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Harris and Castro. Photos: Cliff Hawkins/Win McNamee/Getty Images

Lots of voters decided to "swipe right" on Kamala Harris and Julián Castro after the first Democratic debates — signaling in polling and donations that they're interested to learn more about these candidates.

Why it matters: Now the pressure is on to make a lasting impression and keep up this post-debate momentum as much as they can before the next debates on July 30 & 31.

Harris' strategy, per her campaign, is to keep her in front of new voters and spend money. "We are foot on the gas," texted Ian Sams, national press secretary for her campaign. 

  • She just finished another Iowa tour and a few stints in Houston, New Orleans, and South Carolina — all in one week.
  • They're also investing heavily in Iowa, which is counter to her early strategy of spending more time in places like California and Texas.
  • They now have 65 staffers on the ground in Iowa "to harness energy into organizing capacity coming off the debate," Sams said, adding that they believe it might be the largest Iowa team of any 2020 candidate right now.

Castro's campaign says he's not changing a thing. "Secretary Castro isn't changing the way he campaigns ... [just] because he has a bigger spotlight," said Sawyer Hackett, the campaign's national press secretary.

  • The aggressiveness of his debate-night battle with Beto O'Rourke may have surprised voters and the media, but Castro maintains that's who he really is — especially passionate when it comes to immigration.
  • Castro plans to unveil at least two new policy proposals before the end of the month, including on climate change and gun violence prevention, his team said. He's also adding stops in Florida and Texas.
  • And now the campaign has press embeds traveling with them everywhere they go — a stark departure from just a few weeks ago when they'd have to beg for that kind of media attention. 

The momentum for these two candidates was clear immediately after the debates.

  • Every post-debate poll has Harris firmly in third place, polling as high as 20% in some and within striking distance of Biden in others. Just days before the debates, she was polling in single digits.
  • FiveThirtyEight found roughly 25% of Harris' "new" supporters — those who said she's their first choice after the debate — previously said they were on Team Biden.
  • In one HuffPost/YouGov poll of 1,000 people, 29% of voters said their opinion of Castro improved after the debate. That includes 24% of independents and 11% of Republicans.
  • The buzz is seen in events, too. Castro's campaign planned "an intimate meet-and-greet" for 100 people at a mall in Texas this week, and 350 people showed up.

The bottom line: Presidential debates this early in the cycle matter because they drive media coverage, which leads to shifts in polling and surges in fundraising. But the next debates could reward someone else entirely.

Go deeper: What you need to know about the 2020 presidential candidates, in under 500 words

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Army to award Purple Hearts to troops injured in Iran missile attack

Damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar in January 2020. Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

The Army has approved 39 more Purple Hearts for U.S. soldiers wounded in an Iranian military ballistic missile attack on an Iraq base in January 2020, the Army Times first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Most of these soldiers sustained brain injuries, per the Army Times. Then-President Trump dismissed their injuries at the time as "headaches" and "not very serious," sparking backlash from some veterans groups.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

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