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.
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How many undocumented immigrants did the Obama administration deport?
As former Vice President Joe Biden defends himself from attacks on the number of deportations during the Obama administration, it's worth taking a look at the numbers.
Department of Homeland Security data shows that the agency removed more than 3 million immigrants in the country illegally from 2009 to 2016. That's an average of 383,307 per year.
For comparison, DHS removed 295,364 undocumented immigrants in 2017. The statistics aren't yet available for 2018.
'Shithole countries' gets a mention
Fact check: Biden touts his role in aid sent to Central American countries
“I already proposed and passed $750 million for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to be able to change the circumstances of why people fled in the first place," Biden said Wednesday night during the debate.
This is true.
Biden led the White House effort to send aid directly to the Northern Triangle countries, and a bipartisan Congress approved $750 million in funding. However, the U.S. began diverting that money in 2019.
De Blasio and Booker press Biden on Obama’s immigration record
Biden has invoked Obama’s record on the campaign trail but stumbled when pressed by de Blasio on if he used his power to tell Obama that his record number of immigrant deportations was bad policy. “Did he use his power to stop those deportations?” de Blasio said. “If you’re debating Donald Trump he won't let you off the hook.”
Biden argued that he “was vice president, not president,” and would not disclose private advice he may have given to the president.
Booker then jumped in and told Biden “you can’t have it both ways.” The former vice president said it was insulting that they were insinuating that Obama was similar to Trump.
This might be a theme during the rest of the night and the campaign. If, as Booker pointed out, Biden wants to use the good parts of Obama’s record, he will have to also answer a lot of the criticism Obama received during his presidency, including being the so-called deporter-in-chief.
De Blasio reaches out to protesters
De Blasio’s team used Twitter to reach out to the protesters who shouted ‘Fire Pantaleo!’ — a reference to Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold that caused a fatal asthma attack.
Rev. Kirsten John Foy and other protesters spoke to reporters after being escorted out of the CNN debate for interrupting de Blasio’s opening remarks.
Foy said his group was there to protest de Blasio’s handing of the Eric Garner case. The group clarified they were not interrupting Booker, but rather yelling “fire Pantaleo” during de Blasio's remarks, and then they were removed.
There have been 50 attacks in the first 50 minutes of tonight's debate
Right now, Joe Biden is the most-attacked candidate so far AND ALSO has delivered the most attacks.
Another big target of the night: Donald Trump. The president has been attacked 19 times so far.
Follow our live tracker here.
It was left vs. center. Now, it’s everyone vs. Biden.
Last night’s debate featured the more progressive candidates, Warren and Sanders, fending off centrists who sought to poke holes in their plans.
There’s been some of that tonight on health care, but Biden has been on the defensive on immigration — including tough questions on the Obama administration’s record on the issue.
Castro stance on decriminalizing border crossings is not a popular one
Julián Castro led off the immigration section with a defense of his idea that illegal border crossings should be decriminalized.
It's an issue that helped Castro get a nice bump after last debate, when he mixed it up with Beto O'Rourke on the issue.
But that's not a very popular stance among Americans at large. A recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll found that only 27 percent of Americans thought decriminalizing border crossings was a good idea, compared to 66 percent who said it was a bad idea. Democrats were split on the issue, with 45 percent calling it a good idea, and 47 percent calling it a bad idea.
Castro and Biden square off on immigration
Castro and Biden — both former Obama administration officials — jousted off over immigration in the debate.
Biden questioned why someone who crosses the border illegally should not be prosecuted criminally. Castro believes that federal law needs to be streamlined to make it a civil infraction. Biden was questioned about Obama’s deportation record, which the former vice president said he would not follow if elected but still make it a criminal offense to cross the border illegally. Castro slammed Biden, saying he hasn’t learned the lessons of the past.
“What we need is politicians who actually have some guts on this issue,” Castro said.
“I have guts enough to say his plan doesn't make sense,” Biden shot back.
Castro in the last debate carved out a lane in being the candidate who aggressively debated immigration reform. This moment was no different.
Inslee gets huge applause for calling Trump a 'white nationalist'
"We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House," he said.
Fact check: Is decriminalizing border crossings the only way to stop family separations?
Castro argued this on Wednesday when asked about his immigration plan.
"The only way that we're going to guarantee that we don’t have family separations in this county again is to repeal section 1325 of the immigration nationality act. That is the law that this president, this administration is using to incarcerate migrant parents and then physically separate them from their children," Castro said.
Section 1325 is the portion of U.S. immigration law that makes entering the U.S. illegally a criminal offense. Simply being in the U.S. without authorization is a civil offense — and people who are found to be in the U.S. without papers can be deported — but section 1325 adds a layer of criminality.
Castro is correct in his description of how the law is being used, but his overall claim isn't historically accurate. The family separation policy was introduced by the Trump administration, but Section 1325 has existed for decades without resulting in the separation of thousands of children from their families.
Yang pivots immigration conversation away from border and toward economy
Yang hasn’t gotten much time, but he’s differentiated himself with some unique points.
On immigration, he talks about the contributions of his parents to the U.S. technology sector, and then uses it to turn to one of his favorite talking points — the economic impact of automation.
