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- The second night of the second round of 2020 Democratic presidential debates continued in Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday, July 31.
- Both nights of the debate were hosted by CNN, and moderated by Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon.
- Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii were the surprise breakout stars of the second debate, taking former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris of California to task over their records on everything from immigration to criminal justice.
- Here are 13 of the biggest takeaways from the second night of debates.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On July 30 and 31, 20 Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Detroit, Michigan to participate in the second round of Democratic primary debates hosted by CNN.
During the first night of debates, issues including healthcare and taxation took center stage as progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren faced off against a number of centrist Democrats who disagreed with their plan to implement a single-payer Medicare for All system.
On Wednesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio debated each other.
Booker and Gabbard were the surprise breakout stars of the second debate, taking the frontrunners Biden and Harris to task over their records on everything from immigration to criminal justice.
While Harris put herself in a strong position in the first debate in attacking Biden over his record on race, she found herself on the defensive in Wednesday night’s debate, stumbling a bit in defending her healthcare plans and finding herself knocked back on her heels by an attack on her criminal justice record from Gabbard.
Here are 13 of the biggest takeaways from night two of the second round of Democratic primary debates:
Biden came to the debate prepared to be again targeted by Harris.
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Biden jokingly said, "go easy on me, kid" to Harris as the two shook hands before the second debate started, a reference to Harris’ attacks on Biden over his record on race during the first debate in June.
In the first set of Democratic debates in Miami on June 27, Harris took a deliberate shot at Biden over his long and controversial record on racial issues. She said Biden touting his work with pro-segregation senators was "personal and hurtful" to her.
"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 it’s personal and 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."
While Biden didn’t hit back at Harris in the moment, he said at a fundraiser shortly before the debate that "he wasn’t going to be as polite this time around."
Healthcare took center stage throughout the entire debate, as Biden and Harris both sparred over her Medicare for All plan.
In the week prior to the second round of Democratic primary debates, Harris rolled out her own healthcare plan. She sought to strike a middle ground between a Medicare for All system, without a role for private insurance, and more moderate plans to introduce a public option and build on the ACA, which Biden has advocated for.
Harris’ plan would implement a government-run healthcare system over 10 years that would include a role for private insurance companies to compete within it, similar to the current Medicare Advantage program.
Biden argued in the debate that Harris’ 10-year timeline was too drawn out and depended on her successor implementing it, adding, "Secondly, it will require middle-class taxes to go up, not down. Thirdly, it will eliminate employer-based insurance. And fourthly, what will happen in the meantime?"
In response, Harris defended her plan by arguing, "First of all, the cost of doing nothing is far too expensive. Second, we are now paying $3 trillion a year for health care in America. Over the next ten years it will probably be $6 trillion. We must act. My plan is immediately allowing people to sign up and get into coverage."
Michael Bennet distinguished himself as a centrist voice on issues from healthcare to immigration.
While other progressives like Gillibrand, Gabbard, and De Blasio took Harris’ side in arguing for Medicare for All, Bennet — the other centrist on stage besides Biden — pushed back and argued that introducing a public option is a faster way to get to universal coverage
"I believe we should finish the job we started with the Affordable Care Act with a public option that gives everybody in this audience a chance to pick for their family if they want private or public insurance," Bennet said, arguing that Medicare for All "would make illegal employer-based health insurance in this country and massively raise taxes on the middle class to the tune of $30 trillion as Joe Biden said."’
In response, De Blasio accused Bennet of "fearmongering" with his warning about tax increases.
Bennet was also the only candidate on stage to oppose decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings.
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