2020 Dems spar over healthcare and criminal justice records in second debate


Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

August 1, 2019: The 2020 Democratic candidates debated healthcare and criminal justice in the second night of the debate. Democratic donor George Soros founded a super PAC for 2020 elections.

Poll Highlights 

Daily Presidential News Briefing - Poll One (July 23-25, 2019)

Daily Presidential News Briefing - Poll Two (July 23-25, 2019)

Notable Quote of the Day

“The Dark Psychic Forces of Collective Hatred won tonight’s debate. It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that the Democratic candidates think their best path forward is to aggressively and personally attack one another over the finer points of their white papers and decades-old positions, given the intensity of their base’s desire to remove Trump from the White House. It’s mind-boggling that there would be several candidates taking shots at Barack Obama when he’s broadly popular, Trump isn’t, and the whole point of this enterprise is beating Trump.”

– Tim Miller, former Jeb Bush communications director

Debate Highlights

Ten candidates met on stage to debate in Detroit, Michigan, on Wednesday night. CNN hosted and Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper moderated the event. Read a transcript of the debate here.

  • Michael Bennet said the Affordable Care Act should have a public option and criticized Medicare for All plans that “would make illegal employer-based health insurance in this country and massively raise taxes on the middle class to the tune of $30 trillion.” Bennet said Congress needed to be smart in how it approached impeachment since the U.S. Senate could acquit Trump if it reached that chamber.

  • Joe Biden advocated expanding the Affordable Care Act and questioned Medicare for All proposals that had lengthy phase-ins or would significantly increase taxes. He defended his record on immigration and deportations during the Obama administration, pointing to a $750 million aid package for Central America and efforts to help Dreamers. He said he would not rejoin the TPP unless it was renegotiated to include greater accountability for China.

  • Bill de Blasio said he would “tax the hell out of the wealthy to make this a fairer country and to make sure it’s a country that puts working people first.” He also cautioned that impeachment proceedings could be distracting and take focus away from economic issues. De Blasio questioned whether Biden pushed back on deportations during the Obama administration. 

  • Cory Booker said he worked to reduce racial disparities in criminal justice and criticized Biden’s record and 1994 crime bill. He also said Democrats lost Michigan in 2016 “because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters.” Booker said impeachment proceedings needed to begin regardless of the politics.

  • Julián Castro presented his proposal on new policing standards. He also advocated decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings and criticized Biden on immigration policy during their shared time in the Obama administration, saying “one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t.” He also said Trump should be impeached immediately regardless of the political outcome.

  • Tulsi Gabbard criticized Harris’ record as a prosecutor and on the death penalty and healthcare. She said insurance and pharmaceutical companies should not be involved in the drafting process for new healthcare legislation. Gabbard also opposed TPP, saying the agreement gives away American sovereignty, and called for the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan. 

  • Kirsten Gillibrand emphasized that insurance companies are for-profit companies and said healthcare should be a right. She opposed the USMCA, particularly its provisions protecting intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical companies. She criticized Biden for a 1981 op-ed where he said expanding the childcare tax credit for wealthy families would subsidize the deterioration of family.

  • Kamala Harris discussed her healthcare proposal, which would replace employer-based coverage but allow some people to keep Medicare Advantage. She criticized Biden’s plan, saying it would not hold insurance and pharmaceutical companies responsible for cost issues. She also called Trump’s trade policy a Trump trade tax on goods.

  • Jay Inslee called Trump a white nationalist while discussing immigration and said the U.S. needed to expand its refugee programs. Inslee said his climate change plan was called the gold standard and that the U.S. could not delay getting off of coal and fossil fuels past a timeline of 10 years.

  • Andrew Yang said “the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math” and the country needed to do something different. He highlighted his universal basic income proposal in several contexts, including pay equity for homemakers. Yang also said money spent on conflicts abroad should have been invested in U.S. communities.


  • Booker introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty with fellow Sens. Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy.

  • The John Delaney campaign said it had its best online fundraising day following the debate, increasing his donor rate twenty-fold.

  • The Mike Gravel campaign tweeted it was coming to an end. The campaign would donate its funds to charity and form the Gravel Institute, a self-described leftist think tank.

  • Beto O’Rourke campaigned in Macomb County, a pivot county in Michigan.

  • The Bernie Sanders campaign announced it had raised $1.1 million since the Tuesday debate from more than 70,000 contributions.

  • During Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, Marianne Williamson was the top-searched candidate on Google in 49 states.


  • The pro-Donald Trump super PACs America First Action and America First Policies raised $17.8 million in the first half of 2019.

General Election Updates

  • Investor George Soros, who said last year that he did not plan to become involved in the Democratic primaries, founded Democracy PAC in preparation for the 2020 elections. He contributed $5.1 million to the new group.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: August 1, 2015

Receiving an endorsement from Friends of the Earth, Bernie Sanders called climate change “the single greatest threat facing the planet.”