Democratic Debates: How candidates fared on facts plus 7 qualified for next round

democratic debate 2 bernie sanders raising hands 2019 images

It’s frustrating when Democrats can’t resist playing into Donald Trump’s hands, and they did just on the second night of the 2020 presidential debates Wednesday. Several attempted to take out Joe Biden by attacking his policies which included trying to knock Barack Obama too. When Democrats start slamming the most popular Democratic president in history, it only shows how self-sabotaging they continue to be.

As of Thursday, only 7 candidates have actually qualified to be in the next Democratic debate in September. The Democratic National Committee has even more strict restrictions for the third set of debates to be held on September 12 and September 13 in Houston. This time if there are 10 or less qualifying candidates, the debate will just be one night which will be a relief. This time around, candidates must have 130,000 unique donors along with registering at least 2 percent support in four polls. The deadline for these qualifications is August 28 to hit those benchmarks.


Currently, only seven candidates have met both qualification thresholds and are guaranteed a spot on stage.

  • Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
  • Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.
  • Senator Kamala Harris of California
  • Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas
  • Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Three other candidates are very close: The former housing secretary Julián Castro and the entrepreneur Andrew Yang have surpassed 130,000 donations and each have three of the four qualifying polls they need, while Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has met the polling threshold and has about 120,000 donors.

Some of the Democratic presidential contenders dug in their heels with unsupported rhetoric about immigration, the economy and more in the final debate before the stage shrinks.

Several persisted in their distorted depiction of caged migrant children as a singular cruelty of President Donald Trump. Others glossed over the intricacies of complex issues, at times dismissing pointed questions as a “Republican talking point” — and not answering. Trump accurately called them out on their kids-in-cages rhetoric while falsely claiming migrant family separations came from the Obama era and he ended it.

Ten candidates debated in Detroit on Wednesday, as did 10 the night before. After this, it becomes harder to qualify for the debates ahead and some won’t make the cut.

A closer look at the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates claims, Trump’s counterpunch, and how they compare with the facts:


KAMALA HARRIS, senator from California: “We’ve got a person who has put babies in cages and separated children from their parents.”

MICHAEL BENNET, senator from Colorado, in a message directed at Trump: “Kids belong in classrooms not cages.”

TRUMP tweet: “The cages for kids were built by the Obama Administration in 2014. He had the policy of child separation. I ended it even as I realized that more families would then come to the Border!”

THE FACTS: There’s deception on both sides here.

Family separations as a matter of routine came about because of Trump’s “zero tolerance” enforcement policy. President Barack Obama had no such policy and Trump’s repeated attempts to pin one on him flies in the face of reality. Trump only ended — or suspended — what Trump had started, and that was after a judge ordered that the practice be sharply curtailed and as an international uproar grew.

Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union now says in a legal challenge that more than 900 children were separated from their parents at the border in the year after the judge’s order.

The Obama administration also separated migrant children from families when a child’s safety appeared at risk with the adults or in other limited circumstances. But the ACLU says children have been removed after the judge’s order for minor transgressions by the adults, like traffic offenses, or for unfounded suspicions of wrongdoing.

Trump is correct in noting that the “cages” — chain-link enclosures inside border facilities where migrants have been temporarily housed, separated by sex and age — were built and used by the Obama administration. The Trump administration has used them, too.


JOE BIDEN, former vice president, on Obama’s approach to people who came to the U.S. illegally as children: “The president came along and he’s the guy that came up with the idea, first time ever, of dealing with the Dreamers. He put that in the law.”

THE FACTS: He’s wrong that Obama achieved a law protecting those young immigrants. He notably failed on that front. Instead, he circumvented Congress and used his executive authority to extend temporary protection, letting them stay in the country if they met certain conditions. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as its name implies, merely defers deportations.

Trump, also with executive action, tried to end the program but the effort has been tied up in courts, so the protection continues for now.


HARRIS: “Autoworkers we expect, perhaps, hundreds of thousands will be out of jobs by the end of the year.”

THE FACTS: This dire prediction is faulty. The auto industry is not facing the imminent risk of such a collapse.

That might have happened — as a worst-case scenario — if Trump had followed through on threats to enact new tariffs and policies that would have hurt the auto industry. But he didn’t.

Harris has been citing the Center for Automotive Research’s 2018 study, which examined hypothetical job losses across all U.S. industries touched by the auto business — not just the nation’s nearly 1 million autoworkers — if Trump introduced certain tariffs and policies.

The study gave a wide range of possible job losses, from 82,000 to 750,000. The findings were later revised in February to a worst-case scenario of 367,000 across all industries by the end of this year. Those hypothetical job losses would be spread across car and parts makers, dealers, restaurants, retail stores and any business that benefits from the auto industry.

Impact on the auto industry was further minimized when the Trump administration lifted tariffs on steels and aluminum products coming from Canada and Mexico.

The industry has added thousands of jobs since a crisis in 2009 that sent General Motors and Chrysler into bankruptcy protection.

After a record sales year of 17.55 million in 2016 demand has fallen to an expected 16.8 million new vehicle sales this year. But the industry is still posting strong numbers and is not heading off a cliff.


BILL DE BLASIO, mayor of New York City, on why he hasn’t fired the police officer who used a chokehold on Eric Garner: “For the first time, we are not waiting on the federal Justice Department which told the city of New York that we could not proceed because the Justice Department was pursuing their prosecution and years went by and a lot of pain accrued.”

THE FACTS: This is false. The Justice Department did not stop the city from moving forward on the matter. The New York Police Department decided to delay disciplinary proceedings for Officer Daniel Pantaleo on its own accord.

While local officials sometimes defer their investigation as federal prosecutors conduct criminal probes, there was no requirement for the police department to wait for the federal civil rights investigation in weighing a decision about whether to fire Pantaleo.

The Justice Department announced this month that it would not bring any charges in connection with Garner’s death. Pantaleo faced an internal departmental trial and a departmental judge hasn’t officially rendered a recommendation yet on whether he should be fired or disciplined.

The police commissioner, who reports to de Blasio, could act at any time to fire Pantaleo.


CORY BOOKER, senator from New Jersey, on decriminalizing illegal entry at the border: “Doing it through the civil courts means you won’t need these awful detention centers that I’ve been to.”

THE FACTS: Not exactly. It’s true that there could be reduced immigration detention at the border if there were no criminal charge for illegal entry. But border officers would still need to process people coming over the border and that could lead to temporary holding such as the so-called cages that Democrats call inhumane.

Also, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses detention to hold people awaiting deportation who have been accused or convicted of more serious crimes, including those who have green cards or other legal status.

For example, in December 2018, ICE detained 47,486 people, according to an analysis at Syracuse University. Of those, 29,753 had no conviction, and those people probably would not be in detention if illegal entry were a civil issue.

But 6,186 had serious crime convictions, 2,237 had other convictions and 9,310 had minor violations and those people could still be held, according to the analysis.


HARRIS: “Right now in America, we have seniors who every day – millions of seniors – are going into the Medicare system.”

THE FACTS: It’s more like 10,000 people a day who turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, which offers coverage for hospitalization, doctor visits, prescription drugs and other services.

Medicare covers more than 60 million people, including disabled people of any age.


JOE BIDEN: “We should put some of these insurance executives who totally oppose my plan in jail for the 9 billion opioids they sell out there.”

THE FACTS: Biden must have meant drug company executives since insurance companies pay for medications — they don’t sell them.

joe biden pointing at kamala harris democratic debate 2


Democratic presidential contenders struck off notes on the science of global warming and the state of the economy in their Detroit debate Tuesday night.

As much as scientists see the need for action on climate change, they don’t lay out a looming point of no return, as Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke asserted. Bernie Sanders almost certainly overstated how much new income is soaked up by the richest Americans.

