Democratic debate night two in Detroit: Five takeaways from the evening

Democratic presidential candidates take the stage at the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The second night’s front runners fended off several attacks from candidates further on the sides of the debate stage looking to get in shots. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the two candidates polling highest saw their proposals on health care, criminal justice and immigration, as well as past experiences in office attacked as either not going far enough or as evidence they wouldn’t serve the electorate appropriately.

In notable exchanges, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio directed several criticisms at Biden for deportations when he was Vice President, while Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) criticized laws written by Biden that hurt people he governed as Mayor in Newark, NJ.

Harris’ track record as attorney general in California was attacked by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HW) for her jailing of people with marijuana convictions and her decisions over cases of people on death row.

A less-stark divide between progressives and moderates:

Compared to the first night’s debate, the divide among the Democratic party’s progressive wing and its more moderate representatives was less apparent. The primary reason for this dearth in the party’s schism was the lack of representation from candidates who endorse government policies like health care and economy - particularly from Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

Instead the race’s polling leader Joe Biden, who is seen as a more moderate candidate was front and center. Joining him in the ideological middle was Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gabbard and de Blasio, who said progressive polices viewed as too far left would give President Donald Trump a better shot at winning the 2020 election.

However, Booker and Harris, both supporters of Medicare for All openly defended their plans, while fending off attacks from Bennet and Biden.

How Democrats plan to win back Michigan:

Half-way through the debate, moderators asked candidates what they would do to win back Michigan, which voted for Trump during the 2016 election - the first time the state had gone red in decades.

While all candidates that spoke said the reason for Trump being elected was tied to individuals feeling left out by their leaders, Booker was the first to mention the lack of African American support at the polls in 2016, compared to the demographic's presence in 2012 when former President Barack Obama ran for reelection.

"We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters,” said Booker around 9:53 p.m. in the debate. He followed up by expressing the importance of securing the African American women voting bloc, it being one of the largest in the state.

Before Booker, Biden referenced the endorsement he received from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who was sitting in the crowd at the time. Citing previous investments he helped push into Michigan, he said bailing out General Motors saved “tens of thousands of jobs here in the state.”

“I spent better part of two years out here making sure it did exactly that,” Biden said. “We invested significantly in this city and transportation -- anyway the point is, we have made significant investments in this city.

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First protests from inside the Fox Theater:

Wednesday’s debate was the first time protests could be heard from inside the Fox Theater. The first series of chants directed at de Blasio said “Fire Pantaleo” - a reference to the officer involved in the killing of Eric Garner. After the officer was found not guilty in a trial, he was kept on the force.

When pressed on this issue, de Blasio said that something like this would “never be another tragedy, never be another Eric Garner.” A post later appeared from his Twitter account stating “To the protesters in the audience, today: I heard you. I saw you. I thank you. This is what Democracy looks like and no one said it was pretty.”

He made further news by saying the family of Eric Garner would “get justice in the next 30 days” and blamed the justice department for not letting New York City to further investigate the death.

Memorable Quotes all around: 

Biden: "This idea is a bunch of malarkey, what we're talking about here"

Businessman Andrew Yang: "We need to do the opposite of much of what we're doing right now, and the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math. So let me share the math"

Booker: "Mr. Vice President, there's a saying in my community — you're dipping into the Kool-Aid when you don't even know the flavor"

Gillibrand: "The first thing that I'm going to do as president is I'm going to Clorox the Oval Office"