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Democratic Debate Updates and Analysis: Immigration dominates 1st night of debate as candidates split

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Posted at 10:18 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-26 23:18:43-04

The first Democratic debates are here, and the 2020 contenders converged on Wednesday and will do so again on Thursday night in Miami. Times listed are in Eastern Daylight Time.

11 p.m.: The Democratic debate has ended

The candidates' have made closing appeals as the debate ends.

10:53 p.m.: Some Trump world reactions to Democratic debate

While President Donald Trump has kept his tweeting to a minimum during tonight's Democrat debate –weighing in with just a few quips, the Trump campaign has been active on Twitter throughout the night. Here's some reaction from Trump world to the debate so far.

Trump communication director Tim Murtaugh tells ABC News: "Democrat theme has already hardened on stage here: America is a terrible place." "No surprises. Klobuchar endorses open borders." (Sen. Klobuchar said she would "look" at Julian Castro's plan and did not outright endorse.)

Trump campaign aide tells ABC News: "It’s really an alternate universe from a policy perspective. I think most people expected Sen. Warren to own this and I’m not sure she has. And, I’m struck by how much oxygen the ladies are getting."

Trump campaign official tells ABC News: "Feels like the end [for Beto]."

10:51 p.m.: ABC News Political Director Rick Klein ponders why no Biden namechecks

I’m really shocked that former Vice President Joe Biden’s name has not been spoken once tonight. Candidates go where the votes are, and there are a whole lot of voters telling pollsters that they favor Biden. That will obviously change when Biden is on stage on Thursday. But Democrats worried about a party being shredded apart may take heart that the frontrunner didn’t take a single arrow on night one.

10:46 p.m.: Facts about 2020 candidates appearing in the first Democratic debate

As the debate enters a break, here are more facts about 2020 candidates appearing in the first Democratic debate.

The candidates include:

4 current or former Congressmen/women: O’Rourke, Gabbard, Delaney, Ryan 3 Senators: Klobuchar, Booker, Warren 2 current or former Mayors: Castro, de Blasio 1 Governor: Inslee

They span an age range of 38 to 70 years old.

Oldest candidate: Elizabeth Warren: 70 years old. Youngest candidate: Tulsi Gabbard: 38 years old

Read more interesting stats here.

(Jim Wtason/AFP/Getty Images)

10:35 p.m.: 2020 Democrats take on issues within the LGBTQ community and appealing to a broader Democratic base

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard reiterates her change of heart on LGBTQ issues, after NBC host Chuck Todd noted that one of the first things she did did after launching your campaign, was issue an apology to the LGBTQ community, to which she asked, "Let me say there is no one in our government at any level who has the right to tell any American who they should be allowed to love or who they should be allowed to marry. My record in Congress for over six years shows my commitment to fighting for LGBTQ equality.I serve on the equality caucus and recently voted for passage of the equality act. Maybe many people in this country can relate to the fact I grew up in a socially conservative home -- held views when I was very young that I no longer hold today ... There are still people who are facing discrimination in the workplace, still people who are unable to find a home for their families. It is this kind of discrimination that we need to address."

Sen. Cory Booker chimed in on civil rights in the trans-community, specifically the high murder rates for African-American trans-people.

"We do not talk enough about trans-Americans. Especially African-American trans-Americans and the incredibly high rate of murder right now."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar highlighted her work with fellow 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Book on criminal justice reform and the First Step Act.

"We will work to make sure everyone can vote at this table. Everyone can vote in this country," she said. "Senator Booker and I worked on that First Step Act. We should go to the Second Step Act."

10:28 p.m.: Jay Inslee and climate change get their moment in the spotlight

When asked about his climate change plan, the single issue at the forefront of his campaign, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said, "We are in the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we are the last that can do something about it. Our towns are burning. Our fields are flooding. Miami is inundated. And we have to understand this is a climate crisis, an emergency. And it is our last chance in the administration, next one, to do something about it. And we need to do what I've done in my state. We passed a 100% clean electrical grid bill. We now have a vision statement. My plan has been called the gold standard of putting people to work. But the most important thing on this, in the biggest decision for the American public, is, who's going to make this the first priority?"

Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke who also put out a climate change plan also took on the question, responding, "I think you've got to bring everybody into the decisions and the solutions to the challenges that we face. That's why we're traveling everywhere ... We in our administration are going to fund resiliency in those communities, in Miami, in Houston, Texas. Those places that are on the front lines of climate change today. We're going to mobilize $5 trillion in this economy over the next ten years. We're going to free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels and we’re gonna put farmers and ranchers in the driver's seat."

The other Texas on the stage, former Obama administration secretary Julian Castro, also spoke about climate change, replying, "If I'm elected president, the first thing I would do, like Senator Klobuchar also just said, sign an executive order recommitting us to the Paris climate accord."

Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney also interjected to say, "You just have to do it right. You can't put a price on carbon, raise energy prices and not give the money back to the American people. My proposal which is put a price on carbon, give a dividend back to the American people, it goes out one pocket, back in the other."

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

10:08 p.m.: Not far from Parkland, the candidates field questions on gun control

"The single hardest questions I have gotten, from a little boy and from a little girl and that is to say when you are president, how are you going to keep us safe," Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. "We can do the things that are sensible. We can do the universal background checks. We can ban the weapons of war, but we can also double down on the research and find out what really works. Where it is that we can make the differences at the margins that will keep our children safe... We need to treat this – like the virus that's killing our children."

"We can't treat this as an across-the-board problem. We have to treat it like a public health emergency," she added.

Sen. Cory Booker, who has introduced a gun reform plan, said, "For millions of Americans, this is not a policy issue, this is an urgency ... It is time we have bold actions and a bold agenda. I will get that done as president of the United States because this is not about policy. This is personal."

Booker attacked O'Rourke on gun reform saying: "One thing we all don't agree with when it comes to guns, I think it's common sense. Over 70% of Americans agree with me, if you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy and own a firearm. And not everybody in this field agrees with that."

When asked about active shooter drills, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro responded, "The answer is no, we don't have to accept that. On January 20th, 2021 at 12:01 P.M. We will have a Democratic president and a Democratic House and Democratic Senate."

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who said he supports "all the gun reforms here," before adding, "We need to start dealing with the trauma that our kids have. We need trauma-based care in every school. We need social and emotional learning in every school."

Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke discussed how he would talk about gun control on the trail in his home state, as one of the reddest states, "Those weapons of war were designed to kill people as effectively and efficiently as possible. They should belong on the battlefield and not in our communities. If someone poses a danger to themselves or to someone else, they're stopped before it's too late. What I found in each one of those 254 counties is that Democrats and independents and Republicans, gun owners and non-gun owners alike agreed."

Meanwhile, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed to his African-American son as personal motivation to address gun reform.

The New York City mayor, invoked his son when discussing gun control reform, on Wednesday night, saying, "I also want to say there’s something that sets me apart from all my colleagues running in this race. And that is for the last 21 years, I've been raising a black son in America. And I have had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante, about how to protect himself on the streets of our city and all over this country including how to deal with the fact he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between our young men and our police, too."

10:07 p.m. ABC News Political commentator Cokie Roberts analyzes the importance of making an impression during debates

One of the things we’ve learned from debates over the decades is that how candidates come across can be as important, or even more important than what they say. Maybe that shouldn’t be the case, but traditionally it has been.

One of the worse things a candidate can do is talk in Congress-speak. So Castro’s constant reference to Section 1325 is likely to fall on mostly deaf ears. Sen. Amy Klobuchar sometimes sinks into that as well.

Anger usually doesn’t work well either, and that’s a problem for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. And a sense that a candidate isn’t the genuine article can be problematic. former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke needs to be wary there.

Sen. Cory Booker seems at the moment to be winning the "most appealing" contest. But Sen. Elizabeth Warren is so much herself and saying things that are so popular with many Democrats that she’s still the one to watch.

