Democrats increase attacks on Trump in second round of debates

Key Points
  • Democratic candidates attacked President Trump at a much more aggressive rate in the second 2020 primary debates than in June.
  • The candidates mentioned the president 171 times during the debates Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit. By comparison, during the Miami debates, the Democratic hopefuls mentioned him 68 times.
Senator Cory Booker speaks on the second night of the second 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan, July 31, 2019.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

Democratic candidates attacked President Donald Trump at a much more aggressive rate in the second 2020 primary debates than they did in June.

The candidates mentioned the president 171 times during the debates Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit. By comparison, during the Miami debates, the Democratic presidential hopefuls mentioned him 68 times.

While they mentioned Trump more this time, the nature of the candidates' attacks on Trump stuck to similar themes: job creation, tax cuts on the wealthy, border policy and his incendiary rhetoric.

Sen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday that Trump made a "whole lot of promises to working people that he did not keep," specifically citing the impact of his trade policy on farmers and auto workers.

"He betrayed the American people, he betrayed American families, and he will lose this election because folks are clear," she said. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, during Tuesday's debate, also hit Trump over his trade policy.

The candidates also slammed Trump's tax cuts, which became law at the end of 2017.

"We act like wealthy individuals are endangered species and if we don't raise – if we raise their taxes, they won't invest," businessman and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney said Tuesday. "That's crazy. That's how we get more revenues from wealthy individuals, we roll back the Trump tax cuts to wealthy individuals."

The candidates also zeroed in on Trump's immigration policy. When confronted with a question about decriminalizing illegal immigration, Sen. Elizabeth Warren instead focused on the Trump administration's role in separating children from their families at the border.

"We need to continue to have border security, and we can do that, but what we can't do is not live our values," she said. "I've been down to the border. I have seen the mothers. I have seen the cages of babies. We must be a country that every day lives our values."

Candidates also accused Trump of using racist rhetoric.

"Donald Trump, from Charleston to Baltimore to even the border, is using the tired, old language of demagogues, of fear-mongers, of racists, to try to divide our country against itself," Sen. Cory Booker said. "We know who Donald Trump is, but in this election, the question is who are we as a people?"

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro also didn't mince words in calling out Trump for attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore, which the president called a "rat- and rodent-infested mess."

"First of all, the president is a racist, and that was just one more example of it," Castro said.

Trump has repeatedly denied he is a racist.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the month the first round was held. It was in June.