Biggest Takeaways From Second Night Of CNN’s Democratic Debates

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JULY 31: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden (C) speaks while Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) (L) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) listen at the Democratic Presidential Debate... DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JULY 31: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden (C) speaks while Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) (L) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) listen at the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. 20 Democratic presidential candidates were split into two groups of 10 to take part in the debate sponsored by CNN held over two nights at Detroit’s Fox Theatre. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

The second half of the Democratic candidates, relatively more uniform in policy than their night one counterparts, took the stage Wednesday to tussle on everything from criminal justice reform to deportations.

The night was punctuated with chanting hecklers, personal attacks and spotlights on the records of lawmakers like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Here are the biggest takeaways from the debate:

“Take it easy on me, kid”

The initial interactions between Biden, Harris and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) belied some of the underlying tensions between the three. Biden shook Harris’ hand with a folksy “take it easy on me, kid.”

When Booker strode onto the stage, he fixed Biden with a silent and steely gaze. He was much warmer with Harris, giving her a big hug as she called him “buddy.”

The Harris-Biden clash over busing was the most notable snippet from the first debate and Booker has since gotten in on the Biden jabs, earning himself some headlines and ratcheting up the three-way tension.

Harris took some serious heat

Harris was hit early and often by not only Biden, but also Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). In the health care portion, the three of them took aim at her plan, sometimes subtly accusing her of dishonesty.

Here, Bennet calls her his “friend” then proceeds to implore honesty about the contents of her health care plan:

So much heckling

There were multiple bouts of heckling during the debate, some reaching such a pitch as to force the candidates to stop speaking.

The first occurred during New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s introductory statement and seemed to spill over into Booker’s comments. They appear to have been chanting “fire Pantaleo!” a reference to the New York police officer who placed Eric Gardner in a fatal chokehold for selling loose cigarettes.

Later, the chant “three million deportations!” broke out while Biden was speaking on immigration, a reference to those deported under the Obama administration.

Biden took fire on immigration, criminal justice

Both de Blasio and Julián Castro slammed Biden on deportations under the Obama administration, and the former veep seemed flat-footed in response. It was a fairly predictable attack, as he’s the only candidate that served directly in a presidential administration overseeing deportations, as every administration does.

He took heat from Booker on criminal justice reform too, as the senator accused him both of having a poor track record on the issue and not being forward-oriented enough. Harris jumped on the topic too, revisiting the busing debate that was the hallmark of the first debate.

The Mueller report finally came up

The Mueller report came up Wednesday night after being completely omitted on night one. The question was most likely prompted by Harris’ statement about directing her Justice Department to prosecute President Donald Trump, should she become President.

It gave the candidates a chance to reiterate their calls for impeachment, though there isn’t much sunlight between them on the conviction that Mueller brought Trump’s misdeeds to the forefront.

Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. Biden took fire on immigration, criminal justice

    He also returned fire to Booker, Harris and Castro. Was his defense perfect? No, but defense is more so adaptive and when Booker had to explain his previous hires, that encounter was a draw.

  2. These group of D prez candidates should highlight ALL of the ineptitude, incompetence, and idiotic decision of Trump administration and NOT go after each other thus giving the Rs materials to attack the D primary winner!

  3. I’ve actually found this debate to be depressing so far. I enjoyed last night’s debate much more. I hope September’s debate will be more like that.

  4. Last night I didn’t think the candidates had enough time to answer but TONIGHT I think the candidates are wasting their time with petty insults. Gillibrand and Harris are screaming at Biden and ‘demanding’ a purity test when NEITHER one of those ladies would be where they are without people like Biden…but BY GOD they are pissed off he didn’t do MORE MORE MORE. Stop.

  5. How so?

Continue the discussion at

207 more replies


Avatar for bdtex Avatar for valgalky23 Avatar for silvrfox Avatar for ghost Avatar for numpty Avatar for sysprog Avatar for cervantes Avatar for eduardoinohio Avatar for inversion Avatar for arrendis Avatar for 26degreesrising Avatar for darcy Avatar for hoagie Avatar for gharlane Avatar for reggid Avatar for spencersmom Avatar for morrigan_2575 Avatar for khyber900 Avatar for kelaine Avatar for PacificSparkles Avatar for timorwig Avatar for zlj2011 Avatar for paul_lukasiak Avatar for haddockbranzini

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: