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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.

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Live Blog

Climate change heats up debate

After some contentious exchanges over the topics of immigration, criminal justice and race, the debate shifts to global warming.

Inslee goes after Biden, saying "We have to get off coal in 10 years, your plan doesn’t do that.” 

Biden responds that, “We have to talk and chew gum at the same time….We can work it out.”

Inslee drops the hammer: “We can’t work it out. Our house is on fire.”

Joe Biden attacking, getting attacked the most

President Donald Trump may be the most attractive target in tonight's debate, but Joe Biden is not far behind.

Biden is both the most-attacked candidate on stage and the one doing the most attacking: Midway through the second debate, he had made 17 attacks and had been attacked more than 20 times.

Also on attack: Kamala Harris, with 13 attacks and Bill de Blasio, with 10 attacks midway into the debate. Follow along with our debate-night attack tracker here.

CORRECTION (Nov. 21, 2019, 1:00 p.m.): An earlier version of this blog post misstated the number of attacks Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Bill de Blasio made midway into Night 2 of the second Democratic debate. Biden made 17 attacks, not more than 30; Harris made 13, not 24; de Blasio made 10, not 15.

Biden remains overwhelming favorite among African American voters

As expected, issues of race have become a flashpoint in the debate. 

But despite a series of negative stories about Joe Biden's record on race — and a dramatic attack from Kamala Harris in the first Democratic debate in June — Biden remains the overwhelming frontrunner among African American voters.  

In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 53 percent of black Democratic primary voters backed Biden. Eight percent backed Sanders, 7 percent backed Harris, and no other candidate received over five percent.  

And an earlier NBC/WSJ poll in early July found Biden with the support of 46 percent of black voters, with Harris running in a distant second at 17 percent.

Harris and Gabbard offer some of the most contentious clashes of the night

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaks as entrepreneur Andrew Yang and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard listen on the second night of the second 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan, July 31, 2019.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Gabbard has previously said Harris is unfit to be president. The bad blood is evident tonight.

The Hawaii congressman went after Harris for her record as a prosecutor, including her controversial crackdown on marijuana possession. The California senator fired back by suggesting that the congresswoman was pushing empty rhetoric instead of making the hard decisions of law enforcement officials.

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.

How’s Biden doing? It depends

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver notes that Twitterati on the left see Biden taking damage tonight.

Certainly he’s been taking fire, but it’s far from clear that any of the critiques are resonating with his supporters.

Harris attacks Biden on criminal justice but quickly pivots to Trump

Harris went after Biden for his record on busing before hitting the Trump administration’s Justice Department for essentially abandoning oversight of troubled police departments, including quietly scuttling consent decrees.

Where's Yang?

Yang didn’t get to speak much at the first debate. Tonight, it’s a similar situation.

According to NPR’s time tracker, Yang had the least speaking time halfway through the debate with 2:09. Biden had the most at 9:18.


Biden attacks Booker on his record as mayor

Biden pressed Booker on his record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, which is majority black.

The fact is he did implement a zero-tolerance crime policy in Newark, including stop and frisk. And the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey asked the Justice Department to intervene to investigate the Newark police. The probe found hundreds of misconduct violations. Activists have said Booker’s policy created a rift in the very community it was intended to serve. 

Where have Harris and Bennet gone?

NBC's Kasie Hunt: Biden facing 'death or at least serious injury by a thousand cuts'