The fireworks were quick to start Wednesday night on night two of the second Democratic presidential debate hosted by CNN. Former vice president Joe Biden, flanked by Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker, took most of the incoming fire as numerous candidates poked and prodded Biden over his record during his times as a U.S. Senator and his time serving under President Obama.
Biden was far more prepared this time around having loaded up on ways to attack some his primary opponents which he simply wasn’t ready to do back in June.
Night two full video
The video is split into 5 parts and is available courtesy of CNN.
Presidential candidates go head-to-head on access to health care.
Democratic candidates spar over immigration and conditions in migrant detention facilities.
Presidential candidates debate criminal justice reform.
The part 4 video from CNN isn’t working for some reason but it can be viewed on CNN.com at this link.
Democratic candidates discuss how they will address the gender pay gap.
Presidential candidates give their closing statements.
Alternate video link: YouTube
What went down on night two?
It was clear from the beginning that Biden came better prepared to both respond to attacks on his record, in some instances, but, more importantly, prepared to go on offense and hit back at some of his primary opponents and highlight issues in their records.
Sen. Kamala Harris started off quite slow in terms of gathering a foothold on the conversation, sometimes tripping over numbers she was citing. It also didn’t help that her audio was messed up and irritating from a viewer perspective. CNN tried to fix that after the first break but it never was quite right. Audio issues seemed to plague other candidates as well.
There were also two separate occasions where the debate had to halt while protestors in the auditorium were yelling things in the background. The first instance was protesters taking aim at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with chants of “Fire Pantaleo,” in reference to the 2014 death of Eric Garner. Pantaleo is the name of the police officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold which resulted in Garner’s death.
The second notable point in the evening which stopped the debate cold while screaming protesters were removed from the room was related to deportations of illegal immigrants under President Obama. Protesters could be heard yelling “three million deportations” while Joe Biden tried to talk about immigration reform and his plan for how to deal with the ongoing crisis at the U.S. southern border.
In both instances, the chanting protesters forced the issue on stage with de Blasio being forced to explain why the officer involved in the Eric Garner case was still working on the NYPD. De Blasio has vowed that there would be “justice” within the next 30 days for the family of Eric Garner and the topic became a point of contention with several candidates attacking De Blasio for the way the case has been handled.
On the flipside, De Blasio took aim at Joe Biden over the number of deportations under President Obama, a number which exceeds the same time frame under the Trump administration. De Blasio asked Biden whether he, as vice president, ever tried to slow down deportations. Biden’s answer was basically that, as vice president, he did his job and trusted President Obama’s leadership on this matter but if he becomes President, he’ll be approaching the situation humanely and contrasted himself with President Trump.
Will this debate move the needle and give any particular candidate a bounce? I suspect the impact will be less than the first debate which helped push Sen. Kamala Harris into the top tier, though her star has since been fading.
Biden’s defense against many of the attacks was pointing out that the issue in question “happened a long time ago” and is only being brought up now because he’s running for President. His broad defense was that after being vetted for vice president under Barack Obama, he served faithfully and never heard any of these attacks during that time.
Booker and Harris argued that they both have spent time cleaning up problems created by Biden’s 1994 crime legislation, a bill which was sometimes called the “Biden crime bill” due to the former vice president’s strong support and sponsorship of it. The biggest point, they argue, was a disproportional increase in African-American incarcerations as a result of the legislation.
Biden took some hits, but it also delivered some punches right back and perhaps demonstrated that he can fight tougher and isn’t afraid to punch lower when needed.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard came to Biden’s defense on more than one occasion, at one point attacking Harris directly which clearly seemed to be a play toward ingratiating herself with Biden as a potential vice presidential pick if Biden wins the nomination.
Next Democratic debate September 12 and 13
The next debate doesn’t happen until September, and most of the candidates won’t be on the stage since the requirements to join the ABC debate will be doubled and candidates must meet polling and fundraising requirements. The field could be cut easily in half meaning there would only be one night of debate action on September 12. The second night, on September 13, will be added only if there are more than ten candidates who still qualify. We will learn the debate lineup in late August.
Keep track of the next debate on the 2020 Democratic Debate schedule page and you’ll stay informed of what’s happening.