Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 cycle.
NPI staff are watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses, which will take place over the course of two nights in Miami, Florida.
The format is as follows:
Candidates will have sixty seconds to answer questions and thirty seconds to respond to follow-ups. And there will be no opening statements, though candidates will have a chance to deliver closing remarks. The two-hour debates will zip by quickly, with five segments each night separated by four commercial breaks.
Ten candidates will face off each night on NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo after a total of twenty candidates met the Democratic National Committee’s threshold for participation.
Our live coverage begins below.
UPDATE, 4:50 PM (Andrew): It’s almost time for the debate to begin.
Tonight’s lineup of candidates is:
- Senator Cory Booker
- Senator Elizabeth Warren
- Former Representative Beto O’™Rourke
- Senator Amy Klobuchar
- Former Representative John Delaney
- Representative Tulsi Gabbard
- Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro
- Representative Tim Ryan
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
- Washington Governor Jay Inslee
UPDATE, 4:55 PM (Andrew): Television channels airing the debate include NBC + MSNBC (English), and Telemundo (Spanish). Check your provider’s lineup card or online lineup if you don’t know the channel number. You can also watch online: the debate will stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms.
UPDATE, 6:03 PM (Caitlin): The first Democratic debate is underway in Miami with ten of the twenty 2020 democratic presidential candidates who met the fundraising quota. Some of the most watched candidates debating tonight include Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Amy Klobuchar. Washington Governor Jay Inslee is also on stage.
Immigration, specifically surrounding the troubling treatment of migrant children at the border, as well as tensions with Iran will be discussed.
UPDATE, 6:05 PM (Andrew): Elizabeth Warren just showed everyone why she’s a formidable candidate. That was a masterful answer to a poor initial question and an excellent example of how to reframe.
UPDATE, 6:09 PM (Andrew): We’re really disappointed in the phrasing of the questions so far. But it’s good to see the candidates are pivoting quickly and focusing on their values as opposed to letting the moderators exploit their differences.
UPDATE, 6:11 PM (Andrew): We just heard the lamest moderator question so far from Savannah Guthrie (“Are you picking winners and losers?”)
This phrase needs to be stricken from journalists’ lexicon.
UPDATE, 6:12 PM (Caitlin Harrington): Senator Warren got to open the debate when she was asked about her many plans to relieve American’s student loan debt, as well as Medicare For All and free college. She rhetorically asked who the economy is really working for and argued that, right now, it’s benefiting a slimmer number of Americans, like CEOs of private corporations.
Warren argued that elected officials in our nation’s capital needs to call out all corruption, tackle it head on, and implement structural change in our country.
UPDATE, 6:14 PM (Andrew): We’re almost fifteen minutes in and Governor Jay Inslee — the only governor on the stage — has not gotten a question yet.
UPDATE, 6:16 PM (Andrew): First question to Governor Jay Inslee is about income inequality. He’s ready to go with an energetic, turbocharged answer about supporting working families and organized labor. Nicely done, Governor.
UPDATE, 6:18 PM (Caitlin): Senator Amy Klobuchar was then asked about her previous statements that free college tuition is great in theory but harder to implement. Klobuchar spoke about her family’s history getting degrees from community colleges. She pledged to double the amount of funding that goes toward programs help pay for tuition and she would make it easier for student’s to pay off student loan debt.
UPDATE, 6:19 PM (Andrew): Warren is preaching Governor Inslee’s clean energy jobs gospel — effectively, too — with this answer.
UPDATE, 6:21 PM (Andrew): “I’m with Bernie on Medicare For All,” Elizabeth Warren says. “Let me tell you why.” She’s doing extremely well so far.
UPDATE, 6:23 PM (Caitlin): Former Representative Beto O’Rourke was asked about how some Democrats want a tax rate on those making over million a year. He started by stating that this economy has to work for everyone.
He then spoke in Spanish before then switching back to English, saying that right now we have a system that’s rigged to the most wealthiest. He also assailed Trump’s tax scam before closing with, “We each need to have a voice in this democracy.” When pressed further if he supported a specific tax amount, he continued to elaborate without actually committing to an amount.