Biden echoes GOP talking points on immigration
Fact check: One in four diabetics can't afford their insulin
During an extended exchange on health care, Harris claimed that one in four Americans who have diabetes can’t afford their insulin.
This checks out.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2018 showed that one in four people with diabetes said they were rationing their insulin because it cost too much to buy the amount they needed.
What is “Homestead?”
Harris mentioned the "Homestead" facility during her impassioned plea for immigration reform.
Several Democratic candidates have visited, or have made plans to visit, the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children. The facility is being used as a detention center for migrant children and is about 35 miles south of Miami. The privately run, for-profit center is operated by Comprehensive Health Services, a unit of the large contracting company Caliburn. Because it’s run by a for-profit corporation, it is not subject to state regulations.
At least 2,300 children who were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border are being housed at the facility. After being apprehended, they were placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. Immigrant advocates have said children at the facility are living in “prison-like conditions”
Several Democratic lawmakers have called for shuttering facilities such as Homestead, citing the lack of oversight and the length of time that children are held. They say it’s not in compliance with the “Flores agreement” a legal decision that created guidelines for the treatment of migrant minors in government custody, including that facilities be “safe and sanitary” and that they be released to family members in the country within 20 days.
Harris takes a turn playing defense
In last month’s debate, there was no one who performed better than Kamala Harris — she took the fight to frontrunner Joe Biden and to President Trump.
But at tonight’s debate, the fight came to her when the conversation started with health care.
The California senator has evolved on the issue: She first said that she favored eliminating private insurance (“Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on”). Then on Monday, she released a plan that would move all Americans into a Medicare-for-All system within 10 years, but it would also allow private insurers to offer competing plans – as long as they meet the standards of the government plan.
“I needed to create a plan that was responsive to the needs of people,” Harris said at tonight’s debate, explaining that she listened to voters in changing her position on health care.
But Biden pounced on the change “(you can’t beat President Trump with double-talk”), and he argued it would cost trillions.
And Michael Bennet piled on Harris: “We need to be honest about what’s in the plan.”
Dems push back against ‘Republican talking points’
A bit of a tic has been forming over the last couple nights — claiming that questions about liberal plans are taken from Republican talking points.
In some cases, it’s a fair critique, but as Politico’s Jack Schafer points out, it’s also becoming a crutch.
Biden just dropped a word that might as well be his catchphrase: “Malarkey!”
Biden questions Harris' honesty
In the first of their highly anticipated exchanges, Biden came out firing with a clear intention to cast Harris as dishonest. And his knocks led to more criticism from other candidates.
“The senator’s had several plans so far,” Biden said of Harris’ latest proposal to refashion the nation’s health care system. “You can’t beat President Trump with double talk on this plan.”
Biden’s basic critique is that the Harris variation on “Medicare for All,” which would allow all Americans to enroll in public insurance but also preserve private insurance options, would cost too much, raise taxes on middle class families and take too long to phase in. But the more damaging attack is less about health care and more on the idea that Harris has been deceitful.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said as much by accusing Harris of hiding a plan to outlaw private insurance. Her plan doesn’t do that, but the moderators didn’t stop to check him.
“He just suggested you are not being honest,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said in giving Harris a chance to respond to Bennet.
She didn’t correct Bennet, either, choosing to tell him to stop repeating “Republican talking points.”
Harris got in a couple of shots at Biden’s plan to augment Obamacare, but they fell flatter.
“Your plan does not cover everyone in America,” she said. “For a Democrat to be running for president with a plan that does not cover everyone is without excuse.”
What people are saying about Andrew Yang ... anonymously
People are sharing their election confessions about the 2020 Democratic candidates. Sort by candidate, state or both at ElectionConfessions.com.
Democrats favor Obamacare expansion over a 'Medicare for All' system
While Joe Biden's top rivals have been pushing for a move to a "Medicare-for-All" system over the last two nights, the former vice president is explicitly arguing for the shoring up of the existing Obamacare system, which preserves private employer-based health plans. (He says he'd also add a public option.)
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found a slight majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Biden's approach.
Asked if they prefer the approach of building on the ACA or replacing it with Medicare-for-All, 55 percent chose keeping the ACA, while 39 percent chose the overhaul.
Harris pushes back against rivals on health care plan
Health care was the opener last night, and it’s the opener tonight. And the themes are similar as well: left vs. center.
Harris slammed Bennett and other candidates questioning her health care plan as “Republican talking points.” This was a remark Sanders and Warren also made as they fought back against the more moderate candidates questioning the implementation of their health care plans in last night’s debate.
Harris, who has backed a "Medicare for All" plan but without the stridently populist style of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, seems to be tonight’s proxy for “the left” without the leading progressives on the stage.
While Warren and Sanders helped each other to defend their proposals, tonight Harris is sort of alone here. De Blasio is pushing back as well, but does not have quite the alliance that Warren and Sanders had.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Harris repeatedly refers to VP Biden as a "senator"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Candidates take the stage
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Cringe-worthy Tom Perez line
DNC chairman Tom Perez gave a warm up speech ahead of tonight’s debate. He said this:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Williamson apologizes for calling clinical depression a 'scam'
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.
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."
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.”
Four storylines to watch
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.