2020 Democratic debates
July 17, 2019

The Democratic National Committee announced on Wednesday which 2020 presidential candidates will take the stage during CNN's primary debates later this month.

The candidates are: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.); former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.); Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas); Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); author Marianne Williamson; and businessman Andrew Yang.

As with the first debate in June, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam did not qualify for this round. Newcomers to the race Tom Steyer, a billionaire investor, and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) also did not make the cut.

The debates will be held in Detroit over two days: July 30 and 31, with both starting at 8 p.m. E.T. On Thursday night, CNN will hold a live drawing during Anderson Cooper 360 to determine the candidate lineup for each night. Catherine Garcia

June 28, 2019

Some early polling on the first Democratic debates suggest former Vice President Joe Biden lost some support as his rivals made their cases to voters, but he was able to maintain — or even improve — his approval numbers.

New York Magazine on Friday took a look at the results of some live polling of 210 Democratic voters from seven demographic groups conducted by pollster Stanley Greenberg during the debates, finding what the report described as some "good news" for Biden. Although pundits saw the debate as downright brutal for the former vice president, according to this limited live-polling, Biden's "overall approval rose after he was done debating."

Additionally, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who sparred with Biden during the debate's most notable moment over his civil rights record, increased her African-American approval in this live-polling, Biden actually did as well. Greenberg told New York Magazine that Biden received "significant African-American support" when he defended himself against Harris' criticism. By the end of the second night of debating, Biden and Harris had the highest approval ratings, the report says, although most groups felt Harris won.

"He still has an Obama base that's there," Greenberg told New York Magazine. "Erosion should be part of the story, but we should not underestimate that coalition.”

FiveThirtyEight, meanwhile, is also out with some polling suggesting that Biden took a hit in support during the debate. For this poll, voters were surveyed on the candidates both before and after the debate, and Biden fell from 42 percent support to 32 percent support. At the same time, FiveThirtyEight notes that "while Biden lost some supporters, his overwhelmingly positive favorability ratings didn’t really change, suggesting that he can still recover even if he hurt his cause on Thursday night." Brendan Morrow

June 28, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday defended his record on civil rights issues after facing heavy criticism from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during Thursday's Democratic debate.

In the debate, Harris called out Biden for having opposed busing, to which Biden defended himself by saying that he only opposed "busing ordered by the Department of Education."

During a speech at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on Friday, Biden said, "I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris, but we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights."

Biden went on to say that he "never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing," saying he has "always been in favor of using federal authority to overcome state initiated segregation." He also said that he has "fought my heart out to ensure that civil rights and voting rights, equal rights, are enforced everywhere" and that "these rights are not up to the states to decide" but are the "federal government's duty to decide."

Biden in a 1975 interview said that "I oppose busing," which he called "an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me," The Washington Post reports, with his campaign spokesperson telling the Post in March that Biden "never thought busing was the best way to integrate schools in Delaware."

The former vice president has continued to face criticism for his past stance on busing following the debate, with Jesse Jackson saying on Friday that Biden was on "the wrong side of history" and that Harris was "on point." Brendan Morrow

June 28, 2019

NBC is denying 2020 Democrat Andrew Yang's claim that he wasn't able to speak for much of Thursday's Democratic debate because his microphone was turned off.

Yang, who spoke only briefly during the second round of debates, tweeted on Friday morning that "I feel bad for those who tuned in to see and support me that I didn't get more airtime," promising he "will do better" next time and that "my mic being off unless called on didn’t help."

This wasn't Yang's first time accusing NBC of shutting his mic off, as directly after the debate, he told supporters, "There were also a few times, FYI, where I just started talking, being like, 'Hey, I'd like to add something there,' and my mic was not on," Yang said, Politico reports. "It's not like if you start talking it all of a sudden takes over the convo. It's like I was talking and nothing was happening." He also said that he "felt somewhat, like, mechanically restricted."

This statement from Yang was surprising considering numerous candidates during the debate did begin speaking and interrupting one another when not called on. On Friday, NBC pushed back on Yang's claim, with a spokesperson for the network telling The Washington Post, "At no point during the debate was any candidate's microphone turned off or muted." The network was, however, faced with some audio glitches during the debates, having to take a break on Wednesday when the previous moderators' microphones were left on.

