Another ten Democrats who've declared their candidacy for their party's 2020 presidential nomination took the stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami Thursday evening, hoping to stand out in one of the most crowded primary fields in history.
Twenty candidates in total qualified for the first debate hosted by NBC News with the first ten appearing last night. Tonight, the second half of the field range from front-runner Vice President Joe Biden, firebrand independent, Senator Bernie Sanders, to media darling, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The full list of candidates who will take the stage tonight are:
- Vice President Joe Biden (D)
- Sens. Bernie Sanders - (I-VT)
- Kamala Harris - (D-CA)
- Kirsten Gillibrand - (D-NY)
- Michael Bennet - (D-CO)
- Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D)
- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)
- California Rep. Eric Swalwell (D)
- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang (D)
- Self-help author Marianne Williamson (D)
(You can read more about these candidates and their positions here).
The first question of the night was directed to Senator Bernie Sanders, as moderators asked him whether his policies would lead to any kind of tax increase on the middle class. Sanders replied that under his plan, the trade-off of higher taxes would reduce their healthcare costs.
"People who have health care under medicare for all will have no premiums, no deductibles and co-payments and no out of pockets. Yes, they will pay more in taxes and less in health care for what they get."
Unlike the first night, President Donald Trump was attacked early and often by the candidates, including his latest foil, Vice President Joe Biden, who took a shot at Trump while answering a question about income inequality and why people shouldn't demonize the rich.
"Ordinary middle class Americans built America. My dad had an expression. 'Joe, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck.' It's about dignity and respect and looking your kid in the eye and seeing that everything is going to be okay. Too many people at the middle class and fall had the bottom fallout. I am saying we have to be straight forward. We have to make sure we understand that the return of dignity to the middle class, they have to have insurance that is cover and they can afford it. They have to make sure we have a situation where there is continuing education and they are able to pay for it and they center have to make sure they breathe air that is clean and they have water that they can drink.
"Look, Donald Trump put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income inequality," Biden said.
The age differences between the candidate were also on display as seen in an exchange between 38-year-old Rep. Eric Swalwell and Vice President Joe Biden. Swalwell talked about his visit to the California Democratic convention when he was six years old and hearing Biden tell the audience that it was time to "pass the torch to a new generation of Americans."
"He was right when he said that 32-years-ago. He is still right today," Swalwell added. “If we are going to solve the issue, pass the torch. If we are going to solve climate chaos, pass the cover. If we want to end gun violence and solve student debt, pass the torch.”
Biden chuckled and said, "I'm still holding onto that torch. I want to make it clear."
At one point, California Senator Kamala Harris attempted to bring some order back to the debate after candidates kept talking over one another while trying to stand out in a crowded Democratic primary field.
"America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we're going to put food on their table," Harris said, admonishing her fellow Democrats on stage.
When the topic switched to immigration and the conditions at detention centers, Harris vowed to immediately shut them down.
"A mother who pays a coyote to transport her child through the entire country of Mexico facing unknown peril to come here, why would that mother do that? I will tell you. Because she has decided for that child to remain where they are is worse. But what does Donald Trump do? He says go back to where you came from. That is not reflective of our America and our values and it's got to end," she said.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Republicans and their association with Christianity, a topic that Buttigieg has talked about on the campaign trail.
“Now, our party doesn’t talk about that as much largely for a good reason which was, we are committed to the separation of church and state and stand for people for any religion and people of no religion,” Buttigieg said. “But we should call out hypocrisy."
"And for a party that associates with Christianity to say it is OK 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 religion language again," Buttigieg added.
Night two did not have the same kind of technical difficulties that plagued the first night of the Democratic debates. The second half focused on issues such as climate change, foreign policy and immigration. At one point, Senator Bernie Sanders called out former Vice President Joe Biden for his Iraq war vote in 2003.
"One of the differences Joe and I have in our record is Joe voted for," Sanders said. "I helped lead the opposition to that war, which is a total disaster."
The candidates talked about military intervention abroad and ending America's ongoing conflicts. Biden called for the removal of troops in Afghanistan, calling it "long overdue."
One tense moment of the night included California Senator Kamala Harris calling out Biden for his recent remarks in working with two senators who had built their career on segration. Biden had used it as an example of his working with colleagues during a time of heightened partisanship, but Harris didn't appear to buy that rationalization.
"I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground, but I also believe, and it's personal, and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who (have) built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country."
She recounted her experience as a young girl who was a victim of the busing policy.
"It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day. That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly," Harris said.
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