Democratic Debate: Immigration dominates 1st night of debate as candidates split originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
11:29 p.m.: ABC News fact-checked the candidates on the issues. Here's what we found
ABC News fact-checked the first of two Democratic presidential debates in Miami between Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Rep. John Delaney, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Here's what we found.
11:09 p.m. ABC News Political commentator Cokie Roberts says the debate lineup sang "from the same hymnal"
The Democrats, having shown us a stage full of the most diverse candidates in history, concluded their debate mostly singing from the same hymnal.
They all insisted that they could change politics, make government work for the average American rather than the corporate bigwigs and they all promised to fight for that average American.
Some of them wanted us to know how they had risen from humble backgrounds, some of them wanted us to know that they could work to get things done, all of them wanted us to know that they support abortion rights and worry about gun violence and climate change. And each of them insisted that she or he was the person to defeat Donald Trump.
The differences were around the margins, making it clear that at some point they should be able to come together to support a nominee and fight to elect that person.
But that was debate number one.
Tomorrow we get the bomb thrower, Bernie Sanders, and then we see where the Democratic party goes from there.
11:00 p.m. The closing statements from all 10 candidates
Each candidate was given 45 seconds for closing remarks, here are some of the highlights:
Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney: "Together, we are on a mission. We're on a mission to find the America that's been lost. Lost through infighting, lost through inaction. We're so much better than this."
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: "It matters in this fight for the heart and soul of our party that we nominate a candidate who has seen the face of poverty and didn’t just talk about it, but gave people $15 minimum wage...With your help, we can put working people first again in America."
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee: "When I was thinking about whether to run for president, I made a decision. I decided that on my last day on Earth, I wanted to look them in the eye and tell them I did everything humanly possible to protect them from the ravages of the climate crisis."
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan: "There's nothing worse than not being heard. Nothing worse than not being seen, and I know that because I've represented for 17 years in congress, a forgotten community. They've tried to divide us, who's white, who's black, who's gay, who's straight, who's a man, who's a woman, and they ran away with all the gold, because they divided the working class. It's time for us to come together."
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard: "Coming here to this country, instead putting in place a government that is of, by, and for the people. But that's not what we have. Instead, we have a government that is of, by, and for, the rich and powerful. This must end. As president, our white house, our white house, will be a beacon of light providing hope and opportunity."
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro: "If I'm elected president, I will work hard every single day so that you and your family can get good health care. Your child can get a good education. And you can have good job opportunities. Whether you live in a big city or a small town. And on January 20th, 2021, we'll say adios to Donald Trump."
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar: "I listen to people and that's how I get things done. That is my focus. I have a track record of passing over 100 bills where I'm the lead Democrat and that is because I listened and I acted. And I think that's important in a president."
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker: "I've taken on tough fights and we won. And we win those fights not by showing the worst of who we are, but rising to who's best."
Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke: "I'm on this stage for her, for children across this country. Including some her same age who have been separated from their parents and are sleeping on concrete floors under aluminum blankets tonight. If we're going to be there for them, if we're going to confront the challenges that we face, we can't return to the same old approach. We're going to need a new kind of politics."
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren: "I am in this fight because I believe that we can make our government, we can make our economy, we can make our country work. Not just for those at the top. We can make it work for everyone and I promise you this, I will fight for you as hard as I fight for my own family."
For more debate coverage, check out ABC News's fact checking of the candidates on the issues.
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, Ryan3 Senators: Klobuchar, Booker, Warren2 current or former Mayors: Castro, de Blasio1 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
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."
10:30 p.m.: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock offers counterprogramming in Iowa
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock might have missed the cutoff for the first Democratic debate, but that doesn't mean he was idle on Wednesday.
He began his afternoon in Des Moines, Iowa by stopping at Fong’s Pizza and Java Joe’s — two Des Moines Institutions — to pick up pizza and coffee for his campaign volunteers. At each stop, he conversed casually with local residents.
At the campaign offices in downtown Des Moines, he thanked staff and volunteers for their efforts. He spoke about the importance of human interactions. “Giving folks a reason to get engaged in the system, to believe that it can make a difference in their lives starts with that first phone call.”
He wrapped the day at a town hall centered on immigration reform. Bullock called the border wall “an 18th-century solution … to a 21st-century challenge.” Like many Democratic candidates, he emphasized the need to keep families together, widen the opportunity for asylum seekers, and create more paths to citizenship.
Bullock continually asserted his belief in the power of the federal government to incentivize change, citing such proposals as investing in affordable housing programs, reducing interest rates for student loans, and creating a matching program to raise teacher salaries at the state level.
When asked about his position on H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, Bullock proposed an alternative to a one-time reparations payment. “What I would propose is … addressing each of the specific places where historically, and contemporarily, we see significant disparities, and addressing those, one by one, until you do have, or your grandkids will have the same opportunities.”
Bullock might get a shot at the second round of Democratic debates in July.
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."
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."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: "This president is literally, every single day, 10 minutes away from going to war. One tweet away from going to war. And I don't think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5:00 in the morning." https://t.co/UICuIAhVsg #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/KCQT8F83BS— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 27, 2019
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," Klobuchar responded 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
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:
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker Minnesota Sen. Amy KlobucharWashington Gov. Jay Inslee Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro Ohio Congressman Tim RyanNew York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
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. Warren tweeted a video in the car on the way, saying she's "really looking forward to this."
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.
While neither Warren, of Massachusetts, or Klobuchar, of Minnesota, were allowed into the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, Warren spoke outside of the facility and called the separation of families at the border a “stain on our country.”
Ahead of the debate on Thursday, which will feature the second half of presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke Of Texas, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio say they will all visit Homestead.
Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of HUD Julian Castro, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Marianne Williamson, a spiritual guru, and author, are scheduled to be there Friday.
Another candidate, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, visited the facility Monday.
Their visits come amidst renewed criticism over the Trump administration's treatment of children crossing into the country along the southern border. The outcry has taken on fresh urgency in recent days, as a harrowing image circulated that showed a man and his 23-month-old child lying lifeless and face down in the mud, with the girl's arm draped over her father's body. Authorities say that the two drowned as the attempted to cross from Mexico into the United States.
8:01 p.m.: Here are some fast facts about the candidates who will be on the debate stage tonight
There will be over 147 years of political experience on the debate stage tonight:
7:55 p.m.: The debates are about to get underway in roughly an hour. Here's what you need to know
The first debates might usher in a breakout performance or a disappointing one, but it will also give candidates their first opportunity to show their differences and pitch their wide array of policy prescriptions to the major issues like climate change, gun control, health care, foreign policy, immigration and criminal justice reform, that have been percolating in the Democratic primary so far.
The first 10 candidates set to square off on Wednesday are:
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
Follow along with ABC News for live updates about the first Democratic debate beginning at 9 p.m. EDT.
7:55 p.m.: ABC News is on the scene in Miami!
ABC News is on the scene in Miami! Tune in from 8 p.m. - 12 a.m. for debate coverage.
7:16 p.m.: Inslee, the climate champion, reiterates push for climate change debate in Miami
The Washington governor, who is running a single-issue campaign on climate change, has sought for the DNC to devote an entire debate, out of the 12 expected throughout the Democratic primary, to climate change.
With the DNC so far refusing his request, he said during a gaggle with reporters on Wednesday: "I hope we're going to have some questions about this tonight. But no I think this does deserve a full and fair debate so all of the candidates are called to belly up to the bar and really show their plans, rather than just bumper stickers."
The issue is one of the biggest concerns for Democrats, and Inslee aims to elevate his campaign through his persistent push for action.
"We have what I have, and my clean energy vision has been called the gold standard. And we have to have full-scale commitment. That kind that can only be demonstrated in a full debate. So we have to have climate change debates in every debate -- or questions -- but we need a full-scale debate."
7:05 p.m.: ABC News partner FiveThirtyEight seeks to answer "Who won the debates"
ABC News partner FiveThirtyEight has an effort underway to try to answer "who won the debate."Check out more about their methodology and track their findings here.
Want more? The FiveThirtyEight crew has an ongoing chat analyzing the debates. Read more here.
7:01 p.m.: Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro hits spin room to talk about twin brother's campaign ahead of debate
Just hours before his brother is set to take the stage, Rep. Joaquin Castro was in the spin room talking to reporters about what Julián Castro’s goals are tonight.
"I think he just has to lay out his vision for the country and he has to be himself and if he can do those two things fundamentally, then the details of policy, he knows them, the issues, he knows them….He has a sense for what Americans care about, Democrats of course, but also folks that are more conservative. And so what you are going to see is a candidate who is speaking very authentically tonight."
When asked if his brother’s background on immigration policy would benefit his message in light of recent interest in the topic, Castro said it would certainly help him out.
"Well I think what gives him an edge is that he has lived basically an immigrant’s experience," Castro said, although he notes it was their grandmother who immigrated from Mexico to the US in the 1920s.
--Lissette Rodriguez reports from Miami, Florida
6:29 p.m.: Ice cream truck outside debates handing out "joecones"
Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn't arrived in Miami just yet -- he will take the stage Thursday night -- but his campaign is handing out "joecones," a nod to Biden's love of ice cream, near the debate site from a truck clad in "yo apoyo Joe" signs.
.@JoeBiden isn’t in Miami yet, but an his campaign has an ice cream truck here handing out “joecones” until 8pm. I’m told the flavor is “the taste of victory” and it tastes “cotton candy-like.” They are colored blue in honor of the Dem debate pic.twitter.com/qUumtiPB22— Molly Nagle (@MollyNagle3) June 26, 2019
6:11 p.m.: Julián Castro joins ABC News' Powerhouse Politics podcast hours before first debate
Just hours ahead of the first Democratic presidential debate, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro joined the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast that he plans to press his case for decriminalization of illegal border crossings when he takes the debate stage on Wednesday.
Castro admitted to ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and ABC News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce that his name recognition is not currently as high as some other candidates, but said he hopes that by the end of the debate, people will better understand his experience and vision for the country.
"Right now, it's, 'articulate your vision for the future of the country and your answer on these important issues that you're facing in one minute,' and I'm going to try and do that tonight," Castro said.
5:45 p.m. DNC Chair Tom Perez gaggles with reporters hours before first debate begins
Perez told a crowd of reporters in the spin room that the Democratic debates will not be anything like the 2016 GOP debates, which featured fireworks and animosity among the crowded field.
"There will be nobody talking about hand size at tonight's debate," he said in a reference to then-candidate Donald Trump assuring the crowd at a 2016 GOP debate that "there's no problem" with his hands after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio mocked his small hands on the trail. "There will be nobody trying to figure out silly nicknames for their opponents, we'll leave that to the Republicans."
.@TomPerez tells reporters ahead of the first #DemDebate: “There will be nobody talking about hand size at tonight’s debate. There will be nobody trying to figure out silly nicknames for their opponents. We’ll leave that to the Republicans.” pic.twitter.com/RL60UUaQX9— Johnny Verhovek (@JTHVerhovek) June 26, 2019
--Johnny Verhovek reports from Miami, Florida
5:37 p.m.: 2020 spouses take up mantle and their partners and staff prepare for debate night
Sen. Bernie Sanders' wife Jane Sanders, like many 2020 candidates, headed to the Homestead detention center Wednesday. As she stood outside of the center, she told reporters that closing detention facilities would be her husband's first executive order.
The senator's Twitter page shared a video of his wife visiting and asking questions about the detention center.
"As a mother, as a grandmother, I can't fathom how we can do this to children and families. This is not what America is supposed to be," she said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's wife Trudi has been helping him with debate preps and keeping him grounded, but has largely been a quieter presence on the trail so far.
On Wednesday morning, he took a walk alone and she took over his Twitter account.
She introduced herself with a short video, saying "he's busy getting ready for the debate... so I'm taking over."
The chain then went on to an expansive thread detailing their relationship over the years with a bunch of archival photos - pics of them and their family and his career through the years - introducing their entire family all the way down to their "grandpups and cats."
Hi everyone! I’m Trudi Inslee. Tonight is the big night! I’m taking over for Jay here on Twitter because, as you might guess, he’s pretty busy getting ready for the #DemDebate. I want to tell you a little about the man I’ve been married to for the last (almost) 47 years. pic.twitter.com/17jXHKwaAg— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) June 26, 2019
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's wife Amy stood with him as he got his pre-debate walk-through, check out his Instagram stories.
5:25 p.m.: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, sidelined for the first debates, begins town hall in Iowa
Bullock is taking the stage Wednesday, but instead of in Miami, he'll be participating in a televised town hall in Des Moines. The Montana governor who is one of three candidates not appearing on either debate stage this week is crisscrossing the early voting state of Iowa and New Hampshire to meet with voters who will cast the earliest ballots in 2020.
"I am excited that instead of being in Miami, I'll actually be talking to voters. I'm going to spend time in both New Hampshire and Iowa. I've won three times statewide, Montana, by putting people I think, above sort of the politics and the political parties," he told ABC News earlier this month.
The first town hall is being live streamed here.
5:15 p.m.: Klobuchar stops at Homestead, the third presidential candidate to visit this weekOutside the gates of the migrant facility, Klobuchar told ABC news, “I hope we can work something out to take some of the very good oversight measures that were in the House bill,” and that “it’s important that we try to come tougher on a bill- We don’t want the funding to run out.”
With five hours until in the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate, the senator told reporters that her goal for the night is to “make [her] case to the American people.”
--Sam Sergi reports from Homestead, Florida
4:36 p.m. Play debate bingo online with these groups
During the debates, viewers can entertain themselves with themed bingo boards and drinking games circulating on social media. The writer Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) shared a bingo board that has been circulating on Twitter that highlights some early tropes in the race, including Tulsi Gabbard’s surfing and the debate around socialism. Others are using the games to bring attention to particular issue areas—the National Iranian American Council (@NIACAction) posted a bingo board focused on the Iran crisis and Young Invincibles (@YoungInvincible), a young adult political advocacy group, filled its board with issues such as education and student voting.
3:25 p.m.: Sanders says he is "absolutely" ready for debate
As he left the Knight Concert Hall a few minutes ago, Sanders told reporters that he is "absolutely" ready for his appearance on Thursday's debate stage and is "studying hard" and "reviewing our records."
He specifically pointed to his Medicare-for-all plan, work in Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and recently announced bill to wipe out all student loan debt and make public colleges and universities tuition-free as few areas of specific focus.
Just prior to his departure and the mini-gaggle in which he made those comments, Sanders appeared on MSNBC and shared that he hopes debate viewers understand that the multitude of ideas and grand rhetoric they'll hear from the stage aren't new and that those things alone haven't led to any progress on economic inequality in the past five decades.
"A lot of people have a lot of ideas, and I'm very fond of my Democratic opponents; I've known a lot of them for many, many years. They're friends of mine. But here is the point that I hope everybody thinks about.," Sanders said. "We've heard a lot of great speeches over the years. We've had a lot of great ideas. How does it happen that for the last almost 50 years, the middle class has been in decline, despite all those great speeches? How does it happen that the very, very wealthy are becoming phenomenally wealthier?"
--Lissette Rodriguez and Armando Garcia reported from Miami, Florida
3:24 p.m.: Hickenlooper, who will appear on night two, stops by the spin room
The former Colorado governor drew a sharp contrast between himself and Bernie Sanders, both of whom are set to be on stage together Thursday night. Over the past few weeks, Hickenlooper has been critical of Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan, saying that preserving a public option is better for the American people.
"I respect Bernie Sanders," he said. "I don’t criticize him personally but I disagree with him with giving healthcare for everyone, while we take away options for millions of people."
Hickenlooper has distinguished himself as a self-proclaimed “pragmatic progressive,” taking a more moderate policy approach and warning that calls for big government expansions will hurt the Democratic Party in 2020.
"I think the word ‘socialism’ has a lot of baggage in this country, particularly in swing states… It’s not a winning strategy," said Hickenlooper. "These [calls for] massive expansions of government, I think, Republicans are going to call us socialists and that’s a tough hill to climb in states like Michigan and Ohio."
--Briana Stewart and Johnny Verhovek reported from Miami, Florida
3:15 p.m.: ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein writes:
Tonight is, of course, the first debate. But it’s far from the first time these candidates have interacted with each other in close quarters. I’ve spoken to three candidates in the last two days who have made that identical point: that they’ve had the chance to see their rivals up close at a series of multi-candidate events in early-voting states. That’s valuable information to political professionals, since it allows them to anticipate lines or particular arguments. The candidates will get very, very, very familiar with such things in the months to come, since there are 11 more debates scheduled after this week’s. But as Julian Castro just pointed out in an interview we did with him, it doesn’t really feel like the first "debate" to the candidates.
2:21 p.m.: Hickenlooper laughs off not being recognized at debate hall
Before participating in one of the highest-profile opportunities of the primary season yet, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, one of the lesser-know contenders appearing on the second night, was asked by a security at the debate site if he was there to pick up a credential. After telling the security person he was in fact a candidate, Hickenlooper laughed off the incident, telling ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein, "Story of my life. I'm a humble brewer."
1:33 p.m.: Warren and Klobuchar among some of the 2020 candidates visiting the Homestead detention center
As candidates finish final preps for the opening night of the first debates, the brewing fight in Washington over immigration and the human toll on migrant children and families is looming over Miami.
Before taking the first stage Wednesday, some 2020 Democrats are shifting their attention to a local temporary shelter for thousands of unaccompanied children in Homestead, FL -- a backdrop to condemn President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Warren appeared at the shelter earlier Wednesday, but did not enter the facility, instead joining roughly 100 people protesting the "incarceration of children" on the road across from the shelter. Klobuchar is also planning on heading to the center in the afternoon.
"I think it’s very important to shine a light on what’s happening here and continue to beat the drum and use my platform to educate and empower people," actress Alyssa Milano told ABC News as she walked the perimeter of the facility with protesters about an hour before the senator arrived.
The two presidential candidates from Texas, O’Rourke and Castro are expected to visit on Thursday and Friday. De Blasio and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard are expected to visit on Thursday. Harris, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Marianne Williamson are also expected to stop at the center on Friday, according to their campaigns.
Dispatch from Homestead, FL:
- Two 2020ers expected to visit the shelter for immigrant children today. @ewarren did and @amyklobuchar will. Jane Sanders, wife of Sen. Sanders, was here too. More coming Thurs/Fri.June 26, 2019
- @ericswalwell was here Monday
1:14 p.m.: Some of the first 10 candidates stop at debate hall
Some of the contenders also took an early tour of the debate hall Wednesday, previewing their podiums on the stage ahead of the debate, including Warren, Castro, O'Rourke, Ryan and Inslee so far.
12:00 p.m.: The first 10 candidates prep for opening night debate
On Wednesday night, standing at the center podiums will be Warren and O'Rourke. The Massachusetts senator, currently a top-tier candidate after narrowing the gap between former Vice President Joe Biden in recent polls, will have the chance to set the tone against some of the more moderate candidates -- Klobuchar, Delaney and Ryan -- with her progressive agenda stacked with detailed policy proposals.
For O'Rourke, the debate is an opportunity to recapture the prominence and spectacle that surrounded his entry into the contest back in March -- and amass enough traction to put him among the higher polling candidates before the second debate in July.
Booker, who arrives in Miami after last week's clash with Biden over his rival repeating a refrain of praise for segregationist senators at a fundraiser, the pressure is on to overcome lagging poll numbers that put him in the middle of the field. He has spent the early days of the week doing push-ups, drinking a "lots" of LaCroix, and eating some popcorn to prepare for the big night.
"Debate prep is serious and one should take it seriously, but you also have to have moments where you can take a break, reset, get back in it," a campaign aide told ABC News.
For Delaney, who has been prepping in part by watching the crowded Republican debates in 2016, his campaign team said the goal is to "make a little bit of a splash and see what happens."
"Wednesday night is going to be a dog fight, let's not kid ourselves," said national press secretary Michael Hopkins. "We're going to try to be the adults in the room and be more about substance than about flash."
Inslee arrived in Miami early to meet with and learn from folks on the ground and on the front lines of climate change.
"Our focus is largely on the governor presenting his message, and I think there are two things that set him apart -- he's the only candidate who's saying climate change needs to be the No. 1 priority," Inslee's communications director Jared Leopold told ABC News.
On night two, although it won't be Biden clashing with Booker, he will be standing alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as they are expected to bump elbows to woo the Democratic base and establish their front-runner status.
A day before the first debate, NBC announced that each night will be split into five segments with four commercial breaks over the two hours. Throughout each segment, candidates will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups, according to NBC.
In order to qualify for the debates in June and July, candidates must earn at least 1% support in three separate national or early-state polls conducted from Jan. 1 to two weeks before the given debate, or receive donations from at least 65,000 people across 20 different states, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state. The number of debate participants has been capped at 20 by the Democratic National Committee.
There are three declared candidates who will not appear on either stage, after failing to meet the DNC's qualification standards for the first debate: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam.
ABC News' John Verhovek, Armando Garcia, Cheyenne Haslett, Olivia Chilkoti, Sruthi Palaniappan, Sasha Pezenik, Claire Potter and Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.