A look at some of their statements in the opening night of the second round of debates, with 10 more Democrats taking the stage Wednesday:


BETO O’ROURKE, former U.S. representative from Texas, on global warming: “I listen to scientists on this and they’re very clear: We don’t have more than 10 years to get this right. And we won’t meet that challenge with half-steps, half-measures or only half the country.”

PETE BUTTIGIEG, mayor of South Bend, Indiana: “Science tells us we have 12 years before we reach the horizon of our catastrophe when it comes to our climate.”

THE FACTS: Scientists don’t agree on an approximate time frame, let alone an exact number of years, for how much time we have left to stave off the deadliest extremes of climate change.

A report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, drawn from the work of hundreds of scientists, uses 2030 as a prominent benchmark because signatories to the Paris climate change agreement have pledged emission cuts by then. But it’s not a last-chance, hard deadline for action, as O’Rourke, Buttigieg and others have interpreted it.

“The hotter it gets, the worse it gets, but there is no cliff edge,” James Skea, co-chairman of the report, told media outlets.

Climate scientists certainly see the necessity for broad and immediate action to address global warming, but they do not agree that 2030 is a “point of no return,” as Buttigieg put it.

“This has been a persistent source of confusion,” agreed Kristie L. Ebi, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle. “The report never said we only have 12 years left.”


JOHN HICKENLOOPER, former Colorado governor: When it comes to fighting climate change, “What we do here is a best practice and a template that’s got to be done all over the world. … We need every country working together if we’re going to deal with climate change in a real way.”

THE FACTS: The nations most concerned with climate change certainly do not consider the U.S. a “template” for a solution. Americans per capita are among the world’s biggest emitters of climate-changing carbon. The U.S. is also the top oil and natural gas producer, pumping out more fossil fuels on the front end.

On Hickenlooper’s point about needing all countries working together, the U.S. under President Donald Trump is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, a voluntary commitment by countries to combat climate-changing emissions.


BERNIE SANDERS, Vermont senator: “49 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.”

THE FACTS: That is surely exaggerated. The figure comes from a short paper by Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and leading researcher on inequality, and doesn’t include the value of fringe benefits, such as health insurance, or the effects of taxes and government benefit programs such as Social Security.

But Saez and another Berkeley economist, Gabriel Zucman, have recently compiled a broader data set that does include those items and finds the top 1% has captured roughly 25% of the income growth since the recession ended. That’s certainly a lot lower but still a substantial share. Income inequality has sharply increased in the past four decades, but since the recession, data from the Congressional Budget Office shows that it has actually narrowed slightly.


SANDERS: Benefits under his health care plan “will be better because ‘Medicare for All’ is comprehensive and covers all health care needs.”

THE FACTS: On paper, the Vermont senator is right. In real life, if he’s elected president, the result might be quite different.

Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill calls for a government plan that would cover all medical care, prescriptions, dental, and vision care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and home and community-based long-term care services with virtually no copays or deductibles. The only exception would be a modest copay for certain high-cost medications.

But other countries with national health care plans are not as generous with benefits and also make use of copays to manage costs. Canada, often held up as a model by Sanders, does not have universal coverage for prescription drugs. Canadians rely on a mix of private insurance and public plans to pay for their prescriptions.

If Sanders is elected president, a Congress grappling with how to pass his plan may well pare back some of its promises. So there’s no guarantee that benefits “will be better” for everybody, particularly people who now have the most generous health insurance.


TIM RYAN, U.S. representative from Ohio: “The economic system that used to create 30, 40, 50 dollar-an-hour jobs that you could have a good solid middle class living now forces us to have two or three jobs just to get by.”

THE FACTS: Most Americans, by far, only work one job, and the numbers who juggle more than one have declined over a quarter-century.

In the mid-1990s, the percentage of workers holding multiple jobs peaked at 6.5%. The rate dropped significantly, even during the Great Recession, and has been hovering for nearly a decade at about 5% or a little lower. In the latest monthly figures, from June, 5.2% of workers were holding more than one job.

Hispanic and Asian workers are consistently less likely than white and black workers to be holding multiple jobs. Women are more likely to be doing so than men.