CNN Democratic debate night 1

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Amanda Wills, CNN

Updated 9:42 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019
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9:57 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

No breakout moments yet for the candidates who need them most

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

At least half the debate stage walked into the Fox Theatre tonight bordering on desperate for a breakout showing.

But with time running down, it doesn’t seem like any of them have struck a resounding chord.

The moderate gang of former congressman John Delaney, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and Rep. Tim Ryan clearly made a bet that they would make their mark by attacking Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They’ve succeeded in stirring up a few hot exchanges, but they’ve almost blended into one voice – making the same arguments and, more often than not, failing to land a memorable blow. If anything, they’ve handed the progressives a platform to make their case against some familiar criticism in real time.

And then there’s former congressman Beto O’Rourke. He’s been more assertive than he was during the first round of debates in Miami, but once again, the Texan has drifted in and out of an often hot debate.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has made her points, but like O’Rourke, she has not conjured a moment that people will be talking about tomorrow. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, too, has performed as expected: mostly arguing that his political success in Montana shows he can win in GOP territory. But he also has spent much of the night on the periphery.

9:50 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Fact check: Warren says US law allows for family separations. She's right.

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the current US law allows the President to separate migrant children from their parents at the border. 

Facts first: This is true. 

Last year, the Trump administration implemented its controversial “zero tolerance” policy, using a section of US law to criminally prosecute all adults at the southern border, therefore leading to the separation of thousands of families, given that children can’t be held in federal jail with adults. The policy — and the section of the code at the center of it — have become a flashpoint in the immigration debate. 

Democratic candidates remain divided over the law, referred to as Section 1325, with some wanting to instead make crossing the border illegally a civil offense, instead of a criminal offense. Warren is in favor of decriminalizing border crossings. 

“So the problem is that right now the criminalization statute is what gives Donald Trump the ability to take children away from their parents. It's what gives him the ability to lock up people at our borders. We need to continue to have border security and we can do that, but what we can't do is not live our values,” Warren said.

12:22 a.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Marianne Williamson: The Flint water crisis is "part of the dark underbelly of American society"

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson described why she thinks the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, hasn't been properly addressed yet.

She said it's all about racism and bigotry:

"We have an administration that has gutted the Clean Water Act. We have communities particularly communities of color and disadvantaged communities all over this country who are suffering from environmental injustice. I assure you I lived in Grosse Point, what happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Point, this is part of the dark underbelly of American society, the racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we're having here tonight, if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this President is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days," Williamson said.

She continued: "We need to say it like it is, it's bigger than Flint. It's all over this country. It's particularly people of color. It's particularly people who do not have the money to fight back, and if the Democrats don't start saying it, why would those people feel they're there for us, and if those people don't feel it, they won't vote for us and Donald Trump will win."

Watch the moment:

10:08 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Fact check: Sanders says half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That data is hard to pin down.

From CNN's Donna Borak 

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said “half of the American people are living paycheck to paycheck.”  

Facts FirstIt’s unclear what data Sanders is referring to here. However, one authoritative source shows he’s overestimating this figure slightly.  

National data on the paycheck-to-paycheck experience is hard to pin down, but a recent report from the Federal Reserve indicates that roughly 40% of Americans would have trouble covering an emergency expense of $400.  

A relatively small and unexpected expense like a busted car or replacing a dishwasher can be a problem for many families without “adequate savings,” according to the report. 

When faced with an emergency expense of $400, 61% of Americans in 2018 say they could cover it either by using cash, savings, or a credit card paid off in the next billing period.  

However, the remaining four out of 10 Americans would have much more difficulty covering the expense. And another 12% said they would be unable to pay their current month’s bills if an unexpected $400 expense came up. 

9:47 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Elizabeth Warren just gave her clearest answer yet on her electability

Analysis from CNN's MJ Lee

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

This is the clearest – and most explicit – electability answer I’ve heard Elizabeth Warren give all year.

The electability argument that’s been raised against her – and that I’ve heard from voters – goes like this: Some Democratic voters like Warren’s ideas for big sweeping change. But some of those very Democrats worry that *others* will think those ideas are too extreme to be winnable. So maybe it’s too risky to support Warren, even if she’s the candidate they like most.

It’s the “I’m worried other people won’t support the candidate I like” concern.

Here’s how Warren tackled that tonight:

She began with: "I know how to fight, and I know how to win,” citing her battles against the Wall Street industry and former Sen. Scott Brown.

"I get it -- there is a lot at stake and people are scared,” she said. "But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we’re too scared to do anything else."

And the key line: "We can’t ask people to vote for somebody we don’t believe in." It was Warren’s way of saying: Vote for the person you want to vote for, not the person you think probably has best chance of winning.

Watch the moment:

9:34 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

What you need to know about the Green New Deal

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Several 2020 candidates have weighed in on the proposed Green New Deal.

John Delaney said the deal is unrealistic and is proposing another plan to tackle the climate crisis. Elizabeth Warren, a co-sponsor, meanwhile defended it.

"I have a plan for a green industrial policy that takes advantage of the fact that we do what we do best, which is innovate and create," she said.

About the proposal: The Green New Deal would do so very many things. It's more a grab bag of progressive ideas than a detailed legislative proposal. And a lot of what it wants to accomplish has nothing to do with climate change. We looked at this in depth back in February, but here's a bullet-point list of just a few of the Green New Deal's pledges. 

  1. Meet 100% of the power demand in the US with renewable, zero-emission energy
  2. Rebuild the energy infrastructure with “smart” power grids
  3. Upgrade every building in the country for energy efficiency
  4. Overhaul the US transportation system to focus on zero-emission vehicles and public transportation
  5. Plant new forests
  6. Eliminate pollution from the agriculture sector (including cow and other livestock emissions)
  7. Guarantee a “family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States”
  8. Improve workplace safety and anti-discrimination standards with national standards
  9. Maintain public ownership in and return on Green New Deal investments
  10. Focus on job training for all Americans, and especially those in vulnerable communities
  11. Give more power to trade unions in order to protect workers
  12. Add US worker protections to trade deals
  13. Honor treaties with indigenous peoples 
  14. Provide everyone in the US with health care, housing, economic security, access to clean water, healthy food and access to nature
9:44 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Warren criticizes moderate rivals: "I know how to fight, and I know how to win"

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Nearly an hour in, Elizabeth Warren decided she’d heard enough from her -- and Sanders -- moderate rivals.

“I don’t know why anyone goes to the trouble to run for president to talk about what we can’t do and what we won’t fight for,” Warren said, after another protracted exchange over whether the progressive agenda was realistic.

Her remark sprung from an exchange over electability centered on Sanders. But as it expanded to include many of the policies that she too supports, Warren dove right in.

Minutes earlier, she also offered a broader counterpoint to critics who worry that the party will hand Trump re-election in 2020 if Democrats move too far left.

"I know how to fight and I know how to win," she said.

“I get it there is a lot at stake and people are scared,” Warren said. “But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we are scared.”
10:04 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Fact check: Buttigieg's climate crisis claim likely comes from a UN report

From CNN's Jen Christensen


Pete Buttigieg said that “Science tells us we have 12 years before we reach the horizon of catastrophe when it comes to our climate.”  

Facts First: Buttigieg is likely referring here to the definitive UN report that put the impacts of the climate crisis into stark relief.   

The report did not set a 12-year deadline for “the horizon of catastrophe,” though some politicians and media outlets have characterized it as such.  

The science that Buttigieg was referring to comes from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published in 2018. 

The report was created to assess the impact of global warming and predicted what could happen if the planet warmed to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The report did look at what could happen in 2030, 12 years from the date of publication, but the authors of the report have said that they picked that date to be helpful countries that had promised to meet deadlines to reduce carbon emissions set under the Paris climate accord. 

The report did find that if the planet was able to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or under, countries would have to reduce about 45% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.  

9:29 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Why Hickenlooper called out Sanders for throwing up his hands


John Hickenlooper called out Bernie Sanders for throwing up his hands in an awkward exchange over the Vermont senator's policies.

It started when Hickenlooper explained why he thought Sanders' policies were too extreme for the White House.

"You might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump. I think we have to focus on where Donald Trump is failing," Hickenlooper said tonight.

But Sanders didn't agree.

"Well, the truth is that every credible poll that I have seen has me beating Donald Trump, including the battleground states of Michigan, where I won the Democratic primary; Wisconsin, where I won the Democratic primary, and Pennsylvania. And the reason we are going to defeat Trump and beat him badly is that he is a fraud and a phony, and we're going to expose him for what he is," he said.

That's when Hickenlopper chimed in and said, "So again, I think if we're going to force Americans to make these radical changes, they're not going to go along."

Sanders then threw up hands, prompting Hickenlooper to say, "Throw your hands up..."

Sanders snapped back, saying, "I will."

Watch the moment: