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Democrats Call Out Racism, New Debate Lineups: This Week in the 2020 Race




Every Saturday morning, we’re publishing “This Week in the 2020 Race”: a quick way to catch up on the presidential campaign and the field of 24 candidates for the Democratic nomination. Here’s our latest edition:

On Sunday, President Trump hurled an ugly insult at a group of four first-term congresswomen of color, saying they should “go back” to the countries they came from, despite the fact that all are United States citizens and all but one was born in the country.

Mr. Trump’s remark ignited fury and condemnation from congressional Democrats and a unified response from the four congresswomen, who are known in some circles as “the squad”: Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. The House voted, nearly along party lines, to condemn Mr. Trump’s comments as racist.

Many of the Democrats seeking to defeat Mr. Trump in the general election roundly criticized him for the comments as well, calling them “reprehensible,” “disgusting” and “un-American.”

Senator Kamala Harris of California condemned the remarks in intensely personal terms. “I‘ve personally been told, ‘Go back to where you came from,’” she said Tuesday. “It is vile, ignorant, shallow, and hateful. It has to stop.”

Ms. Harris will face off against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. once again — and while this is no boxing match, the Democratic debates are starting to feel like reality television.

CNN, which will host the next round of debates later this month, broadcast an elaborately staged “live drawing” to determine the lineups, complete with overhead cameras and multiple boxes.

We learned that Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will square off against Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the first night, July 30, pitting the two top liberals in the race against each other. That debate will also feature Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota standing next to Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. Ms. Klobuchar has expressed displeasure that less-experienced male candidates like Mr. Buttigieg have received gobs of media attention, and now the debate will give her a chance to take him down a peg.

The second night, July 31, could generate another Harris-Biden clash, a month after Ms. Harris highlighted Mr. Biden’s record on race and desegregation. And Mr. Biden will also face Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who memorably called on Mr. Biden to apologize for his comments about segregationist senators.

Reports detailing how much money the 2020 Democrats raised during the second quarter of the year were released on Monday. Broadly speaking, they showed that five of the Democratic presidential candidates are ahead of the pack.

Those five candidates, Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Warren, Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Harris, raised a combined $96 million from individual donors in the last three months — about three-quarters of the total fund-raising by the entire Democratic field.

Some other takeaways:

  • Mr. Buttigieg raised more money from individual donors than any other Democrat.

  • Mr. Sanders has the most cash in the bank ($27.3 million).

  • Mr. Trump has more than twice that amount of cash on hand ($56.7 million).

  • Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas raised only $3.6 million in the last three months — a sign of serious money struggles.

Well, maybe.

Former Representative Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina, said Tuesday that he was considering challenging Mr. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. If he does, Mr. Sanford, who is also a former governor of the state, said he aimed to campaign as a fiscal conservative intent on ending what he views as the country’s profligate spending.

A new Quinnipiac University Poll released this week has Ms. Harris leading the field in California with the backing of 23 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters in her delegate-rich home state.


Like several other surveys conducted after the June Democratic debates, the poll shows that a clear top tier has emerged. Mr. Biden registered 21 percent support, followed by Mr. Sanders at 18 percent and Ms. Warren at 16 percent. No other candidate garnered more than 3 percent support in the California poll.

The survey also shows how much the race has tightened and changed since April when Quinnipiac last conducted a poll of California Democrats. At that time, Ms. Harris trailed both Mr. Biden — who had yet to formally enter the race — and Mr. Sanders, having earned 17 percent support. And at the time, only 7 percent of voters said they would vote for Ms. Warren.

Two of the top candidates to become the Democratic nominee offered starkly different visions of health care in America this week.

On Monday, Mr. Biden unveiled his health care proposal. In essence, his plan would seek to improve the Affordable Care Act instead of replacing it with the sort of single-payer “Medicare for all” system favored by Mr. Sanders. Specifically, Mr. Biden’s plan would create a so-called public option that would enable anyone to sign up for a government-run health plan like Medicare.

The policy rollout came after Mr. Biden attacked Mr. Sanders’s “Medicare for all” plan days earlier, citing its $3 trillion price tag and saying that Mr. Sanders would raise taxes on the middle class.

On Wednesday Mr. Sanders punched back, defending “Medicare for all” in a speech in which he also called on his Democratic rivals to reject contributions from the health care industry.

“My Republican friends, and some others, seem to think that the American people hate paying taxes but they just love paying insurance premiums,” Mr. Sanders said, taking an apparent shot at Mr. Biden.

“Frankly,” he added, “I am sick and tired of talking to doctors who tell me about the patients who died because they came into their offices too late because they were uninsured or underinsured.”

Several candidates released policy proposals this week aimed at supporting farmers, families and seniors.

  • Mr. Biden detailed a plan for rural America that promises investment in clean energy, the creation of a White House “StrikeForce” that would help rural communities gain access to federal funds and various efforts aimed at keeping rural hospitals open. The former Representative Joe Sestak also released an agriculture plan in which he pledged to stop imposing “reckless” tariffs, strengthen antitrust laws and end subsidies for industrial farming corporations.

  • Mr. Biden also unveiled a plan for older Americans that seeks to decrease the cost of prescription drugs, protect Medicare and Medicaid and strengthen Social Security. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s “Aging With Dignity” plan similarly seeks to expand Social Security and lower drug prices.

  • Ms. Gillibrand’s plan for older Americans would also enact paid family leave that would cover workers needing to care for aging family members. In a similar vein, Mr. Booker rolled out a plan that would expand access to long-term care and support for older Americans.

  • Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Putting Families First” plan would institute paid family leave, too, and would also provide benefits like subsidized child care and free or reduced college tuition in an effort to “strengthen families at every stage of life.”


  • Ms. Harris released her “People Over Profit” plan that seeks to lower prescription drug costs by taxing any pharmaceutical company profits made from selling a drug above the fair price and sending the funds back to consumers in the form of a rebate. Her plan would also close a tax loophole used by pharmaceutical companies related to their advertising expenses. And Ms. Harris pledged to take executive action if necessary to investigate all “predatory” pharmaceutical companies.

  • Ms. Warren released a “plan to rein in Wall Street” that includes a series of measures aimed at transforming the private equity industry. The plan also calls for tough new executive compensation rules to discourage speculation, a postal banking program and more.

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