night's debate, might be a unifying force for the Democratic candidates, but he was certainly not referenced at every turn.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of the more moderate Democrats on stage, was the first to mention Mr. Trump minutes in, and took some of the clearest shots at him throughout the night. Klobuchar, asked about her approach to the economy and student loans, said, "We know that not everyone is sharing in this prosperity, and Donald Trump just sits in the White House and gloats about what's going on."

The Minnesota senator took another shot at Mr. Trump later in the evening, saying, "The president is literally every single day 10 minutes away from going to war. One tweet away from going to war. And I don't think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5:00 in the morning." That comment came after Mr. Trump threatens the "obliteration" of Iran if they attack anything American. 

Rep. John Delaney, one of the lesser-known candidates on stage, discussed the possibility of the prosecution of Mr. Trump after he leaves office, but only when asked. "There's always a first," Delaney said, not dismissing the possibility. But, Delaney added, former special counsel Robert Mueller's report and looming talk of impeachment are not top issues for average Americans. 

It was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who sparked perhaps the strongest applause of the night when, asked what poses the greatest threat to the United States, responded, "The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump."

Some candidates focused on Mr. Trump in their closing statements. 

"This is a referendum on getting rid of him, but it's also a referendum on us," New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said of the upcoming election.  

In Klobuchar's closing statement, she emphasized that she is uniquely positioned to take on and defeat Mr. Trump. 

The president managed to insert himself into the debate while aboard Air Force One en route to the G20. 

"BORING!" Mr. Trump tweeted at 9:35 p.m.

When an audio mishap flustered the moderators and stage, forcing them to go into an unscheduled break, Mr. Trump tweeted moments later at 10:06 p.m., "@NBCNews and @MSNBC should be ashamed of themselves for having such a horrible technical breakdown in the middle of the debate.Truly unprofessional and only worthy of a FAKE NEWS Organization, which they are!"

The president also re-upped a video that was tailored to show the president with yard signs declaring, "Trump 4EVA."

Mr. Trump's reelection campaign said the Democratic debate was like an in-kind donation.

"This debate was the best argument for President Trump's re-election and should really be counted as an in-kind contribution to the president's campaign," Trump campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

The sitting president might be more of a focus Thursday night, when former Vice President Joe Biden is on stage. Biden is building a case around electability, insisting that he is best positioned to take on Mr. Trump.

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