UPDATE, 6:24 PM (Andrew): New York Mayor Bill De Blasio just seized an opening and responded to Beto O’Rourke’s answer on healthcare.
UPDATE, 6:26 PM (Andrew): Tulsi Gabbard says employers will recognize how much Medicare For All can save them if we embrace that approach.
UPDATE, 6:26 PM (Caitlin): Cory Booker was asked about Warren’s plans to break up big tech after he had previously been perceived as unsupportive of her plan. Booker countered by saying he agrees corporate consolidation was detrimental to Americans’ wellbeing. He argued that it strips dignity from labor and it doesn’t allow small businesses to compete. “I feel strongly about the need to check corporate consolidation and let the free economy work,” said Booker.
“This economy is not working for average Americans.”
UPDATE, 6:28 PM (Andrew): Governor Inslee just jumped in and declared that he’s the only candidate who has passed (actually, signed) legislation protecting women’s reproductive rights.
UPDATE, 6:30 PM (Caitlin): Warren offered thoughts on breaking up tech, arguing too much consolidation hurts our economy and helps constrict real innovation and growth. “We’ve had the laws out there for a long time to fight back, what’s missing is courage in Washington to take on the giants,” she said.
UPDATE, 6:30 PM (Andrew): Lots of crosstalk at a few points so far in this debate.
UPDATE, 6:31 PM (Andrew): Castro says he doesn’t just believe in reproductive freedom… he believes in reproductive justice. And he thoughtfully explained the distinction between those two concepts.
UPDATE, 6:32 PM (Caitlin): Equal pay was the next topic. Senator Tulsi Gabbard argued that tax dollars have been irresponsibly spent on unnecessary wars, citing her extensive career in the military.
She said that as president she would ensure Americans’ tax dollars will be spent responsibly, helping us towards equal pay for all.
UPDATE, 6:33 PM (Andrew): And now for the first commercial break… whew.
UPDATE, 6:35 PM (Caitlin): New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio cited his work to ensure a minimum wage in NYC, as well as free sick days and pre‑k for all. He then went on to say that this is a “battle for the heart and soul of our party. This is supposed to be the party of working people.” He argued the Democratic Party has to be strong, bold and progressive. “We’ve proved we can do that in New York by investing in our communities,” he said.
UPDATE, 6:36 PM (Caitlin): Former Representative John Delaney argued that we need to do real things to help the American people reach equal pay, including doubling of the earned income tax bracket and fixing the public education system.
UPDATE, 6:39 PM (Caitlin): The equal pay discussion keeps rolling on. Washington Governor Jay Inslee stated he was proud to stand up for unions, that help us achieve equal pay. He continued to say he would reinvigorate collective bargaining as well as focus on creating and honing jobs of the present of the future. He attacked Trump, saying that wind turbines don’t cause cancer and that they, in fact, cause jobs – building them provides clean energy jobs of the future.
UPDATE, 6:41 PM (Caitlin): Representative Tim Ryan argued that the bottom 60% of Americans haven’t seen a raise since 1980. “We need a policy that says we need to dominate those (clean energy) industries, especially solar,” he said.
UPDATE, 6:43 PM (Andrew): It’s worth noting that this is a bilingual debate. You’ll never heard multiple Republican presidential candidates interacting with a debate moderator in Spanish. This debate has also been notable for its focus on ideas as opposed to nasty personal attacks and innuendo.
UPDATE, 6:44 PM (Andrew): During the past few minutes, Castro and O’Rourke have repeatedly talked over each other. It’s been hard at times to make out all the words they’re saying. Castro is on the offensive against O’Rourke, pressing his case for welcoming new Americans to our country.
UPDATE, 6:44 PM (Caitlin): When asked about bring jobs back to America, Warren spoke to the fact that giant corporations have one loyalty: to profits. If they can move jobs to save money, they’ll do it. “There’s going to be a worldwide need for green tech and we can be the ones to provide that,” she said.