10:02 pm: ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd "am surprised the candidates haven’t taken the battle more to President Trump"

Fascinating debate so far from a couple of perspectives:

I am surprised the candidates haven’t taken the battle more to President Trump. The negative views of the president unite the Democrats and it is the number one reason they are looking for a candidate. To find someone who can take on and beat him in November. Seems like a missed opportunity so far by most of the candidates.

The candidates are taking on each other more directly than I thought they would this early. It looks like some of the candidates who are polling at 1 or 2% feel this is one of their last opportunities to move up in the polls in time for the September debate which will raise the cut-off. Also, in this vein, those candidates seem to believe Beto O’Rourke is vulnerable and are taking it to him.

Senator Warren had the best first 20 minutes of the debate. She was clear and had an easily understandable thematic that she annunciated well. In the second half of debate, she disappeared and didn’t jump in when she could have. She needs to assert herself more on non-economic issues in future debates.

9:55 p.m. The debate turns to foreign policy amid tensions with Iran

Sen. Cory Booker was the first candidate to address the threats issued between both the U.S. and Iran under the current administration, responding, "First and foremost it was a mistake to pull out of that deal. One of the reasons we're seeing this hostility now, Donald Trump is marching us to a far more dangerous situation."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said of the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, "It was imperfect but it was a good deal for that moment. Donald Trump told us when he got out of it that he was going to give us a better deal. Those were his words. And now we are a month away from the Iranians who claim now that they're going to blow the cap on enriching uranium. He's made us less safe than we were when he became president. So what I would do is negotiate us back into that agreement."

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also weighed in, when asked if she would insist that the Iran deal addressed Iran's support for Hezbollah, to which she replied, "Let's deal with the situation where we are. This president and his chickenhawk cabinet led us to the brink of war with Iran. I served in the war in Iraq at the height of the war in 2005. I served in the war in Iraq at the height of the war in 2005. A war that took over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniforms lives."

9:50 p.m.: Spanish language speaking ability is a moment in debates as searches for translation spike online

As candidates such as O'Rourke and Booker speak to voters in Spanish at the debate, searches for 'English to Spanish translation' spiked more than 300%. Hispanics are projected to become the largest minority group in the electorate in 2020, with 13.3%, surpassing African Americans.

2020 presidential candidates Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang commented on their own Spanish skills on Twitter.

"I need to learn Spanish by tomorrow night at 9," Williamsom tweeted.

"My Spanish is terrible," Yang tweeted.

9:48 p.m.: The 2020 Democrats address the crisis at the border

Julián Castro commented on the harrowing photo circulated that showed a man and his 23-month-old child lying lifeless and in the mud, with the girl's arm draped over her father's body.

"Watching that image of Oscar and his daughter, Valeria, is heartbreaking. It should also piss us all off. If I were president today, and it should spur us to action, if I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of trump's zero-tolerance policy, the remain in Mexico policy, and the metering policy," he said.

"On day one, I will make sure that number one, we end the ICE policies and the Customs and Border policies are violating the human rights. When people come to this country, they do not leave their human rights at the border," Booker said.

"Those tragic photos of that parent and that child and I say this as a father, every American should feel that in their heart and say that is not America. Those are not our values. Have to get under the skin of why we have this crisis ... Those are not our values. We have to get under the skin of why we have this crisis," de Blasio responded.

The two Texans, Castro and O'Rourke, squared off over issues of border security and family separation at the border.

Castro is pushing a plan that would decriminalize all border crossings and make them a civil offense, O'Rourke does not support that because of concerns over violent offenders coming across the borders.

Castro began: "I just think it's a mistake, Beto. I think it's a mistake. I think if you truly want to change the system, that we got to repeal that section."

"Let me respond to this very briefly. As a member of Congress, I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure we don't criminalize those seeking asylum. If you are fleeing desperation, I want to make sure you are treated with respect," O'Rourke said.

"I'm still talking about everybody else," Castro said.

"You are looking at one small part. I'm talking about a comprehensive rewrite," O'Rourke said.

Castro replied: "That's not true. If you do that -- that's actually not true."

O'Rourke interjected: "People I'm talking about -- we're talking about millions of folks. A lot of folks that are coming are not seeking asylum."

Another candidate, Ryan later added on the crisis at the border, "We have kids laying in their own snot with three-week-old diapers that haven't been changed. We need to tell the president that is not a sign of strength. That is a sign of weakness."

9:42 p.m.: Warren pledges to make right to abortion federal law

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she "would make certain that every woman has access to the full range of reproductive health care services," including birth control and abortion.

She said that since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, states have been chipping away at protections.

"It's not enough for us to expect the courts to protect us," she said, adding the majority of Americans support the Supreme Court decision. "We need to make that federal law."

9:37 p.m.: ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein analyzes Warren's tone

There’s something compelling about Warren’s tone tonight – something that came through throughout the debate’s first quarter. We heard a lot of candidates talk about their own backgrounds already. I don’t know that anyone was able to connect the dots to policy as effectively as Warren.

9:30 p.m.: Klobuchar responds to Inslee's claim on reproductive rights

After Gov. Jay Inslee claimed that he was "the only candidate here who has passed a law protecting a woman's right of reproductive health and health insurance," Klobucharresponded to the Washington governor, saying, "I just want to say there's three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose."

"I'll start with that," she added to applause.

9:25 p.m.: Warren explains her support for Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All plan, as first contentious moment comes between de Blasio and O'Rourke

Turning to healthcare, Warren explains her support for Medicare-for-All: "I'm with Bernie on Medicare-for-All for all. I will tell you why. I studied why families go broke. One of the number one reasons is the cost of health care and medical bills. Not just for people who don't have experience. It's for people who have experience. Look at the business model of an insurance company. It's to bring in as many dollars as they can with premiums and pay out as few as possible for your health care. That leaves families with rising premiums, rising copays and fighting with insurance companies to try get the health care that their doctors say they and their children need. Medicare for all solve problem. I understand, there are a lot of politicians who say it's not just possible, we can't do it, we are have a lot of political reasons for this. They are really telling you they won't fight for it. Health care is a basic human right and I will fight for basic human rights."

The first contentious moment during the debate came as O'Rourke and de Blasio sparred over healthcare as the former was explaining his stance on abolishing private health insurance.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio interrupted O'Rourke's answer to ask the former congressman why he was defending a system that is "not working for tens of millions of Americans."

"Private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans," de Blasio said.

"That's right, so for those who are not working, they can choose Medicare," O'Rourke responded.

9:20 p.m.: ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks analyzes the candidates' responses on the economy

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and former Congressman Beto O'Rouke kicked off the first debate all arguing the economy is not working for all Americans.

Warren said the economy was doing great for a "thinner slice" of Americans, such as oil companies, drug companies and the wealthiest in the country and went on to argue for "structural" changes to the economy and government.

Booker said "corporate power" was growing. Minutes later Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Bill de Blasio, too, pointed to income inequality as evidence of an economy not working as well as Republicans and the president are projecting.

Speaking of the president – he was first mentioned by name five minutes into the debate. The first remarks in Spanish came from O'Rouke around the six minute mark.

9:20 p.m.: De Blasio and Warren are the only two candidates on stage who support abolishing private health insurance

When asked who on the stage would abolish health insurance in favor of a government-run plan, only de Blasio and Warren were the only two candidates who raised their hands.

9:18 p.m.: Inslee, the climate change candidate, addresses income inequality

When asked how we would address income inequality, the Washington governor said, "I think plans are great. But I'm a governor... I'm proud of standing up for unions. I have a plan to reinvigorate collective bargaining to increase wages finally. I marched with the folks ... The next thing I do is put people to work in the jobs of the present and the future. Donald Trump is simply wrong. He said wind turbines cause cancer. We know they cause jobs."

