The first Democratic debate, night 1

By Veronica Rocha, Dan Merica, Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg, Amanda Wills and Kyle Blaine, CNN

Updated 4:30 p.m. ET, June 27, 2019
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10:06 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

It's halftime! Here's what has happened so far.

From CNN Political Director David Chalian


  1. Elizabeth Warren was proven to be the pace setter in the first 25% of the debate tonight. It started on her economic message, Amy Klobuchar was then asked about her free college plan, Cory Booker asked about breaking up tech companies. Warren policies were setting the debate framework for the first half of the first half.
  2. Bill De Blasio is showing what it means to go all New York in a debate! He is all in on trying to get a slice of that Sanders/Warren battle for the progressive/left wing of the party. He went after Beto O’Rourke, Booker, Klobuchar all in his first answer. He talked directly to Trump voters on immigration – blaming the corporations for their anxiety, not the immigrants.
  3. Klobuchar reminded the audience of female power. She brushed back Jay Inslee on choice with her line that “there are three women on this stage” who have fought for abortion rights. A simple but effective reminder that there are more women on this debate stage and the one tomorrow night than you’ve ever seen on a presidential debate stage.
  4. The Julián Castro vs. Beto O’Rourke tension comes alive over immigration. That was Texas-size tension. Castro’s goal was to poke holes in O’Rourke on immigration – an issue that he has used at the center of his political identity.
  5. Klobuchar made sure to invoke Trump in nearly every single answer. This seems to be her electability play – showing she can take the fight to the President on every answer.
9:53 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

Amy Klobuchar offers distinctions but avoids tough medicine to rivals

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has often stood as something of a reality check to some of the rosiest proposals offered by her Democratic rivals, telling audiences in recent months that it’s just not possible to offer free college, Medicare-for-All and more.

But tonight, Klobuchar seemed to have a harder time saying no.

At a CNN Town Hall meeting in February, Klobuchar delivered a memorable line on free college, saying: “If I was a magic genie and could afford to give that to everyone, I would.”

She was not as punchy tonight. She did not draw sharp distinctions on free college with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who stood only a few feet away. 

On health care, Klobuchar did stand up to several of her rivals and say it was neither feasible nor wise to eliminate private insurance. It was one of the biggest distinctions of the night, even though she decided against calling out any of her competitors by name.

“I am just simply concerned about kicking half of America off of their health insurance in four years,” Klobuchar said, noting that so many people are happy with their employer-provided health insurance.

A few moments later, when Warren pushed back and said politicians simply have to fight harder to realize real “structural change,” Klobuchar stood silent. She raised her hand to try and object, but couldn’t jump back into the conversation.

Klobuchar made the calculation that at this moment, with Warren rising, tough medicine may not be what the party’s progressive activists are thirsting for.

So she settled for this down-home line instead, calling some of the proposals: “All foam and no beer.”

9:52 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

Jay Inslee hits Trump: Wind turbines don't cause cancer. They cause jobs.

From CNN's Fredreka Schouten

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who trails in the polls, got off a zinger early in the debate that hit President Trump, the man everyone on the stage hopes to face in 2020 and elevated Inslee's signature issue: climate change.

Trump "says wind turbines cause cancer. We know they cause jobs," Inslee said to applause.

Trump, whose disdain for wind power dates to his battles with Scottish officials over a plan to build turbines in view of one his golf resorts, suggested earlier this year that the noise from wind turbines “causes cancer.”

9:51 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

Amy Klobuchar: Three women up here have fought pretty hard for abortion rights

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, during a discussion about abortion rights, made note of the women on stage who have fought for those rights.

Her comment came after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took credit for being the “only candidate here who had passed a law protecting a woman’s right of reproductive health and health insurance.”

Inslee jumped into the conversation by saying, “It should not be an option in the United States of America for any insurance company to deny women coverage for the exercise of their right of choice.”

Inslee went on to describe himself as a candidate “who has actually advanced the ball.”

Klobuchar, in a quick one liner clearly directed at Inslee, said, “I just want to say there are three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose.”

9:48 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

Fact check: Beto O'Rourke on the cost of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

From CNN's Lydia DePillis

Beto O'Rourke said that Congress passed "A $2 trillion tax cut” that favored corporations which were sitting on record piles of cash and the very wealthiest in the country at a time of historic wealth inequality." 

Facts First: Though there are a variety of estimates projecting the cost of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to the Congressional Budget Office, O’Rourke’s statement appears to be roughly accurate.

Last year, the Congressional Budget Office projected that when incorporating the additional debt service costs, the tax cut would add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over the ten-year window. 

But other cost estimates varied. According to an estimate by Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation before the law passed, it would cost $1.4 trillion over ten years, or just over $1 trillion when incorporating a broader look at its economic impacts. 

A year after the law passed, the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation found that the cost was even less, at $1.47 trillion on a conventional basis and $448 billion over the ten-year window when taking into account its effect on the economy. 

9:44 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

Elizabeth Warren: "I'm with Bernie on Medicare for all"

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

It’s the first “raise your hands” moment of the 2020 debate season.

The question: Who would get rid of private health insurance in favor of a national, single-payer plan?

The hands that went up: Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

“I’m with Bernie on Medicare for all,” Warren said after Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who does not support the plan, argued that a “public option” represented a “bold approach” in its own right.

But Warren, who has said she would be open to more moderate plans, made one of her most aggressive arguments in defense the plan on Wednesday night -- a move that could further narrow the political distance between her and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who will debate tomorrow.

“There are a lot of politicians who say, 'Oh, it’s just not possible, we just can’t do it, there’s a lot of political problems,” Warren said, before sharpening her language: “What they’re really telling you is they just won’t fight for it. Well, health care is a basic human right and I will fight for basic human rights.”

The line drew heavy applause. After pushback from other candidates onstage, including former Rep. John Delaney, a vocal critic of Medicare for all, and others arguing in favor of universal coverage -- but without moving to single-payer -- Warren and de Blasio took aim at the insurance industry.

"Private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans,” de Blasio said, addressing Beto O’Rourke, after the former Texas congressman said he wouldn’t eliminate it.

9:56 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

... And this is what the internet is saying about Beto O'Rourke speaking Spanish

Twitter is already full of the memes.

9:41 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

Beto O'Rourke switches to Spanish for his first answer

From CNN's Caroline Kelly

When asked whether he supported a marginal tax rate of 70% on top earners making more than $10 million a year, O’Rourke began his response in English. 

“This economy has got to work for everyone and right now we know that it isn’t, and it’s going to take all of us coming together to make sure that it does,” he said.

He then switched to Spanish, saying, “We need to include each person in the success of this economy. But if we want to do that, we need to include each person in our democracy. Each voter, we need the representation, and each voice, we must listen to.”

He then reverted back to English for the rest of his remarks.

O’Rourke made some notable errors, however. For example, he used masculine adjectives to describe “economy” and “democracy," which are feminine nouns in Spanish and he used the verb “to vote” before correcting himself and using the Spanish word for "voter." 

9:40 p.m. ET, June 26, 2019

President Trump is watching the debate. His early review is in: "BORING!"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Trump has deemed the first Democratic debate a snoozer: "BORING!"

He tweeted as his plane is being refueled in Alaska as he heads to Japan for the G20: