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July Democratic Debate: Live updates from night 2

NBC News' live blog with the latest news coverage from the 2nd night of the second Democratic debate hosted by CNN for the 2020 presidential election.
Image: The second Democratic debate, hosted by CNN, is taking place over two nights in Detroit with 10 candidates on stage each night.
The second night of the Democratic debate, hosted by CNN, is taking place in Detroit with 10 more candidates on stage.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

That's a wrap for the second Democratic debate. Joe Biden came under fire (a lot), and health care was once again a focal point. See how the evening unfolded below and click here for all your fact-checks.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage.

1164d ago / 12:45 AM UTC

Fact check: Does Biden's health care plan cover everyone?


"My plan does, will, cover everyone, number one," Biden said, fending off attacks on his plan to overhaul America's health care system.

His claim is half true. While the Biden plan would provide coverage to millions who fell through the cracks in Obamacare, experts tell NBC News there’s still likely to be gaps due to affordability.

Biden’s plan expands coverage by offering new subsidies to both higher income and lower income Americans who are currently ineligible for government aid to purchase insurance. But it’s likely some Americans will still choose to forgo coverage, even with premiums capped at 8.5 percent of their annual income. Additionally, while undocumented immigrants would be allowed to buy insurance for the first time through Biden’s plan, they would not be eligible for subsidies to help pay premiums.

It’s worth noting that “Medicare for All,” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan, could also have similar coverage gaps with undocumented immigrants. Sanders says he wants to cover undocumented immigrants, but his bill leaves it to the Health and Human Services Secretary to determine who qualifies for coverage and to create rules preventing foreign nationals from traveling to the U.S. for government-sponsored care.

1164d ago / 12:43 AM UTC

Castro gives Puerto Rico a shout out in his opening comments

Julián Castro gave a shout out to Puerto Rico, where massive protests have forced the resignation of the island’s embattled governor. Debate watchers had complained of the island's absence from the debate discussion Tuesday night.

1164d ago / 12:43 AM UTC

Fact check: Is Amazon responsible for closing 30% of America's stores?

“Amazon is closing 30 percent of Americas stores and malls and paying zero in taxes while doing it,” claimed entrepreneur Andrew Yang during Wednesday's debate.

This is a stretch, since Amazon isn’t personally buying up stores and malls and closing them. But of course, online shopping is changing how Americans shop.

Malls are facing enormous pressure and closing rapidly. One expert told Forbes he expected roughly 30 percent of the nation’s malls would close or be repurposed over the next decade, though analysts in 2017 at Credit Suisse pegged the number of coming closures lower.

And while it’s true that the online giant doesn’t pay federal taxes, according to an analysis of corporate filings put out by the progressive think tank Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, the review didn’t analyze state and local taxes.

1164d ago / 12:41 AM UTC

Booker puts the scrutiny on Trump in health care squabble

Amy Walter, a prominent political pundit, faulted last night’s candidates for failing to bring up the Trump administration’s war on the Affordable Care Act, especially Republican-led attempts to undo protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In his answer to a question about Medicare for All just now, Booker did just that. He called on viewers to pay more attention to Trump’s ongoing campaign against Obamacare.

1164d ago / 12:41 AM UTC

Gillibrand first candidate to mention LGBTQ rights

After a near total absence of mention of the LGBTQ community during the Tuesday debate — despite the historic presence of openly gay Pete Buttigieg on stage — Kirsten Gillibrand became the first 2020 candidate on the Detroit stage to mention the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights.

In her opening statement Gillibrand said her mother, who one of just three women in her law school, “worked with gay couples for basic rights.”

“As a freshman senator, I was told you couldn't repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" — even members of my own party told me it wasn't convenient,” Gillibrand continued. “When are civil rights ever convenient? We stood up to the Pentagon and got it done — not impossible.”

1164d ago / 12:39 AM UTC

Harris repeatedly refers to VP Biden as a "senator"

1164d ago / 12:36 AM UTC

Biden praised for improved performance, but some notice stumbles

Biden received pans for what critics saw as a lackluster performance at last month’s debate. But this time around, some viewers are giving him credit for a more impassioned delivery. At the same time, though, others have pointed out that he has repeatedly appeared to stumble over his words. 

1164d ago / 12:33 AM UTC

Biden slams Harris’ health care plan

Biden slammed Harris’ health care plan, saying “you can’t beat Donald Trump with double talk” after the California senator was pressed to explain how she would implement and pay for her plan.

Biden is taking a more direct approach in this debate following their skirmish in the last debate. 

1164d ago / 12:33 AM UTC

Fact check: de Blasio takes credit for progressive strides in New York

In his opening statement, Bill de Blasio listed off a handful of accomplishments he says he got done as New York City's mayor.

“We gave pre-K to every child for free. We got rid of stop and frisk and we lowered crime. We raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour," de Blasio said. 

This is all true, but some of these key wins were the result of action by Albany, not City Hall. For example, getting a $15 minimum wage in New York City for most businesses — while championed by de Blasio — was a product of a statewide roll-out of increased minimum wages.

In addition, de Blasio’s signature campaign promise back in 2013 was providing universal pre-kindergarten, and funding it with a tax for the city’s super-wealthy. He enacted universal pre-K — and it’s wildly popular — but not with a wealth tax, which Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not sign off on. Cuomo, however, found other state funds to pay for the program, which has grown to cover three-year-olds in recent years.

When it comes to crime, citywide total crimes that fall into the seven major felony offenses have consistently fallen since 2014, when de Blasio was sworn in. The overall crime rate for the month of March fell in 2019 to its lowest level for any March since 1994, according to statistics kept by the city.

1164d ago / 12:31 AM UTC

Harris gets first question

The first question of the night went to Kamala Harris.

CNN’s Dana Bash asked the California senator to respond to Biden’s claim that her Medicare for All plan was “confusing.”

Harris forcefully defended her proposal.

1164d ago / 12:29 AM UTC

Reminder: These debates run long

CNN’s plan is to have two full hours of debate in addition to the opening and closing statements.

The first debate question was asked at about 8:26 p.m. ET, so get comfy. 

1164d ago / 12:28 AM UTC

Booker’s opening remarks interrupted by hecklers

Sen. Cory Booker’s opening remarks were briefly interrupted by a group of hecklers shouting “Fire Pantaleo!” They were referring to Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold that caused a fatal asthma attack in 2014. 

Garner’s family has called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to fire Pantaleo. The hecklers in the Fox Theatre tonight could be heard shouting during de Blasio’s opening remarks, too.

Booker quickly tweeted a response.

1164d ago / 12:20 AM UTC

Opening statements

DE BLASIO: We can make change in this country — just like I did as New York City mayor. Tonight is about getting to the heart and soul of who we are as Democrats. Then hits Biden and Harris for past statements. ""We will tax the hell out of the wealthy."

BENNET: Talks about career running Denver’s public schools, says Trump doesn’t “give a damn about your kids or mine.” Adds that “kids belong in classrooms, not cages, and deserve” someone better than “a bully.” Election about reclaiming democracy.

INSLEE: Says Democrats are the “last best hope for the humanity on our planet." Says it will be his top priority. "We can defeat the climate crisis, let's get to work."

GILLIBRAND: Says her mom taught her nothing is impossible. Mentions her role in repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and in funding victims compensation for 9/11 first responders. "We need a nominee who doesn't know the meaning of impossible."

GABBARD: “I love our country,” mentions her career as a soldier overseas. Says she knows patriotism and  "Donald Trump is not behaving like a patriot."

CASTRO: Public service is not about any of us, it’s about you. Says he knows what it’s like to struggle. I’m not trying to make America great again because, "We’re not going back to the past. We’re not going back where we came from. We’re going to move forward.”

YANG: Mentions that he wants to give every American $1,000 a month. Explains why Universal Basic Income is necessary and how he plans to pay for it. Gets a huge applause when he quips, "the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math."

BOOKER: Mentions Trump’s attacks on Baltimore, says Trump is trying to target racists and bigots. Says we desperately need to “heal as a nation and move forward.”  

HARRIS: “We are better than this,” this becomes a moment we need to “fight for” who we are. I will fight with you for “the best of who we are and successfully prosecute the case" against four more years of Trump.

BIDEN: “I’m running for president to restore” the soul of this country. Mentions Trump tearing at the country’s social fabric. “We are strong and great because of this diversity, not in spite of it.” Adds, we are loving it, not leaving it, and we won’t leave it to Trump. 

1164d ago / 12:10 AM UTC

Candidates take the stage

Image: 2nd Dem Debates
1164d ago / 12:09 AM UTC

Hot mic catches Biden calling Harris 'kid'

During candidate intros, a hot mic caught Biden joking with Harris, telling her “go easy on me, kid.”

The standout moment of last month's debate was when Harris hit Biden over his history with busing. 

Biden has also faced scrutiny over his comments to and about women.

1164d ago / 12:08 AM UTC

Yang tieless, again

Yang didn’t wear a tie at the first debate, causing a very minor wave among political fashion aficionados. 

He’s doubling down tonight. Collar’s open.

1164d ago / 12:04 AM UTC

ANALYSIS: In chaotic political moment, Detroit gives Biden an opening

If everything goes right for Joe Biden tonight, he will leave Democrats reassured. 

Heading into the second heat of CNN's Democratic debates, the former vice president and front-runner in the polls for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination has the chance to bolster the case for his candidacy by showing strength at a political moment that cries out for the kind of stabilizing force he's told primary voters he would be as commander in chief.

That means Biden will have to demonstrate he can punch back after absorbing body blows in the first debate. Within the Democratic Party, voters will be listening closely to hear how he makes the case that the best way to defeat Trump is with a more centrist agenda than those offered by progressive champions Sanders and Warren.

1164d ago / 12:01 AM UTC

Dems' health care fight takes center stage


The Democratic candidates are likely to highlight their health care proposals again tonight — a topic that has spurred a high-profile fight among the field's top-tier candidates. Here’s a primer on one of the main proposals.

1164d ago / 11:57 PM UTC

Gabbard’s sister takes aim at CNN for ‘biased/unfair’ format

Thirty minutes before tonight’s debate was scheduled to begin, Gabbard’s sister, Vrindavan, leveled tough words at CNN on her sister's Twitter account.

The tweets, signed “Vrindavan (Tulsi’s sister),” mirror those Gabbard’s sibling sent after the first night of last month’s Democratic debates hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo:

1164d ago / 11:54 PM UTC

Cringe-worthy Tom Perez line

DNC chairman Tom Perez gave a warm up speech ahead of tonight’s debate. He said this:

1164d ago / 11:51 PM UTC

Delaney fires back at Warren... 24 hours later

Former Rep. John Delaney finally fired back at Elizabeth Warren for the punch she landed during last night’s debate. “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” she had said.

Delaney responded shortly before the start of Wednesday's debate.

"I don't understand why anyone goes through the trouble of running for President if they either can't explain how their plans work or can't honestly debate their ideas without reverting to accusing people who disagree with them of reciting Republican talking points,”  Delaney said. “The media should ask Senator Sanders and Senator Warren why they’re so scared to debate the merits of their plans.”

1164d ago / 11:50 PM UTC

The debate last night, served seven ways

If you were too busy to follow our live blog of Night 1 of the second Democratic debate, here’s the play-by-play

Want to dig deeper? Read the full transcript 

Short on time? Here are the highlights in less than three minutes

Or lean back with Alex Seitz-Wald's article on how the debate exposed an ideological rift, Benjy Sarlin's look at the issues that came up, Jon Allen’s analysis and Shannon Pettypiece’s take on who won.

1164d ago / 11:46 PM UTC

Trump gives 2020 field a bad prognosis

President Donald Trump tweeted out an ominous warning to fans and followers heading into Night 2 of the second Democratic primary debate.

“If I hadn’t won the 2016 Election, we would be in a Great Recession/Depression right now,” Trump wrote Wednesday morning. “The people I saw on stage last night, & you can add in Sleepy Joe, Harris, & the rest, will lead us into an economic sinkhole the likes of which we have never seen before. With me, only up!”

Trump’s tweet comes as the Federal Reserve takes the unconventional step of cutting interest rates amid a strong U.S. economy, something Trump has tweeted about regularly as he pursues a trade war with China.

1164d ago / 11:39 PM UTC

Biden appears to be recovering from first debate dip

Joe Biden suffered a sharp dip in the polls after his first debate performance in June, particularly after Kamala Harris confronted him over his past opposition to busing.

But some recent polls put the former vice president just about back to where he was before the first debate. The Real Clear Politics Poll Average, which aggregates a variety of polls, puts Biden at 32.2, compared to 16.2 for Sanders, 14.3 for Warren and 10.8 for Harris. 

That’s very close to what the RCP average had on June 26, the day before Biden and Harris would face off: Biden at 32, Sanders at 16.9, Warren at 12.8 and Harris at 7.

1164d ago / 11:37 PM UTC

Williamson apologizes for calling clinical depression a 'scam'

1164d ago / 11:29 PM UTC

After tonight, the debate requirements get a lot tougher

For some candidates, this will be their last appearance on a debate stage in pursuit of the Democratic nomination.

The next debate, scheduled for September, requires candidates to reach at last 2 percent in four qualifying polls and have 130,000 donors. 

That could mean candidates such as Gabbard and Castro, both of whom will be at tonight’s debate, won’t have a lectern in Houston, where the next debate will be held.

1164d ago / 11:23 PM UTC

Marianne Williamson’s internet fans are scared of her success

The self-help guru’s viral debate performance last night has her fans sitting up at their computers. As one chat moderator told NBC News, "I feel like we have to do more than just meme in armchairs. That's the part that freaks me out the most."

1164d ago / 11:14 PM UTC

Trump mocks debate ratings

Trump voiced his opinion on the ratings for the first night of CNN’s Democratic debate, which were significantly lower than the ratings for the initial debates last month. 

“Very low ratings for the Democratic Debate last night — they’re desperate for Trump!” he wrote.

The Tuesday debate didn’t feature Democratic front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, and also happened to fall on the same date as the season finale of ABC’s “The Bachelorette.”

1164d ago / 11:02 PM UTC

Four storylines to watch

, and

At last night’s debate, the pragmatists struck back, progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren held their own, and Marianne Williamson talked about “dark psychic” forces.

And now we’re on to Night 2, with tonight’s lineup being these 10 Democrats: Biden, Harris, Booker, Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, de Blasio, Michael Bennet, Tulsi Gabbard, Gillibrand and Jay Inslee.

Here are the four storylines we’re watching tonight.

1164d ago / 10:53 PM UTC

Snap the vote

Get ready, kids! Joe Biden is coming to Snapchat.

Biden announced through his Twitter account on Wednesday that he has joined the messaging app, which remains wildly popular with young people — many of whom are not of legal voting age.

Biden teased “a behind-the-scenes look at tonight’s #DemDebate and what’s happening on the campaign.”

Campaigns continue to explore new ways to reach young voters. Sanders has embraced Twitch, the video game streaming platform, while Gillibrand’s staff has looked to short-form video app TikTok.

1164d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

Giants fan Harris caught wearing rival Dodgers cap at debate walkthrough

Today is a turning point in politics — and in baseball.

Kamala Harris represented her home state of California at the walkthrough for tonight’s debate with a Los Angeles Dodgers hat. It just so happens that today was the trade deadline for Major League Baseball, an important cutoff as teams jockey for position ahead of the playoffs. 

The Dodgers currently have the best record in baseball, but a blockbuster trade by the Houston Astros meant that Harris’ team might need to start looking over its shoulder. 

The Dodgers spent the days leading up to baseball's trade deadline searching for a top flight relief pitcher to add to their bullpen — but no trade came to fruition. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giant made a flurry of moves, both adding and subtracting pieces from its club as it hopes to advance to a Wild Card spot.

Harris is an avowed Giants fan and apparently wore the Dodgers hat because it was all that was available. Her husband, Douglas Emhoff, is a huge Dodgers fan.

1164d ago / 10:27 PM UTC

CNN ratings slip compared to previous debate

CNN drew 8.7 million TV viewers for Tuesday night’s debate, a significant decline compared to the first night of June’s Democratic presidential debates. 

The first night of the June debates, which were broadcast on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, drew about 15.3 million viewers

CNN’s broadcast still drew more interest than usual — the company said it was the second-most-viewed Democratic debate in its history. 

1164d ago / 10:23 PM UTC

Biden sets sights on Trump for tonight's debate


Ahead of tonight's debate, senior officials for Joe Biden's campaign gave reporters a background briefing to preview the former vice president's posture heading in to the 10-candidate event.

The big points: Biden will take the fight to President Donald Trump and not take any attacks on his record lying down.

He will make a strong case for why the president’s leadership is failing working and middle class Americans, and the U.S. on the world stage, as a contrast to the role Biden played in the Obama administration helping to save the auto industry and build close relationships that helped Detroit get back on its feet. He’ll have a lot to say on Trump based on the president's comments over the past weeks. To say they are beneath the dignity of the office doesn’t even begin to describe them, as one aide put it. 

And Biden is "not going to take personal swings," said one aide. "That’s not his way, that’s not who he is." But he is "fully prepared" to "point out where other candidates may not be on as solid ground as they think they are in attacking him." Health care specifically will be a focus for him and one in which he won’t shy from making proactive contrasts with rivals. 

Officials said health care was likely to be a focus for Biden in particular in drawing contrasts with his opponents, especially Sen. Kamala Harris. And they expect more questions to be raised about his record on civil rights and criminal justice issues. “We have 51 percent of the African American vote and they want it,” one official said. But the official added that Biden has shown to have resilient support among African Americans that will withstand any attempts by rivals to undercut it. 

Biden's aides stressed that tonight is "not a make or break moment in the narrative of the campaign" for him like it may be for other candidates. The fact that polls show the race has largely returned to where it was before the first debate shows that it is "hard to change the fundamentals of the race in a setting where each candidate is going to get maybe 10 minutes," the aides said.

1164d ago / 10:14 PM UTC

Don’t pardon the interruption

Thanks to what Harris called a “food fight” in the first debate, a candidate "who consistently interrupts" others tonight will be penalized by having his or her time reduced, CNN announced earlier this month.

The new rule came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will take the stage tonight, nudged himself into getting more screen time during the first night of the NBC-hosted debate in Miami last month. Several candidates — most notably Gillibrand, who is also on stage tonight — tried to do the same thing on Night 2 of the first debate.

CNN hasn’t said how much time candidates will lose if they violate the rule. Read about the new rules here.

1164d ago / 9:48 PM UTC

How the candidates are preparing

Front-runner Biden is done being gracious. Booker plans to be himself. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is spoiling for a fight — and for more speaking time.  

The Democrats vying for the presidency have been prepping for their second bout by fine-tuning their messaging, sharpening their attacks and retooling their policy proposals. Here's how they're getting ready for this round.

1164d ago / 9:47 PM UTC

Meet the candidates

Want to know more about the candidates on stage tonight? Read their brief bios and NBC News’ complete coverage of them on our 2020 candidates page.

1164d ago / 9:45 PM UTC

Everything you need to know about tonight’s debate

The final night of the second Democratic presidential primary debate starts at 8 p.m., with a key rematch between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who clashed over the former vice president’s past opposition to federal busing in the first debate. Also flanking Biden will be New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, another vocal critic of the former vice president. Here's what you need to know.