9:14 p.m. Booker talks the economy, as Castro and Gabbard each take a question on equal pay

In his first response, Booker said, "I live in a low income black and brown community. I see every single day that this economy is not working for average Americans...It is about time that we have an economy that works for everybody, not just the wealthiest"

Castro, the former Obama Housing Urban Development secretary, said on equal pay, "I would do several things, starting with something we should have done a long time ago, which is to pass the equal rights amendment finally in this country, and also, pursue legislation so that women are paid equal pay for equal work in this country."

In her first 60 seconds, Gabbard, in answering a question on equal pay, turns to her experience in the military, as the sole veteran on stage: The American people deserve a president who will put your interests ahead of the rich and powerful. That's not what we have right now. I enlisted in the army national Guard after the attacks on 9/11 and I still serve as a major. I know the importance of national security as well as the high cost of war."

9:09 p.m. O'Rourke answers his first question with a mix of English and Spanish

When asked about the economy, O'Rourke spoke in a mix of the two languages, saying, "This economy has got to work or everyone. Right now we know that it isn't. It's going to take all of us coming together to make sure that it does...That's how you explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and the wealthiest. A $2 trillion tax cut that favored corporations while sitting on record piles of cash and the wealthiest in this country at a time of historic wealth inequality. A new democracy returns power to the people. No PACS and gerrymandering and bring in more voters and a voting rights act."

9:03 p.m. The first question goes to Warren about the economy

Warren was asked the first question about how she would address concerns about the effect of the bold, structural change she is pitching through her many plans on the economy.

"So I think of it this way. Who is this economy really working for. It's doing great for thinner and thinner slices at the top," she began. "When you've got a government, when you have autonomy that does great for those with money and is not doing great for everyone else that is corruption, pure and simple. We need to call it out. We ahead at to attack it head-on. We need to make structural change in our government and our economy and in our country."

The candidates only have 60 seconds to answer each question and 30 seconds for follow-ups.

Klobuchar was also asked about the economy, to which she answered, "We know that not everyone is sharing in this prosperity and Donald Trump just sits in the White House and gloats about what's going when you have so many people that are having trouble affording college and having trouble affording premiums."

"My plan would be to first of all make community college free," she added.

9 p.m. The first Democratic debate is starting

The first Democratic debates are underway with 10 candidates taking the stage:

8:38 p.m. O.J. Simpson opines on first Democratic debates

The former football star is gearing up to watch the first debates from his house in Las Vegas, saying in a video posted on Twitter, "I don't know most of these guys but I'm interested to hear what they have to say. And I think every American should be watching this.

Simpson, who was released from prison in 2017, was recently granted the right to vote in the state as part of the former felon population re-enfranchised by the state's Democratic governor last month.

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a pair of criminal justice reform bills on May 30 to automatically restore voting rights for people released from prison. The first measure, Assembly Bill 431, will re-enfranchise up to 77,000 people, according to the governor.

8:34 p.m.: Trump tweets about the #DemDebate as he heads "off to save the Free World!"

President Trump, on board Air Force One and headed to the G20 meeting, is tweeting about the Democratic debate. He said he's "off to save the Free World!" but encourages everyone to follow several of his campaign staff Twitter handles for Team Trump fact checks.

ABC News will be fact-checking the debates.

8:11 p.m.: The first 10 candidates head to the debate hall

With less than an hour to go before the first debates kick off, some of the 2020 Democrats taking the stage on the first night are making their way to the debate hall in Miami. Warrentweeted a video in the car on the way, saying she's "really looking forward to this."

Ryan, sitting in the green room, thanked his supporters in a video on Twitter before he heads out to the debate stage.

Inslee also shared a video, in which he said, "Getting warmed up for the debate tonight in Miami. We got a nice looking stage down here. I'm really looking forward to this. Let's go get 'em."

8:13 p.m.: Ahead of Democratic debates, candidates visit shelter for unaccompanied children

Two presidential candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, visited a temporary holding facility for unaccompanied migrant children in Homestead, Florida, on Wednesday, hours before they were due to hit the Democratic debate stage.