UPDATE, 6:46 PM (Caitlin): When the moderators asked for a show of hands in support of Medicare For All, only De Blasio and Warren raised their hands. Would have been nice to see ten hands. NPI research has found strong support in Washington State favoring Medicare For All.
UPDATE, 6:48 PM (Caitlin): Klobuchar defended her healthcare stance by talking about work she did when Obama was trying to pass the Patient Protection Act and noting that a public option was part of the original plan — though it wasn’t in the final bill. “We can’t kick half of Americans off their insurance in two years,” she argued. She argued that pharmaceutical prices are the bigger issue, with 2,500 different drug prices that have gone up since Trump took over.
UPDATE, 6:49 PM (Andrew): Jay Inslee got an opportunity to tout his work in Washington State to protect refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers. His track record on this issue is certainly strong.
UPDATE, 6:52 PM (Caitlin): As mentioned, Warren stated unequivocally that she is “with Bernie” on Medicare For All. She argued that the cost of healthcare is number one reason for bankruptcy – even if you have insurance. She argued that the private insurance industry does not benefit Americans.
UPDATE, 6:52 PM (Andrew): The moderators have shifted the debate to foreign policy. Cory Booker explained why he didn’t raise his hand when the candidates were asked about rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, which Donald Trump foolishly abandoned.
UPDATE, 6:54 PM (Caitlin): During the healthcare portion of the debate earlier, O’Rourke said that guaranteed affordable healthcare for all Americans as quickly as possible has to be an immediate goal as president.
He went on to mention that this includes women making decisions about their own bodies. He was the first candidate to bring up reproductive rights.
He contended that those who have negotiated good healthcare, like union members, should be able to keep that coverage, while those with insufficient coverage should be able to enroll in a public plan.
UPDATE, 6:54 PM (Caitlin): Tulsi Gabbard chimed in, saying that we need to take the best of each approach (expanding Medicare and reforming the insurance industry) by focusing on a goal of taking care of all Americans.
UPDATE, 6:56 PM (Andrew): The debate is halfway over; the second commercial break is currently airing.
UPDATE, 6:57 PM (Caitlin): Cory Booker argued that healthcare is connected to other issues. Without proper coverage, kids won’t succeed in school and those working will also not retain their employment.
He said it also affects those who are retired and cited that African Americans in his community have a lower life expectancy because of their healthcare. “I’m not going to wait,” he said. “We have to do the things immediately to provide better care. Too many people are profiteering off the pain of Americans.”
UPDATE, 6:58 PM (Caitlin): Warren pointed out that last year, big companies steered billions of dollars into their coffers instead of into healthcare for Americans. She also said that this number doesn’t count lobbying money or executives’ salaries. “It’s time for us to make families come first,” she insisted.
UPDATE, 7:00 PM (Caitlin): Governor Inslee emphasized how he has increased access to healthcare here in Washington State, which is under Democratic control. He signed a law that preserves a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, as well as implementing a public option in the state.
UPDATE, 7:01 PM (Caitlin): As mentioned, Castro stressed that we need not just reproductive freedom but reproductive justice, including for those in the trans community. He argued that being poor should not limit you from exercising reproductive freedoms and he would respect Roe v. Wade.
UPDATE, 7:02 PM (Caitlin): When Elizabeth Warren was asked if she supports a woman’s access to abortion, she responded by saying:
“I would make certain that every woman would have access to the full range of reproductive services, which includes [pregnancy prevention] and abortion. It’s not enough for us to expect the courts to protect us.”
UPDATE, 7:03 PM (Andrew): Things haven’t gone well, technically speaking, at the top of the second hour. There are audio problems preventing the moderators from interacting with the candidates. Right now, some red-faced NBC executives are grimly wringing their hands and wondering how things went so wrong.
UPDATE, 7:03 PM (Caitlin): Earlier, in the discussion on healthcare, Booker turned the conversation to opioid addiction and the high rate of arrests instead of treatment of those suffering. He argued we need to hold the pharmaceutical companies behind the epidemic responsible.
UPDATE, 7:05 PM (Andrew): NBC’s audio problems, in a way, are a metaphor for what’s currently happening in our country.
UPDATE, 7:05 PM (Caitlin): O’Rourke followed up on Booker’s comments, arguing that many of those in prison are there for nonviolent drug crimes, especially on marijuana charges. He implied that since marijuana is legal in many parts of the country now, no one should be imprisoned for nonviolent crimes associated with that substance. He also agreed that pharmaceutical companies need to be held accountable for their actions that increased the opioid epidemic.
UPDATE, 7:07 PM (Andrew): NBC got its audio problems figured out and the moderators finally got to ask about gun violence. “Gun violence is a national health emergency in this country.” Good line from Elizabeth Warren.
UPDATE, 7:10 PM (Andrew): This is Cory Booker’s best moment so far in the debate. A strong answer on addressing gun violence. (Booker has proposed buying back guns as part of his plan to tackle this public health scourge.)
UPDATE, 7:10 PM (Caitlin): Before the break and NBC’s embarrassing audio snafu, the debate turned to immigration.
Castro stated that he was the first candidate to put forward a comprehensive immigration plan. He said the recent image of the drowned father and daughter was heartbreaking, but that it should also “piss us all off” and that it should spur us to action. He stated he would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump’s worst immigration policies immediately after taking office.
UPDATE, 7:11 PM (Andrew): Castro did a good job saluting the work of Moms Demand Action and the Parkland teens who organized the March For Our Lives.
UPDATE, 7:14 PM (Andrew): Will Governor Inslee get a chance to talk about the three gun responsibility initiatives Washington State voters have supported, and the bills the Legislature has passed to protect our communities?
UPDATE, 7:14 PM (Caitlin): During the exchange on immigration, Booker alternated between speaking in English and Spanish, saying that he would immediately abolish ICE and that migrants shouldn’t have to leave their rights at our border. He argued we need to reinvigorate pathways to citizenship, including DACA [Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals], as well as address where these issues come from by making investments in the northern triangle.
UPDATE, 7:17 PM (Caitlin): De Blasio stressed that we need to remind Americans hurting economically that immigrants didn’t steal their jobs, corporations and the one percent did that. He argued that Democrats are on the side of working people and we need to champion policies to support them.
“That’s what we need to do as Americans,” he said.
UPDATE, 7:20 PM (Andrew): This has not been a good debate for former United States Representative John Delaney. He’s desperate to be heard, but he doesn’t have much of consequence to say.
UPDATE, 7:22 PM (Caitlin): Prior to the break that preceded the second hour, Beto O’Rourke was asked, in Spanish, what he would do on day one in the White House to tackle immigration. O’Rourke said we would begin to follow our own asylum laws and not criminally prosecute those migrants and families – especially those fleeing some of the worst violence in the world.
He said he would implement a family immigration program that would efficiently move immigrants through the immigration process. “We then need to rewrite our immigration laws in our country’s image,” he concluded.
UPDATE, 7:22 PM (Andrew): One hour and twenty-two minutes in, we’re talking about climate damage. Finally. And Governor Inslee appropriately gets the first question on climate from MNSBC’s Rachel Maddow.
UPDATE, 7:25 PM (Caitlin): Booker told the audience that increasing arrests won’t solve our immigration or drug problems. He argued we need to use our resources so that we don’t sacrifice our values or ideals for border security.
UPDATE, 7:27 PM (Caitlin): Inslee stated that there is no reason for the detention of children at the border and they should be immediately released pending prompt hearings. He explained that in Washington state, a law was passed that prevented local law enforcement from acting as ICE agents. He also mentioned that he was the first governor to fight Trump’s racist travel bans. “We welcome refugees and value diversity in our state,” he said.
UPDATE, 7:28 PM (Andrew): Chuck Todd is talking way too much. There’s only two hours and ten candidates in this debate, and he’s burning up time asking long winded questions. It’s unfortunate that he is a moderator.
UPDATE, 7:29 PM (Caitlin): The JCPOA with Iran was the topic that followed immigration. As Andrew mentioned, the moderators asked which candidates supported rejoining the deal. Booker was the only candidate to not raise his hand. He defended his stance by saying that he does not believe we should have ever dropped out of the deal but that now we need to renegotiate to immediately and aggressively deescalate those tensions.
UPDATE, 7:32 PM (Caitlin): Gabbard contended that the regime’s posture on Iran is very dangerous and Trump needs to start putting Americans first by re-entering the JCPOA and deescalating tensions.
UPDATE, 7:34 PM (Andrew): In his last answer on gun violence, Castro mentioned the names of several people who have been victims of police brutality, like Eric Garner and Sandra Bland. Nicely done, Mr. Secretary.
UPDATE, 7:36 PM (Caitlin): Warren tried to make the most of her opportunity to talk about gun safety and refused to be baited into embracing confiscation. “The federal government needs to treat it like a serious research problem,” she said. She said making sweeping restrictions won’t guarantee a solution and that we need data driven action, whether it’s politically popular or not.
UPDATE, 7:36 PM (Caitlin): “I hope I’m the only one on stage who has had seven people shot in their neighborhood,” Cory Booker said in a somber voice. “This is not just a policy issue, it’s personal. I’m tired of thoughts and prayers.”
UPDATE, 7:44 PM (Caitlin): Castro agreed that we don’t need to accept this as normal. He expressed his belief that in 2020, we will have a Democratic majority in each chamber of Congress. He praised the Parkland students and other gun safety activists by saying that we may have not seen federal legislative action yet, but there will be an opportunity for progress in 2021.
UPDATE, 7:45 PM (Andrew): Barely any time was devoted to addressing climate damage tonight, which just reinforces why we need a climate debate. With good moderators. (That means not you, Chuck Todd.)
UPDATE, 7:45 PM (Caitlin): Tim Ryan sought to broaden the conversation, saying that we need mental health counselors in every school in America so those who feel shame or trauma are supported and don’t resort to gun violence.
UPDATE, 7:47 PM (Caitlin): O’Rourke was then asked about the common refrain that Democrats are going to take Americans’ guns away. He argued that universal background checks save lives and that we need to end the sales of assault weapons and weapons of war. We also need to support red flag laws.
He said when talking to Americans all over the country, what everyone agreed on, whether they were Democrats, Republicans, owners and non gun owners, was that we need stronger and better gun safety laws.
UPDATE, 7:48 PM (Caitlin): Klobuchar argued that we need to listen to the young people. She drew a parallel to marriage equality, saying that it was the young people asking why the freedom to marry didn’t exist. She argued it’s the same with gun safety and that without it, we have failed our young people.
UPDATE, 7:52 PM (Caitlin): Booker was then asked about the Supreme Court, but before addressing that, he stated that if you need a license to drive a car, you ought to need it for a gun. He argued that bold agendas for gun reforms are needed. Regarding the Supreme Court, he agreed with Castro that whoever the eventual Democratic presidential nominee is, they should campaign in places like South Carolina and Iowa to elect Democratic Senate candidates so that Mitch McConnell cannot obstruct the people’s will following the 2021 election .
UPDATE, 7:56 PM (Caitlin): The moderators asked several of the candidates how they would deal with Mitch McConnell, the crafty Senate Republican chieftain. When Warren was asked if she had a plan, of course, she said yes. “We are a democracy, and the way it’s supposed to work is the will of the people matters,” she said. She said McConnell helped make the country work much better for those who lobby and give big campaign contributions, and its not for the people. Warren wants to see us get a Democratic majority in the Senate, but even without that, the fight still goes on and it starts in the White House.
UPDATE, 8:00 PM (Caitlin): Delaney spoke about bipartisanship and tackled the question regarding how to deal with Mitch McConnell who doesn’t operate that way. He stated that we need to get things done. “I’ll sign into law bills that are passed on a party line basis,” he said. “But huge majorities of the American people cause change. We need real solutions, not impossible promises.”
UPDATE, 8:04 PM (Caitlin): Before launching into his pitch for climate justice, Jay Inslee reiterated his call for the abolition of the filibuster, which McConnell used to obstruct bills during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Then he talked about the theme of his campaign, incorporating a line that Washingtonians are familiar with: “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last who can do something about it.”
