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- On June 27, 10 Democratic 2020 contenders took to the stage for night two of the first round of Democratic debates on NBC news in Miami.
- At the outset, a number of candidates attacked Sanders over his support for democratic socialism and Medicare For All.
- Harris was the breakout star of the night, cementing her status as a force in the primary campaign and putting the pressure on Biden, one of her biggest rivals.
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On June 27, 10 Democratic 2020 contenders took to the stage for night two of the first round of Democratic debates on NBC news in Miami.
While Biden and Sanders were attacked by their competitors over their long records in politics and had overall disappointing performances given their stature as current frontrunners, Harris shone through as a standout: establishing her credibility and putting Biden on the defensive over his record on race.
Bernie faced criticism on healthcare from fellow Democrats
A number of candidates attacked Sanders early on over his support for democratic socialism and Medicare For All.
In response to a question from the moderators, Sanders admitted at the outset of the debate that he would need to raise taxes on the middle class in order to fund Medicare For All, but said the middle class would benefit overall from cheaper and more available healthcare.
Almost immediately, moderate Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado — who introduced a federal public option for government healthcare called Medicare X — denounced Medicare For All as unrealistic, and said his plan was the "fastest way" to get to universal healthcare coverage.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also jumped into the discussion to express her support for a public option for government healthcare at a price adjust for what people can afford to buy into.
"I feel very strongly families ought to have this choice, there are millions of people who don’t have health insurance because they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid," Bennet said.
Sanders hit back, "under our plan, people can go to any hospital or any doctor we want." He added that most other developed nations — including Canada — offer universal healthcare. Bennet retorted that Canada’s population is less than one-tenth of the US’.
Later in the night, Bernie stumbled a few more times, facing further criticism and opposition from Rep. Eric Swalwell over his commitment to gun control, and awkwardly accusing host Rachel Maddow of mischaracterizing a direct quote from an interview he gave.
Kamala Harris broke through — and put the spotlight on Biden’s controversial record on race
Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a former prosecutor, had several breakthrough moments in the debate that cemented her status as a force in the campaign and put the pressure on Biden, one of her biggest rivals.
Firstly at the beginning of the debate, Harris helped diffuse a chaotic shouting match between multiple candidates by breaking above the fray and saying, "Americans don’t want a food fight, they want to know how to get food on the table."
Later in the debate, Harris maintained the moral high ground and made Biden appear out of touch when she confronted him about his past camaraderie with pro-segregation US Senators, and opposition to busing in the 1970s.
Harris, who is African-American and Indian-American, said to Biden, "I do not believe you are a racist … 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."
Biden unsuccessfully deflected Harris’ criticisms by arguing that busing was entirely a local and not a federal matter.
Throughout the debate, Harris used a variety of human-centered illustrations to bring her answers and policy positions to life. She powerfully evoked images of a parent waiting outside the emergency room and debating whether they could afford bringing their child in to receive care, and of a parent making the difficult choice to make the journey to the United States to secure a better life for their children.
Harris simultaneously commanded positive attention for herself and her policy positions, won out in a confrontation with the current Democratic frontrunner, and was not herself attacked or confronted on her policy positions from fellow Democrats, making her a clear winner of the second night of debates.
Every candidate said they’d support government healthcare coverage for undocumented immigrants
In a historical first for a Democratic presidential primary, all 10 candidates on stage endorsed government healthcare coverage for undocumented immigrants, a major policy shift for the party on both immigrant rights and healthcare.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana said, "Our country is healthier when everybody is healthier."
"We are talking about something people are given a chance to buy into," Buttigieg continued. "In the same way there are undocumented immigrants in my community who pay sales taxes and pay property taxes directly or indirectly."
Mayor Pete Buttigieg confidently defended his record after a rough week at home
At the debate, Buttigieg was directly asked about a recent tragedy in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana where a white police shot and killed an African-American man, leading to significant backlash from community activists against Buttigieg’s leadership and handling of the situation.
Buttigieg addressed the topic head-on, calling the situation "a mess." He added: "we are hurting. I could walk you through all of the things we have done as a community. All of the steps we took from bias training to deescalation, but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. When I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back."
Earlier in the night, Buttigieg gave a strong answer invoking religion and his Christian faith explaining why he supported repealing the provision of US immigration law that classifies crossing the border without authorization as a misdemeanor, allowing migrant children to be separated from their parents.
"For a party that associates itself with Christianity to say it is okay 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 religious language," Buttigieg said.
- ‘It was hurtful to hear you talk’: Kamala Harris denounces Joe Biden’s work with pro-segregation senators in tense exchange
- Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Republicans ‘have lost all claim to use religious language ever again’ because of Trump’s immigration policies
- ‘Americans don’t want a food fight’: Kamala Harris brought the house down by bringing order to the 2020 debate stage