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Biden 'Cleared Low Bar' in Democratic Debate

Not a great night for Kamala Harris
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2019 1:58 AM CDT
Updated Aug 1, 2019 6:55 AM CDT
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Kamala Harris listens as former Joe Biden speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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(Newser) – Joe Biden faced attacks from all sides in the second Democratic debate in Detroit—but the front-runner seemed more prepared and readier to hit back than he did in June, analysts say. Biden, criticized by some of the other nine candidates onstage on issues including health care, climate change, race, immigration, and his record on women's issues, "cleared a low bar" and "highlighted both his close association with a popular Barack Obama and his brand of moderation that has led many voters to view him as the party’s best coalition-builder in a general election," according to the New York Times. "Everybody’s talking about how terrible I am on all these issues,” Biden said during the debate. Obama "knew exactly who I was. He chose me and he said it was the best decision he made.” How the other nine fared:

  • Kamala Harris. The California senator, who made waves with her attack on Biden's record in the June debate, found herself a target on Wednesday night, with other candidates pulling no punches when they criticized her record as a prosecutor. "Challenged repeatedly by some of the lower-polling candidates on the stage, she was at times halting and didn’t seem fully ready for the challenge at hand," writes Aaron Blake at the Washington Post.
  • Cory Booker. Booker was one of the night's winners, according to Vox. The New Jersey senator focused on criminal justice reform, telling Biden that the policies he has championed since the 1970s led to mass incarceration. When Biden tried to deflect the attacks by bringing up Booker's own record, the senator delivered one of the night's best lines: "You're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor."

  • Tulsi Gabbard. The House lawmaker from Hawaii raised her profile and became Google's most-searched-for candidate with what CNN calls "a performance that ranged from adversarial to deeply personal." She slammed Harris' record as California's attorney general, saying the senator should apologize to people who "suffered under your reign as prosecutor," and brought up her own record as an Iraq War veteran while arguing that it is time to "bring the troops home."
  • Jay Inslee. This may have been the "final appearance on a debate stage" for the low-polling Washington governor, but he managed to hit Biden hard on climate change which has been the main focus of his campaign, reports the Seattle Times. He said he was "mad as hell" about the issue and slammed Biden's "middle of the road" approach. "The time is up. Our house is on fire!” Inslee said. "Get off coal. Save this country and the planet, that’s what I’m for."
  • Bill de Blasio. The New York City mayor's debate performance was overshadowed by problems at home, the New York Daily News reports. His opening statement was almost drowned out by protesters shouting "Fire Pantaleo," referring to the NYPD officer in the Eric Garner case. When the issue came up later in the debate, the mayor tried to shift the focus by asking Biden what he had done about it while vice president.
  • Andrew Yang. The tech entrepreneur was not a huge presence in the debate: He had the least speaking time of all the candidates, at 8 minutes, 53 seconds. His most talked-about moment came during a discussion of climate change, when he suggested it was time for Americans to start moving to higher ground, using the $1,000-a-month universal basic income he has proposed.
  • Julian Castro. Castro made it onto CNN's list of winners with his forceful remarks on immigration reform, and one of the night's top lines. "It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't," the former HUD secretary told Biden when the Obama administration's record on the issue came up.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand. Sen. Gillibrand's biggest moment came when she attacked Biden over a 1981 op-ed in which he argued that giving higher earners a child care tax credit would subsidize the "deterioration of the family." But Biden seemed prepared: He responded by discussing his record on women's issues, his personal life, and Gillibrand's history of working with him on issues including violence against women. "From the very beginning, my deceased wife worked when we had children," he said. "My present wife has worked all the way through raising our children."
  • Michael Bennet. There was no breakout moment for the senator from Colorado, though he "distinguished himself as a centrist voice" on issues including health care and immigration, according to Business Insider. He called for adding a public option to ObamaCare, saying Medicare for All "would make illegal employer-based health insurance in this country and massively raise taxes on the middle class to the tune of $30 trillion, as Joe Biden said."'
(Read more Democratic debate stories.)

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