Live coverage: 2020 candidates face off in second night of Democratic debates

Ten contenders took the take stage Thursday night in round two of the first Democratic debate of the 2020 campaign.

Thursday’s lineup features four high-polling candidates, with front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden taking center stage.

{mosads}He was joined by three other White House hopefuls who are considered top-tier contenders: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), as well as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D).

Rounding out the roster were Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), author Marianne Williamson and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Follow along with live coverage here. The debate kicks off at 9 p.m. EDT.

Sanders goes after Biden for Iraq war vote

10:49 p.m.

Sanders jumped at the opportunity to challenge Biden over the war in Iraq, an area that represents one of the clearest contrasts in their congressional records.

“Joe voted for that war,” Sanders said after Biden vowed to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan if elected president. “I helped lead the opposition to that war which was a total disaster.”

It’s a familiar point for Sanders. He went after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the same issue during his 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination. Like Biden, Clinton voted to authorize military force in Iraq during her tenure in the Senate.

Sanders, on the other hand, has the distinction of being one of the few lawmakers to vote against it – a politically unpopular move at the time, but one that has aged well as public sentiment has turned against the conflict.

— Max Greenwood

Harris spikes in Google search after Biden confrontation

10:36 p.m.

Harris spiked in Google searches in the second half of the debate, shortly after her impassioned back-and-forth with Biden over his record on civil rights.

According to Google Trends, “Kamala Harris” became the top trending topic in search in the U.S. around 10:30 PM.

Searches for Harris’s name increased by 500 percent just after the one-hour mark, Google said. Searches for Hickenlooper and Buttigieg both increased by 300 percent during the second half.

Harris and Williamson saw the largest spikes in Google searches for their names over the second hour.

— Emily Birnbaum

Biden says don’t ‘underestimate’ Obama’s efforts on climate change
10:33 p.m.

Biden told debate moderator Chuck Todd that he was “underestimating” how much former President Obama got accomplished in combating climate change. 

Biden praised his former boss for bringing together numerous countries in the Paris climate accord, which Biden said earlier in the debate that he would rejoin immediately if elected president.
“I think you so underestimate what Barack Obama did,” Biden said. “He was the first man to bring together the entire world, 196 nations to come together to commit to deal with climate change so I don’t buy that.”

The comments are Biden’s latest attempt to tie himself to Obama, who is highly popular across the Democratic Party. 

— Julia Manchester and Rebecca Beitsch
Online searches for ‘busing’ surge after Harris-Biden exchange

10:27 p.m.

In the minutes since Harris challenged Biden on his position on busing from the 1970s, online searches for the term “busing” have surged 3,150 percent, according to Google Trends.

Busing is the practice of sending white students to majority black schools and black students to majority white schools to promote diversity in education. The idea gained traction in the ’60s and ’70s following the enactment of sweeping civil rights legislation.

Biden opposed busing as a young senator from Delaware. And while he has since built a record as a staunch defender of civil rights, some of his 2020 critics have highlighted his early position on the issue.

— Max Greenwood
Trump’s campaign manager weighs in on Harris-Biden exchange
10:22 p.m.
President Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale commented on Harris’s heated exchange with Biden, saying Harris bested Biden. 

“Checkmate, Kamala Harris,” Parscale tweeted. “Sorry, Joe Biden.” 
Harris went on the offensive against Biden for his remarks earlier this month about working with two segregationalist senators. 
Biden said Harris mischaracterized his remarks.
— Julia Manchester

Sanders promises Roe v. Wade litmus test for Supreme Court

10:21 p.m.

Sanders said he would make support for Roe v. Wade a litmus test for his nominations to the Supreme Court.

“Let me make a promise here: You ask about litmus tests. My litmus test is I will never nominate any justice to the Supreme Court unless it is 100 percent that he or she will defend Roe v. Wade,” he said.

Republican-led states have passed abortion bans in recent months in an effort to force the Supreme Court to overturn or weaken the ruling, which established a woman’s right to abortion in 1973.

— Jessie Hellmann

Candidates go after front-runner Biden

10:21 p.m.

One question going into this debate was how aggressively other candidates would go after Biden.

At least a few candidates aren’t pulling any punches.

Whether it was Swalwell hitting Biden over the need for generational change, Harris putting him on the spot over his opposition to school busing in the 1970s or Bennet attacking him over his work with Republicans as vice president, Biden is playing defense.

That gets at the heart of a big potential vulnerability for the former vice president. He’s popular among Democratic primary voters now, but sustained attacks from his rivals could eat away at his popularity.

— Max Greenwood

Biden, Harris clash over civil rights record

10:10 p.m.
Harris and Biden clashed over his record on civil rights, with Harris blasting his recent comments about working with segregationist Sens. John Eastland (D-Miss.) and Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) early in his Senate career.

“I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” she told Biden. “But I also believe, and it’s personal and I was actually very — it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

Biden appeared angered by the dig, firing back that Harris “mischaracterized my position across the board.”

“I did not praise racists. It is not true, number one. Number two, if you want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I’m happy to do that. I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor,” Biden said, jabbing Harris over her career choice as a prosecutor and later attorney general of California.

— Alexander Bolton

Buttigieg says South Bend is ‘in anguish’ after police involved shooting

10:09 p.m.

Buttigieg said his hometown of South Bend, Ind., is in pain following a police-involved shooting of a black man.
“My community is in anguish right now because of an officer shooting,” Buttigieg said. “I’m not allowed to take sides until the investigation comes back. It’s a mess, and we’re hurting.”
Buttigieg said he “couldn’t get it done” when asked why only 6 percent of the police force is black in the community, where 26 percent of the residents are black.
— Julia Manchester
Buttigieg pressed on South Bend police shooting
10:06 p.m.
Buttigieg appears to be getting some flak from Hickenlooper and Swalwell over his handling of a recent police shooting of a black man in South Bend.

Hickenlooper’s criticism was somewhat muted, hinging more on his own record tackling policing issues as mayor of Denver. Still, Buttigieg shot back, touting that he has taken steps toward stricter police oversight.

That’s when Swalwell chimed in, saying he should fire the South Bend police chief.

The shooting in South Bend is a sensitive one for Buttigieg, coming as he seeks to broaden his support among black voters.

— Max Greenwood

Yang says Russians are ‘laughing their asses off’ over hacking

9:56 p.m.

Yang named Russia as the greatest geopolitical threat to the U.S. today, saying they have been “hacking our democracy successfully.” 

“They’ve been laughing their asses off about it for the last couple years,” Yang continued. “We should focus on that before we start worrying about other threats.” 

He went on to say that, while he believes China should be punished for allegedly stealing U.S. intellectual property, he believes “tariffs and the trade war are the wrong way to go.”

— Emily Birnbaum

Buttigieg slams Republicans on religion
9:55 p.m.
Buttigieg slammed Republicans’ use of religion in politics, saying the party’s immigration policies show that the GOP has lost any claim to invoking religion in political discourse. 
“Our party doesn’t talk about [religion] as much, largely for a very good reason,” Buttigieg said. “We are committed to the separation of church and state. We stand for people of any religion and of no religion.
“For a party that associates itself with Christianity to say it is okay to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language.”
His comments come as the Trump administration faces fierce backlash for treatment of migrants at the border.
— Julia Manchester
Biden defends Obama’s deportation policies
9:52 p.m.

Biden defended former President Obama’s deportation policies after being confronted with the statistic that 3 million undocumented immigrants were removed from the country during his administration.

“President Obama, I think, did a heck of a job,” Biden said, rebuffing any comparison to the way the Trump administration has handled undocumented immigrants. 

Obama faced a surge in migrants during his second term in office and struggled with how to address the issue. Biden said Thursday night that he only believes in deporting undocumented individuals who have committed “a major crime.”

— Max Greenwood

Swalwell sees largest spike in Google searches

9:49 p.m.

Swalwell saw the largest spike in Google searches of all the candidates in the debate just before the halfway mark, according to Google Trends

The California lawmaker saw a 3,400 percent increase in searches for his name, followed by Gillibrand with a 3,100 percent spike and Williamson with a 2,800 percent increase. 

Williamson’s name was one of the most popular searches of the night, seeing spike in popularity after she began talking almost thirty minutes into the debate, according to a separate Google Trends analysis.

— Emily Birnbaum

Harris: ‘Release these children from cages’

9:43 p.m.

Harris got a warm response from the audience after vowing to “release these children from cages,” a reference to the ongoing saga around the government’s treatment of detained migrants.

Harris also said that on the first day of her would-be presidency, she would reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program through executive action, and extend delayed deportation protections for the parents of undocumented people who came to the country as minors.

Her answer also came with a scathing assessment of Trump’s treatment of undocumented immigrants.

“He says go back to where you came from,” Harris said. “That is not reflective of our values or our America and it’s got to end.”

— Max Greenwood

Trump slams Democrats on health care for undocumented immigrants

9:41 p.m.
President Trump fired off his first debate-related tweet of the night, slamming the Democratic candidates onstage for saying they would provide undocumented immigrants with health care.

“All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare,” Trump tweeted. “How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!”
— Julia Manchester

Trump comments on Democratic debates during G-20 meeting

9:40 p.m.

Trump on Thursday chimed in on the second Democratic presidential debate during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Group of 20 summit in Japan.

“They definitely have plenty of candidates, that’s about it,” Trump said of the debate while seated next to Merkel. “I look forward to spending time with you, rather than watching.

The previous night’s debate, he added, “wasn’t very exciting.” 

— Brett Samuels

Commercial break conversation

9:39 p.m.

During the last commercial break, Biden stayed on stage for a private word with Buttigieg and also a private word with Swalwell, who had just attacked him for his age.

— Jonathan Easley

Biden: ‘I am against any Democrat who takes down ObamaCare’
9:33 p.m.
Biden defended his former boss’s signature health care law, saying he would be against any Democrat who takes down ObamaCare.
He said the “quickest, fastest way to” fixing health care in the U.S. is to “build on ObamaCare, to build on what we did.”
Biden added that he would make sure “everyone, whether they have private insurance, employer insurance, or no insurance, they, in fact, could buy into the exchange to a Medicare-like plan.”
“I’m against any Democrat that takes down ObamaCare, and any Republican who takes down ObamaCare,” Biden said, an apparent shot at “Medicare for All,” a proposal put forth by Sanders, who was standing next to him on the debate stage.
— Julia Manchester

Sanders stays on defensive

9:31 p.m.

Sanders seems to be spending quite a bit of time on the defensive, responding to questions about possible tax hikes under his would-be administration or the logistical challenges of implementing “Medicare for All” on a national level.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the senator, who has been aching to explain his policy proposals to a broader audience.

That same strategy was on display earlier this month when Sanders delivered a speech in Washington detailing his democratic socialist ideology — a speech that he has long insisted on giving.

Like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sanders has cast himself as a candidate that would bring about bold change, and he sees explaining his views as paramount to his success.

— Max Greenwood

Taxes take center stage in opening stages

9:25 p.m.

Taxes took center stage in the opening questions of the debate.

The first question moderators asked went to Sanders, on whether he would raise taxes on the middle-class to pay for his proposals. 

Biden said that the country has “massive income inequality” and can reduce tax loopholes. He added he wants to eliminate President Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

Harris touted her proposal to give low- and middle-class household a tax credit of up to $6,000, or $500 per month.

— Naomi Jagoda

Swalwell to Biden: Time for a new generation
9:22 p.m.

Swalwell landed the first punch on Biden, saying it’s time for the former vice president to “pass the torch” to a new generation of leadership.

That’s a talking point that Swalwell, 38, is expected to repeat throughout the night. Still, his remark drew a quick rebuke from Biden, 76.

“I’m still holding onto that torch,” Biden said in response.

Another candidate on stage may try to make the generational argument as well: Buttigieg. At just 37 years old, the South Bend mayor would be the youngest major party presidential nominee in history if he wins the Democratic nomination next year. He’s frequently called for a new generation of leadership in Washington.

— Max Greenwood

Bennet goes after Sanders for ‘Medicare for All’

9:21 p.m.

Bennet went on the offensive against Sanders, slamming his “Medicare for All” proposal.

Bennet said the plan was rejected in Sanders’s home state of Vermont because of the high cost of taxes related to the plan.

The Colorado senator went on to say that instead of enacting Medicare for All, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, should be built upon.

— Julia Manchester 

Sanders, like Biden, takes a dig at Trump

9:14 p.m.

Sanders is taking a shot at Trump of his own as he looks to bolster his credentials as the candidate best equipped to defeat the president in 2020.

“The last poll had us 10 points ahead of Donald Trump,” Sanders said. “Because the American people understand that Trump is a phony, that Trump is a pathological liar, a racist.”

Sanders has built much of his career around sweeping calls for political revolution — a far more ideological approach than most other candidates onstage. But in an election in which Democratic voters are consumed with defeating Trump, Sanders appears to be making a stronger argument that he’s a practical choice for president.

— Max Greenwood

Sanders gets first question of the night

9:10 p.m.

Sanders got the first question of the night and was pressed on his proposed “Medicare for All” plan.

“We think it is time for change, real change. And by that we mean health care, in my view, is a human right,” Sanders said. 

Sanders’s main rival on the left, Warren, was asked the first question of the night on Wednesday.

Warren was the highest polling candidate on the first night of the 2020 Democratic debate.

Biden was asked the second question on Thursday evening.

— Julia Manchester 

Right away, Biden attacks Trump
9:07 p.m.
Biden is out of the gate with an attack on Trump.

“Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America,” Biden said. “Ordinary middle-class Americans built America.”

That’s the first shot at Trump of the second night of debates – and it came less than five minutes in. That it came from Biden reinforces the former vice president’s central campaign theme: More important than drastic social and political change is defeating the man in the White House.

— Max Greenwood

Hickenlooper calls for Democrats to stay away from socialism

9:06 p.m.
Hickenlooper, a centrist in the primary field, called on his fellow candidates to strongly oppose socialism, warning the label could be a potent avenue for attack for Republicans.
“I think that the bottom line is if we don’t clearly define that we are not socialist, the Republicans are going to come at us every way they can and call us socialist,” he said.

“If you look at the Green New Deal, and I admire the sense of urgency and how important it is to do climate change, I’m a scientist, but we can’t promise every American a government job. If you want to get universal health care coverage, I believe health care is a right and not a privilege, but you can’t expect to eliminate private insurance for 180 million people, many of whom don’t want to give it up.”

— Tal Axelrod

The view from Iowa: Angst about Biden

9:03 p.m.

GRINNELL, Iowa — Democratic activists gathering at a local brewery in this small town an hour east of Des Moines say they are excited for Thursday’s debate, with a big caveat: They don’t want it to turn into a shoving contest between the two highest-polling candidates on stage.

Biden and Sanders will stand next to each other at center stage tonight.

“If Biden and Bernie just end up sniping at each other all night, that’s why I got a cocktail and not a beer,” said Paula Smith, who teaches at Grinnell College.

There is little enthusiasm in the room for Biden, who showed up 2 1/2 hours late for his last campaign stop in Grinnell back in 2007.

“He keeps putting his foot in his mouth. He can’t stop saying creepy things to young women,” said Rowan Queathen, a graduate student. “I’m not super impressed with his policy positions.”

— Reid Wilson

Some winners start to emerge from 1st night

8:34 p.m.

In The Hill’s takeaways from Day 1 of the first Democratic debate, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), along with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, were seen as having had shining moments.

A set of polls by Morning Consult and FiveThirtyEight taken before and after the debate back up that perception. All three saw the clearest gains in their favorable ratings.

Warren had already been gaining momentum, overtaking chief progressive rival Sanders in some polls.

But Booker and Castro stand to benefit immensely from the favorable reaction to their performance after consistently polling low in the Democratic field.

How much of that can be sustained remains to be seen. It’s a long way before Iowa in 2020, and previous candidates with good debate performances went on to falter, like former tech executive Carly Fiorina in the 2016 Republican primaries.

— The Hill Staff

Biden signs ‘No Fossil Fuel Money’ pledge

8:20 p.m.

Just hours before the start of his debate, Biden vowed not to take any donations for his White House bid from the PACs, lobbyists or executives of fossil fuel companies. 

He is the 20th Democrat to sign after initially pledging early this month to do so. Biden had faced some swipes about his environmental record early in the race. 

But he ended up garnering praise after releasing his comprehensive environmental plan.

Climate change was unexpectedly not a main topic of discussion at the Wednesday debate, despite the push by some 2020 contenders to devote a whole debate to the subject.

That leaves open the question of how much the topic will be discussed on Thursday. 

— The Hill Staff

Who will speak Spanish?

8:15 p.m.

There are weighty questions to be pondered ahead of tonight, like what kind of night Biden will have.

But, to some, the question will be who will dare speak Spanish?

Three Democratic contenders unveiled their Spanish chops. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s answer in the language even prompted a look from Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) that promptly went viral.

The 10 appearing Thursday are not known to speak Spanish, except polyglot Buttigieg, who can speak some Spanish, in addition to Norwegian, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Dari Persian, Norwegian and French. 

Strategists warn using Spanish can be a double-edged sword: It can be welcomed as an attempt to court Latinos, but it can also backfire if seen as pandering, especially when executed poorly.

— The Hill Staff

90 minutes out

7:25 p.m.

It’s almost time for the first Democratic primary debate — again.

As another group of 10 candidates prepare to take the stage, we’ve got a few previews to help you prepare for what’s to come. 

Here are 5 things to watch for in tonight’s debate. 

Here is a complete guide about what to expect tonight.

And if you want to catch up on the questions and tussles from the first debate, here’s our live blog from last night.

— The Hill Staff

Tags 2020 Democratic debates Andrew Yang Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Beto O'Rourke Brad Parscale campaign Chuck Todd Cory Booker Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Eric Swalwell Hillary Clinton Joe Biden John Hickenlooper Kirsten Gillibrand Marianne Williamson Michael Bennet Pete Buttigieg presidential candidates
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