He said we need to treat it like a crisis and that this next administration is likely the last one who can do anything significant to tackle it. He spoke about his success championing environmental protection in Washington and finished by saying he is the only candidate pledging to make tackling the climate crisis his top priority and put eight million people to work.
UPDATE, 8:07 PM (Caitlin): Gabbard was asked to address her previous anti-LGBTQ stances. She stated that there is no one in our government at any level who has any right to tell any American who they can love or marry. “My record shows my commitment to fighting for equality through my work in the equality caucus,” she said. She said many Americans can probably relate that she grew up in a socially conservative home and has changed her opinions.
“I’ve served with LGBTQ service members in training and down range. I would give my life for them and I know they would give their life for me. It’s this commitment that I’ll carry through as President.”
UPDATE, 8:08 PM (Caitlin): Klobuchar was asked why minority voters should vote for her. She said in short, in her first one hundred days as president, she will tackle voting reform and make sure everyone can vote. She said she would then move on to criminal justice reform.
UPDATE, 8:12 PM (Caitlin): The Taliban recently took credit for killing two service members in Afghanistan. The moderators asked why, even after multiple presidencies, this conflict has not ended?
Ryan stated that of his seventeen years in Congress, twelve of those years have been spent on different armed services committees. He argued that government needs to stay engaged because these conflicts are long and tedious. He then pointed out that Trump doesn’t even have people appointed to deal with these things, whether we’re talking about conflicts in Central America, Iran or Afghanistan. “We had a drone shot down because Trump is distracted,” he argued. “Those dollars could go to [places] like Flint, Michigan.”
UPDATE, 8:13 PM (Caitlin): Gabbard countered by saying that answer was unacceptable. “We have to bring our troops home,” she said. “We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when it began. We need a commander in chief who knows the cost of war.”
UPDATE, 8:15 PM (Caitlin): The moderators then asked what the biggest geopolitical threat to the United States is from each candidate.
Delaney said the biggest geopolitical challenge is China and nuclear proliferation. Inslee said it’s Donald Trump, drawing huge applause. Gabbard said that we are too close to nuclear war. Klobuchar cited China and Iran. O’Rourke said it’s the climate crisis. Warren said it’s corruption. Ryan said it’s China. De Blasio said it’s Russia’s attempts to interfere in our elections and subvert our democracy.
UPDATE, 8:17 PM (Caitlin): The debate topic switched the the Mueller report and if candidates would prosecute Trump after he leaves office.
O’Rourke said yes. “If we allow him to get away with this without impunity, we set a precedent that those in power are above the law. We must start impeachment proceedings and follow the facts where they go. If we can’t do that now, under my administration, we will ensure accountability and save this country.”
UPDATE, 8:20 PM (Caitlin): Closing statements were then heard, with each candidate getting just forty-five seconds. Delaney said that he is on a mission to find the America that has been lost. We saved the world and created the American dream. De Blasio said that putting working people first matters.
Inslee said he is running for president to address climate damage because he wants to be able to look his grandchildren in the eyes and tell them he did everything humanly possible to protect their futures. “We can save our children and our grandchildren. This is our moment,” he said.
UPDATE, 8:23 PM (Caitlin): Ryan stated that there is nothing worse than not being heard or seen (a comment that drew scorn on social media). He said he has represented a forgotten community and he is ready to play offense.
Gabbard said that she values service above self.
Castro said he will work hard every single day to continue the progress America has made and (after speaking in Spanish) said we will say adios to Trump.
Klobuchar said she listens to people and that’s how she gets things done. She also added that she has won in the reddest of districts.
Booker said he’s calling this country to a common purpose again. It’s a referendum on us, who we are and who we must be to each other.
UPDATE, 8:24 PM (Caitlin): O’Rourke said that we need a new kind of politics, directed by the urgency of the next generation. We need to bring everyone together and not leave anyone behind. Warren finished the night be saying we can make our economy and our country work for everyone. She promised she will fight for Americans as hard as she fights for her own family.
And that’s it for the first night of Democratic debates!
Tune in tomorrow night to hear from the other ten candidates.