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What We’re Watching Today

It’s Wednesday, July 31.

(Leah Millis / Rebecca Cook / Reuters / The Atlantic)

A second batch of 10 Democratic presidential contenders takes the stage tonight in Detroit, bringing with it the chance for a reprisal back-and-forth between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden.

First, our writers have sorted through a few standout moments from last night’s nearly three-hour debate, and highlighted what candidates revealed about themselves and their policies, perhaps in spite of the televised-debate format.

“These worries—about what Republicans would say, about what Donald Trump would say—were a common theme throughout the night,” Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote, reporting from Detroit. “Over and over, Democrats laid bare their worries about losing.

— Christian Paz and Shan Wang


NIGHT ONE

(Maveric Pictures / Mike Blake / Kamil Krzaczynski / Rebecca Cook / Mike Segar / The Atlantic)

Democrats searched for their own ‘Make America great again’ messages.
Top candidates such as Elizabeth Warren tried to avoid wonky policy proposals and focus on big, sweeping messages last night.

Medicare for All saw a spirited and substantive—yes, really—debate.
John Delaney had a notable point on how moving an entire country to public insurance could result in two tiers of health care. Olga Khazan examines the case study of Brazil.

They don’t want to echo Trump, but on war and peace, Democrats sounds like him.
Should America be the world’s policeman? Jake Tapper asked. Mike Giglio on what to make of the candidates’ hesitation on foreign entanglements.

+ President Barack Obama promised to get out of Afghanistan. President Trump promised the same. And now a new crop of candidates is also promising it, Kathy Gilsinan notes. To what end?

Are Republicans getting in Democrats’ heads?
Candidates from Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren to Pete Buttigieg really wanted Democrats not to fear Republicans, or absorb their phrases and talking points.

And young democratic socialists are still pining for a Sanders-led revolution.
Elaine Godfrey with the dispatch from a watch party in Washington, D.C. What did his ardent supporters think of last night?


🗣WHO’S WHO? USEFUL READING FOR ROUND TWO

Tonight’s Democratic debate features Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Bill de Blasio, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, and Andrew Yang. Here’s what some of these candidates have been doing leading up to their big day.

Kamala Harris: The senator from California seized the spotlight during the last Democratic debates after a powerful exchange with former Vice President Joe Biden over his record on busing and comments about working with segregationists. Now she’s seeing a surge of support as black women realize the extent of their influence in the Democratic Party, Jemele Hill argues.  

Julián Castro: The former HUD secretary got his points heard during the last debate, when he spoke on immigration and his proposal to decriminalize border crossings. The pressure now is whether he can command more attention without pigeonholing himself as just a Latino candidate, Edward-Isaac Dovere writes.

Joe Biden: The former vice president saw a drop in support after his last debate performance, spurring questions about whether his political moment had long passed. Since then, he’s been more on the offensive, attacking his rivals’ health-care plans and defending the Affordable Care Act, Peter Beinart argues.

Kirsten Gillibrand: It’s Infrastructure Week! Sort of! The senator from New York can be expected to tout her support for a new infrastructure bill making its way through the House of Representatives. The bill takes aim at local hiring for federal infrastructure projects and funding for a new job- and skills-training program, Sarah Holder writes.


About us: This newsletter is a daily effort from The Atlantic’s politics writer, Elaine Godfrey, with help from Christian Paz. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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