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Inside Sources: Democratic presidential debates in Detroit: Night I, Round II

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, speaks at the Democratic primary debate, flanked by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, left, and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The focus of the first night of the Democratic presidential debates spotlighted the extreme liberal wing of the party.  Read Boyd Matheson’s take on the second night here.

On “Inside Sources,” Boyd Matheson breaks down the first night of the second round of debates from Detroit, Michigan. Over two nights, 20 candidates were divided into two groups by random draw earlier this month. The first group debated on Tuesday night. The second group of 10 will appear on stage Wednesday night.

The two Democratic Socialists, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, occupied the middle of the stage and the focus of the debate.

“They went as far to the left that I think as we’ve ever heard on a [presidential] debate stage,” Matheson pointed out.

The debate began with an opening salvo from former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, which became the theme for the night on the extreme left positions staked out by Sanders and Warren, who were second and third, respectively, in national polls behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

“This notion that you’re going to take private insurance away from 180 million Americans,” Hickenlooper said  “…the Green New Deal make sure that every American’s guaranteed a government job if they want, that is a disaster at the ballot box, you might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump.”

Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland had a similar exchange with Warren where he objected to what he called the liberals’ “fairy tale economics.”

Warren’s response to applause: “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

If we have this race to the left, Matheson asked, what does a Democratic presidential candidate do when he or she has to pivot back to the center for the general election in 2020?

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota seemed exasperated that the answer to every problem was another big government program and no way to fund it. She reminded her Democratic colleagues that the president can set the tone and lead the way, but all legislation still needs to be passed by both houses of Congress.

“Do I think that we are going to end up voting for a plan that kicks half of America off of their current insurance in four years? No. Do I think that we’re going to vote to give free college to the wealthiest kids? No.

“But what I don’t like about this argument right now. . . that we are more worried about winning an argument than winning an election,” she said.

Andy Field of ABC News

If I hadn’t won the 2016 Election, we would be in a Great Recession/Depression right now. The people I saw on stage last night, & you can add in Sleepy Joe, Harris, & the rest, will lead us into an economic sinkhole the likes of which we have never seen before. With me, only up!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2019


Matheson asked Andy Field of ABC News what he thought the president’s tweet was about.

“Other than his own opinion and a campaign slogan, I’m not quite sure,” said Field. “This is typical President Trump hyperbole: Only I alone can fix it.”

Matheson asked Field how the Democratic candidates’ big-ticket items, such as Medicare for all, would play out for both the Democratic-primary voter and to the general-election voter.

“The Republicans for years have complained about deficit spending, saying that Democrats are the big tax and spenders, but no one, no one, has ever spent the way this Republican majority did until the Democrats took over last January,” said Field. “We have deficits that are unheard of, especially in peacetime. We’re not paying for war, we’re paying for tax cuts.”

“We’re doing it in the middle of economic expansion,” Matheson added.

Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown

Matheson asked Derek Brown, a former state lawmaker and chairman of the Utah Republican Party, about his assessment of the first night/second round of the Democratic debates in Detroit.

In Michigan, since Trump was elected, there have been 107,000 new jobs created, Brown said, and “You have a group of people who are trying desperately to talk about how terrible things are in the face of a lot of evidence to the contrary,” said Brown.

Matheson said it’s important for the Democratic candidates to understand that you can’t just be against things, you also have to be for things, to be elected.

Matheson said he watched the steady stream of giveaways, big government programs and spending at the Democratic debate on Tuesday evening.

Given the $22 trillion debt, Matheson asked Brown, “What do the Republicans, who have also been guilty of overspending, do to change that game?”

“You’re right. This is not one party that is overspending,” Brown said. “We need to have the adults in the room who are willing to have the hard conversation. I didn’t see a hard conversation last night. It’s great when you can give away the farm, but someone has gotta pay for it. Taxes need to go up.

“You had a group of individuals promising the moon, but also not admitting the money has to come from somewhere,” Brown said.