Biden, Harris and Castro to face-off in 2nd night of Democratic debate

After Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren fended off repeated attacks from moderate competitors, the next 10 presidential primary contenders take the stage Wednesday for the second night of the second Democratic debates.

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During the first night, polling front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden’s name was not mentioned once, but now he’ll share the stage with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., flanked by the all the candidates of color running in the presidential primary, after a random live drawing split the 20 qualifying contenders between the two nights.

Here is how the night is unfolding. (Please refresh for updates.)

5:26 p.m.: Cory Booker’s campaign spokesperson says he ‘won’t hold back’

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s national press secretary, Sabrina Singh, outlined the senator’s strategy for tonight’s debate, amid speculation that he’ll be seeking a California Sen. Kamala Harris-esque breakout moment by attacking former Vice President Joe Biden, particularly over the issue of criminal justice reform, on which they’ve publicly sparred during the past week.

Though she wouldn’t make any specific guarantees and said that the senator is not a fan of entirely pre-rehearsed lines, she did say that “when there are those moments that he needs to speak the truth on something, he’s not going to hold back.”

As for the idea that Booker, who’s known for his positive and forward-looking outlook and for campaigning on a message of unity and love, could turn negative at some point tonight, Singh compared any such talk to “tough love,” and said it would mean that the senator felt it was truly necessary,

“It does really hit home to him,” she said. “And you know, as Cory says, like, these are these folks on the stage are like his family and his friends. But you know, you got to give your family and friends tough love every now and then. And he’s not going to hold back on speaking the truth.”

Singh further shared Booker’s feelings about last night’s stand-off between some of the race’s progressives and moderates, and instead of feeling like the rift was tearing the party apart, said that the senator thinks the disagreements were good to showcase.

Paras Griffin/Getty Images, FILE

Cory Booker speaks on stage at 2019 Essence Festival at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 06, 2019, in New Orleans.

“At the end of the day, we should have these conversations. But all of us whoever the Democratic nominee is, have to unite behind that person. We cannot repeat what we have what happened in 2016, we need to have a strong party going into the general.”

5:20 p.m.: Debate night 2: fast facts

There will be over 166 years of political experience on the debate stage tonight.
1 Vice President: Former Vice President Joe Biden
4 United States Senators: Sens. Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris
1 United States Representative: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard
1 Governor: Gov. Jay Inslee
2 Mayor: Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
1 entrepreneur: Andrew Yang

Debate stage podium positions (left-right): Bennet, Gillibrand, Castro, Booker, Biden, Harris, Yang, Gabbard, Inslee, de Blasio

Oldest candidate – Biden (76 years old)
Youngest candidate – Gabbard (38 years old)

Most political experience – Biden (46 years)
Least political experience – Yang


Graphic shows Democratic presidential candidates chosen to participate in second debate’s second night.

4:49 p.m.: Biden’s campaign team lays out their debate view

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign team says he won’t take any attack’s on his record laying down and plans to articulate a strong case for why President Donald Trump’s leadership has been a failure for working-class people and on the world stage. While his advisors said Biden won’t go after his rivals personally, they signaled he is ready for attacks from Booker and Gillibrand if those candidates follow through on the strategies they hinted at prior to the debate to attack Biden on his role in the 1994 crime bill and on women’s issues.

Biden’s focus will be on drawing policy differences, according to his campaign advisors. They also hammered home their belief that the attacks on Biden in the last debate were personal from someone he had a personal relationship with, but said they didn’t plan to engage in those attacks because it’s not who the vice president is or his way of conduct.

As far as preparation is concerned, advisors say Biden took prep very seriously, and “prepped intensely” for his second debate, but wouldn’t disclose how many mock debates they held in those prep sessions.

2:15 p.m.: Andrew Yang arrives at Fox Theatre, shares message to ‘Yang Gang’

Andrew Yang did not wear a tie during the MSNBC debates, which created much noise on social media.

This afternoon Yang arrived for his CNN walkthrough wearing a tie killing social media’s anticipation. He shared a message of appreciation for his base on Twitter: “Where are at the Fox theater doing the walk through on CNN. I did wear a tie just for the walk through.”

4 a.m: What to expect from the second night of debate

Airing on CNN at 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday night’s debate is expected to be more contentious than Tuesday’s, picking up where the first debates in Miami left off: When Biden was relegated to playing defense after a game-changing moment for Harris and other lesser-known candidates saw spikes in fundraising and polling following much-needed breakout performances.

(MORE: Democratic Debate 2019 live updates: What to expect from 1st night of 2nd Democratic debates)

For the last few weeks, campaign aides and surrogates have been sparring over policy in back-and-forth statements, cable TV appearances, and on social media, but now the candidates will have the chance to speak for themselves on their differences and present their visions for the country.

