The backstory on that Biden-Booker clash
As was hinted at in the lead-up to the debate on Wednesday, Booker and Biden hit each other for their records on criminal justice.
Booker began, calling out Biden for being associated with many crime bills during his time in the Senate and said he can’t just now come up with a plan for reform. Biden snapped back, saying those bills were passed overwhelmingly and he has since moved toward a path of reforming the criminal justice system.
Then Biden went after Booker’s record on criminal justice as mayor of Newark. Booker took over a city that was plagued with violent crime, and he pledged during his campaign to do whatever it took to curb the violence. His tough-on-crime agenda curbed violence early on, but his police department faced soaring complaints as residents alleged officers used excessive force, made unlawful stops, and engaged in racial profiling.
The American Civil Liberties Union called for reform, with the ACLU of New Jersey gave Booker a "D" when it came to "police practices" in 2009. But after slow progress, it petitioned the Justice Department the following year to take action, citing more than 400 allegations — most of which came during Booker's administration — the organization claimed were proof of police misconduct. The Justice Department would end up investigating the police department, and Booker eventually came around on the probe.
In the years since, Booker has been a champion of criminal justice reform. The senator was instrumental in passing the bipartisan First Step Act, signed into law last year. The senator has made many additional proposals aimed at reforming the criminal justice system.
Booker said Wednesday it was “no secret that I inherited” a police department with massive problems and decades long challenges. Booker said he was “shocked” Biden wanted to take on his criminal justice record, saying he was “dipping in the Kool-Aid” and “didn’t even know the flavor.”
“I embraced reform,” Booker said, “You’re trying to shift the debate for what you created.”
Biden has come under fire for his main piece of criminal justice legislation, the controversial 1994 crime bill that experts say contributed to mass incarceration. Of note, Booker, as mayor, utilized grants made available through the crime bill to help rehire Newark Police Department officers who were the victims of municipal budget cuts.
Who won Night 2?
Voters who were hoping for close combat weren't disappointed by Wednesday night's 10-way Democratic presidential debate. There was a lot of it, and it was fierce.
Here's a look at which candidates made moves to help their own cause, which of them slipped and which faded into the background (in no particular order).
Harris calls Gabbard an Assad 'apologist'
During an interview with MSNBC's Garrett Haake, Harris built on the attacks she made on Gabbard during the debate. She called Gabbard an "apologist" for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "a war criminal."
Who spoke the most?
Over the last two nights, it was Biden, Harris and Warren, according to NPR. See how the other candidates ranked:
The race to make the third round of debates is on
With the first two rounds of Democratic debates in the books, attention will begin turning to which candidates will make the DNC's cut for the third round in early September.
The thresholds for qualifying for the next debate will increase, per DNC rules. Candidates must register at least 2 percent in four separate polls (from different media sponsors or different regions with the same media sponsor) and reach a minimum of 130,000 unique donors to their campaigns. The donor threshold is self-reported by the campaigns themselves for now and the DNC does not confirm who has made it until the end of the qualifying period.
That donor threshold is one reason so many candidates touted their websites during the debates. Under the DNC rules, here's where the 20 candidates on stage this week currently stand, according to our count:
Candidates who have reached both thresholds:
Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren
Candidates who have reached the polling but not the donor threshold:
Candidates who have reached the donor but not the polling threshold:
Julián Castro, Andrew Yang
Candidates who have not reached either threshold:
Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson
Twitter knows the flavor
Another viral exchange tonight came during a discussion on criminal justice, when Booker claimed Biden, in attacking Booker's record on the issue as mayor of Newark, was "dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor" (see our earlier blog post for more on that exchange). It quickly became a top-tweeted moment.
Fact check: Biden wrongly suggests Obama put protections for 'Dreamers' into law
Earlier in the evening, Biden suggested that President Barack Obama put a plan to protect "Dreamers" — some 700,000 undocumented immigrant who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — into law.
"The president came along, and he's the guy that came up with the idea the first time ever, dealing with the Dreamers. He put that in the law," Biden said, attempting to fend off a broadside from New York City's mayor over the number of deportations that occurred under the Obama administration.
But that's not true. The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act was a bill that would have given legal status to the so-called “Dreamers.” Several versions of the bill have been introduced in recent years — including while Obama was president — but it has never passed.
Faced with that reality, Obama signed an executive order in 2012 that put into place his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed "Dreamers" without felonies or serious misdemeanors to stay in the country and be eligible for work permits.
However, because it was put into place via executive action, it was always possible that the program would only be temporary. In 2017, President Donald Trump moved to end DACA, although the effort is still tied up in court. The Supreme Court said in June it would decide the fate of the program during its next term.
Fact check: Did 'almost all' of the tax cuts since 2001 go to the wealthiest Americans?
"Since 2001, we have cut $5 trillion worth of taxes. Almost all of it has gone to the wealthiest people in America,” Bennet claimed Wednesday night.
This is exaggerated.
Nearly two-thirds of $5.1 trillion in tax cuts went to the richest fifth of Americans, according to a 2018 report from the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. That’s quite a lot, but it’s not “almost all.”
Gillibrand wants to clean up the environment — in the White House
During a conversation about climate change, Gillibrand was asked about her support for the Green New Deal and whether the proposal is realistic. People are still talking about her answer.
The New York senator responded that her first act as president would be to douse the Oval with Clorox bleach. Re-engaging the U.S. on global climate change would be job No. 2, she said.
Biden sets internet ablaze with closing call to arms
Biden told his followers to “go to Joe 30330 and help me in this fight.”
A quick peek at his Twitter account makes clear that supporters need to “text Joe to 30330,” but the internet had a good time with this one. Many laughs were had on Twitter where users contemplated if Biden knew what he was talking about, thought he was running in an election thousands of years in the future and so on.
Harris dings Biden for his past support of the Hyde Amendment
Nearing the end of the debate, Harris knocked Biden for supporting — until just recently — the Hyde Amendment, a federal law that bars the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions.
"On the Hyde Amendment, Vice President, where you made a decision for years to withhold resources to poor women to have access to reproductive health care, including women who were the victims of rape and incest, do you now say that you have evolved and you regret that?" Harris asked. "Because you have only, since you’ve been running for president this time, said that you had in some way would take that back or you didn’t agree with the decision that you made over many, many years."
Harris is right — the vice president backtracked on his support for the Hyde Amendment just months ago in June, amid a flurry of criticism.
""I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to ... exercise their constitutionally protected right," Biden said, when he announced his departure from the long-held belief. "If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code."
Who is Tulsi Gabbard?
According to Google Trends, Joe Biden (in yellow) was dominating as the most-searched candidate. During the debate, it was Tulsi Gabbard (in blue).