Yang's supporters seized on his statement on Friday using the Twitter hashtag #LetYangSpeak, which Yang approved of, writing, "Haha #LetYangSpeak indeed. You all are the best." He also dissed NBC by expressing relief that July's debate will be hosted elsewhere, writing, "I'm glad that the network switches and we get different moderators each time." Brendan Morrow

June 28, 2019

Viewership for the second night of Democratic debates far exceeded the first, with Thursday's event setting a new ratings record.

Overnight ratings released on Friday indicated a 15 to 20 percent increase for Thursday night's debate compared to Wednesday night's; the second night scored a 14.1 household rating, while the first got a 12.3, CNN reports.

These figures come from Nielsen, which later in the day will release final numbers showing exactly how many millions of people tuned in. But based on these overnight ratings, it may be close to 17 million viewers or more compared to 15.3 million for Wednesday night, CNN reports, also noting that Thursday's debate is now the highest-rated Democratic primary debate Nielson has measured.

The previous ratings record was held by the first Democratic primary debate of the 2016 election cycle, which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) participated in and which drew 15.5 million viewers. These viewership numbers don't factor in those who streamed the debate online.

This year's first night of debates was missing key front-runners in the race like Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Still, the first face-off, which featured Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former congressman Beto O'Rourke among others, performed much better in the ratings than NBC was reportedly expecting. Both nights of debates were carried across three channels: NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo.

It seems neither night, however, will compare to the first Republican primary debate of the 2016 cycle, in which President Trump made his debate debut and 24 million people tuned in. Still, The Hollywood Reporter notes that even Wednesday night's debate scored better ratings than every single primary debate in 2008 and 2012. Brendan Morrow

June 28, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is joining in on the post-debate Biden pile-on.

The 2020 Democrat spoke to CNN on Friday morning about the most memorable moment of Thursday night's debate: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) sparring with former Vice President Joe Biden over his past opposition to busing. Biden defended his record by saying he never opposed busing but rather "busing ordered by the Department of Education."

Booker responded by saying that "anybody who knows our painful history" knows that "African-Americans in this country, and many other groups, have had to turn to the federal government to intervene because there were states that were violating" their rights.

For that reason, the New Jersey senator said that after hearing Biden talk about the issue from a states' rights perspective, "I literally leaned back in my couch and couldn't believe that one moment."

Booker also slammed Biden for "not understanding the history of the need for the federal government ... to stop states from sanctioning the kind of bigotry and bias that was so hurting African-American communities." Brendan Morrow

June 28, 2019

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway just liked a very curious post-debate tweet about President Trump being vulnerable in 2020.

After Thursday's Democratic debate, CNN contributor Tara Setmayer argued on Twitter that former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) could join forces on a ticket that would defeat Trump in 2020. She was responding to a thread by CNN commentator Matt Lewis, who argued Harris' sparring with Biden during the debate was a win-win situation because it could either set her on a path toward being the nominee for president or Biden's running mate.

Conway, interestingly, liked this tweet from Setmayer, as a Twitter bot that follows the activity of members of the White House noted.

Chances are this Twitter like was a mistake on Conway's part, although she has yet to unlike it. If it was inadvertent, she's in good company at the White House, where Trump has routinely liked odd tweets seemingly by mistake. Earlier this month, he randomly liked a tweet praising Rihanna as a "work/life balance queen!" After an appropriately exhaustive investigation, Slate's Ashley Feinberg concluded Trump probably hit like by accident after this appeared in a Twitter moment.

Conway's husbamd, Trump critic George Conway, has been touting the California senator following Thursday's Democratic debate, writing on Friday, "Harris would annihilate Trump." So if this Twitter somehow actually wasn't a mistake, it could be a very rare area of agreement between the frequently-at-odds Conways. Brendan Morrow

June 28, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has a friend in Fox & Friends after the second round of Democratic debates.

The stand-out moment of Thursday's debate was Harris sparring with Biden after she criticized him for his past opposition to busing, as well as his comments about having worked with segregationists. Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade on Friday morning commended Harris for this performance, describing it as pitch perfect, Mediaite reports.

"I thought she nailed it," Kilmeade said. "I thought her tone was perfect. Her personal story, if it holds up, and I imagine it did, just knocked it out of the park."

Kilmeade went on to mock Biden for a response to Harris that "didn't work," with co-host Steve Doocy recalling the moment when Biden noted that he was out of time and was ruthlessly mocked on social media.

"Immediately, Twitter said, he's out of luck," Doocy said. "He's out of gas." Brendan Morrow

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