(MORE: Democratic debate night 1: Fact-checking the candidates on the issues)

The second ten candidates who are set to square off on Wednesday are:

  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris
  • Andrew Yang
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • But beyond the two sets of polling front-runners potentially squaring off each night — Sanders, I-Vt., and Warren, D-Mass., sharing center stage on night one, and Biden and Harris on night two — a parade of moderates will have the opportunity to take on the progressive stalwarts. Some occupying the lower fundraising tiers will have the chance to directly confront Biden, even as he prepares for attacks from all sides.

    “As the clear front-runner, the attacks will once again be directed Joe Biden’s way,” a senior Biden campaign official told ABC News.

    A day prior to the first night of debate, a new Quinnipiac University poll, released Monday, put Biden comfortably back on top of the Democratic field, with 34% support and significant distance between him and the next polling tier of Warren (15%), Harris (12%) and Sanders (11%).

    While Biden expects attacks from all sides, he said last week at a fundraiser in Michigan that if his 2020 rivals talk about his past, he’ll return the favor and won’t be “so polite this time.”

    “As the clear front-runner, the attacks will once again be directed Joe Biden’s way. And our opponents are already telegraphing how they plan to attack him: Bill de Blasio on trade and workers’ rights, Cory Booker on crime bill, Kamala Harris running the same play once again on busing, Gillibrand on women’s rights, Castro on immigration. We’re expecting it, but we’re also expecting the unexpected,” a senior Biden campaign official told ABC News.

    Earlier on Monday, Harris said of her debate strategy, “My mother raised me to be polite, and I intend to be polite. I will express differences and articulate them, and certainly point out where we have differences of opinion.”

    Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris makes a campaign visit to the Narrow Way Cafe and Shop in Detroit, Michigan, July 29, 2019.

    Two days before Booker is set to take the stage, his campaign team is already eyeing the road ahead.

    Campaign officials outlined Booker’s pathway to victory in the general election, announcing they will be rolling out trips to Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan over the coming days with the hopes to mobilize black voters who may have “stayed home, were discouraged or suppressed” from voting in 2016.

    “With more young people and people of color getting inspired as part of the resistance to Trump and the desire for a change in politics as usual, Sen. Booker is uniquely positioned based on his backgrounds and strengths as a candidate to connect with those voters and energize them back into the democratic fold,” said his chief innovation officer Emily Norman.

    (MORE: Here’s the 2nd 2020 Democratic presidential debates schedule and lineup)

    But his campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, detailed his debate strategy during the Monday call, saying, “I think Cory’s approach to the debate is to be himself. And, you know, that means present his vision for the country, how he’s going to be Donald Trump, and begin the process of fixing and healing, the pain that Donald Trump has caused.”

    “‘Be yourself’ is our best advice to him. And when he does that people like him and end up voting for him,” he added.

    One lower-polling candidate, de Blasio, is “ready to perform” after a “very good first debate performance,” his campaign team said.

    “There are legitimate contrasts between the candidates and their positions in this battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party and the mayor is fully prepared to discuss these as well as his long list of accomplishments in New York City,” said Jaclyn Rothenberg, his national press secretary. “The most controversial issue in debate prep so far has been how the Mets got Marcus Stroman and why. With the help of his team, he’s prepared and ready to take the stage on Wednesday to deliver his message of putting working people first.”

    Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    The debate stage at the Fox Theater in Detroit, Mich., July 30, 2019, ahead of the 2nd Democratic Presidential Debate.

    (MORE: Mueller sounds alarm for 2020 election threats from Russia, others)

    For most of the candidates on stage, the stakes for this two-night showdown are much higher after the Democratic National Committee announced more stringent qualifying rules for the September and October debates: candidates will need 2% in four qualifying polls and cross the 130,000 donor mark to qualify.

    Only seven candidates have qualified for the September debate, according to an ABC News analysis, including Biden, Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Harris, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The rest of the field has only a month to go before the deadline.

    These debates in Michigan, the site of the heart of former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Midwest after then-candidate Trump carried the state by 0.3 percentage points, also come a week after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly seven-hour testimony on Capitol Hill, when he raised the specter of Russian meddling in the 2020 election, after testifying that 2016 “wasn’t a single attempt … they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

    In a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, 54% of Americans said that they are not confident in the capability of the U.S. to effectively defend itself from potential foreign government interference in the 2020 presidential election. Only 17% said they were very confident and 27% were somewhat confident.

    But with concerns of foreign interference looming over the field, squabbles continue over the direction of the party. On Monday, the candidates engaged in an early preview of a debate over healthcare, after Harris released her “Medicare for All” plan, an offshoot of the Sanders’ bill he introduced and she co-signed, which includes a loophole to allow private insurers to offer Medicare plans during a 10-year period.


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