What to Watch For in Democratic Debate Night 2

Ten of the candidates appeared in the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday.

You can watch it on CNN, CNN en Español and CNN International. It will also be available on streaming services. The debate is taking place in Detroit.















■ The 10 Democratic candidates will have 60-second opening statements followed by 60 seconds to answer questions from the CNN moderators, Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper. Each candidate will also have a 60-second closing statement.

■ The New York Times will have extensive coverage, including a live analysis throughout the debate by Maggie Haberman, Astead W. Herndon, Lisa Lerer, Sydney Ember and Reid J. Epstein.


Biden vs. Harris, the rematch.

The most dramatic moment of the first pair of presidential debates came as Senator Kamala Harris of California criticized Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s record on race and busing, leaving the former vice president and early front-runner struggling to respond forcefully.

Since then, however, Mr. Biden has been much more willing to aggressively defend his record and to draw contrasts with his opponents. He has clashed directly with Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey on the issue of policing, and with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the subject of health care.

Mr. Biden supports creating a so-called public option and building on the Affordable Care Act, while Mr. Sanders and others including Ms. Harris want a more sweeping proposal that would provide Medicare for all Americans, though in a new plan unveiled this week Ms. Harris indicated that she still sees a role for private insurers, in contrast to Mr. Sanders. Mr. Biden’s campaign was quick with criticism of her plan, and the former vice president has made some oblique swipes at Ms. Harris’s health care position as well. Will he sharpen that argument?

Slide 1 of 21: Democratic presidential hopefuls (L-R) US author and writer Marianne Williamson, US Representative for Ohio's 13th congressional district Tim Ryan, US Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, US Representative for Texas' 16th congressional district Beto O'Rourke, Former Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, former US Representative for Maryland's 6th congressional district John Delaney and Governor of Montana Steve Bullock stand onstage ahead of the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Mr. Biden’s allies say he was personally hurt by the ferocity of Ms. Harris’s criticism in their last debate, given her relationship as California attorney general with Mr. Biden’s late son, Beau Biden, then the attorney general of Delaware. Some of his allies say privately that the moment was a wake-up call for him and expect him to be much more assertive on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to be as polite this time,” he said last week at a fund-raiser.

Their dynamic will be among the most closely-watched of the second debate.


A July debate about September.

Five candidates on Wednesday — Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York — face the acute risk of missing the party’s polling and donor thresholds to qualify for the September debate. And falling off the debate stage is widely viewed as a potential death knell to a candidacy.

So those on the wings of the stage need to break out, and quickly. That could lead to more rhetorical combat. Mr. de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, was an aggressor with former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas in June but stepped on his own momentumby using a famous Che Guevara quote while still in South Florida. He later apologized.

Still, Mr. de Blasio showed in the last debate that he can be energetic and fluent onstage. Can he translate those skills into a moment that catapults him out of the bottom tier of candidates?


Can Booker break out?

Mr. Booker has an extensive campaign organization in the early-voting primary states and has been a known quantity to Democratic activists for years.

But so far, he has struggled to stand out in a crowded field, and his early campaign themes of love and unity have appeared to fall flat with a Democratic base that is often outraged in the Trump era. He has hovered between 1 percent and 3 percent in recent polls.

More recently, Mr. Booker has sounded more combative notes, appearing particularly eager to draw contrasts with Mr. Biden. The two men sparred last week over the issue of criminal justice, with Mr. Booker calling Mr. Biden an “architect of mass incarceration,” and Mr. Biden ripping into the record of the Newark Police Department when Mr. Booker was mayor.

Mr. Booker has gone after Mr. Biden before, only to pull back soon after. If Mr. Booker moves to attack his rivals on Wednesday, when he will be onstage with Mr. Biden, can he follow through forcefully?

And even if he lands a blow — something Ms. Harris did successfully in the first debate, which boosted her campaign — will that be enough to meaningfully stand out?


Gillibrand zeroing in on Biden?

Last week, Ms. Gillibrand said that at least one of her Democratic rivals did not support women working outside the home. It was the most aggressive rhetoric yet from a candidate who has tried to position herself as the candidate for women in 2020, after Democratic women scored some of the biggest victories of the 2018 midterms.

But though Ms. Gillibrand didn’t say who exactly she was talking about, a story published the next morning in HuffPost gave a possible hint of her intention. It outlined Mr. Biden’s 1981 opposition to expanding a child tax credit, the kind of policy position she might use to justify such a broadside. Then on Sunday, Axios reported that an online account possibly linked to Ms. Gillibrand was found to be researching related Biden articles from that period.

Ms. Gillibrand still has not said whom she was referring to in her public comments but it is reasonable to expect she’ll at least get — if not relish — the opportunity to reveal who her target was on Wednesday, even if the surprise element is gone.



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