“I think we are at a tough point right now, because there’s a lot of people concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling,” Booker said when asked about Castro’s remarks following the debate. “And I think that Castro had really legitimate concerns about can he be someone in a long grueling campaign… and has every right to call out.”
“Do you think that Biden did a better job tonight?” CNN anchor Erin Burnett asked. “Do you think that he showed that he could take the ball over the line?”
“I think there were a lot of moments where a number of us were looking on the stage when he tends to go on sometimes,” Booker responded. “At one point, he was talking about communities like mine listening to record players. I don’t remember the last time I saw a record player… But there are definitely moments where you listen to Joe Biden and you just wonder…”
“Senator, are you saying that he’s just too old to be president?” CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash reacted.
“No, I’m definitely not saying that because I’ve listened to Joe Biden over the years and often felt like there were times that he is going on or meandering in his speech,” Booker said. “I want someone that can excite and energize and call us to a campaign like we saw back in ’08, in ’12 where we saw record turnouts and somebody that can speak to the fullness of the Democratic Party. If I believed Joe Biden was that person, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
During a fiery exchange, Castro took a shot at Biden’s memory, accusing him of contradicting himself about whether Americans would have to buy into a public health care option under his plan or if they would be automatically enrolled.
“I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in, and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in,” Castro said. “You’re forgetting that!”
Carl Icahn, the legendary investor, has told employees that he is moving his company from New York to Miami and a report said his decision to move is based on the Big Apple’s higher taxes.
Icahn, 83, whose net worth is about $20.4 billion, is set to move his home and business from the city due to the taxes, sources told Bloomberg. The report said that it is not uncommon for billionaires to settle in the state which is one of seven without a personal income tax. The report pointed to New York’s 8.82 percent rate.
President Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts put a limit on federal deduction for state and local taxes, the report said.
The New York Post, which first reported on the upcoming move, reported that Icahn invited staffers to join him in Miami and offered a $50,000 “relocation benefit.” The paper reported that employees who want to stay in New York will be let go without severance. He has about 50 employees. Half reportedly took the offer.
“After spending my entire career in New York, while I certainly do not wish to retire, I’ve decided that at this point in my life I’d like to enjoy a warmer climate and a more casual pace year-round,” he wrote to employees, according to the Post.
The 10 Democratic presidential contenders debating Thursday night made condescending efforts to win black votes, with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas saying he would support reparations for descendants of slaves, and other candidates acting as if the only issues of concern to African-Americans are racism and criminal justice reform.
As a black American who proudly served in the U.S. Army and graduated from college, I know that members of my community are hardworking and ambitious – just like Americans of other races and ethnicities. But the Democratic candidates seemed unable to see black Americans as anything other than perpetual victims who need to be rescued.
Not surprisingly, the candidates vying to challenge President Trump in the 2020 election demonized him every chance they got. They ignored the fact that the president has signed into law the most comprehensive criminal justice reform bill in a generation – a long-sought goal in the black community.
Former Vice President Joe Biden tried to one-up the president on the issue of cutting the prison population. “Nobody should be in jail for a non-violent crime,” Biden said in a surprising line. “When we were in the White House, we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system.”
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Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey pledged to create a White House office to battle white supremacy – yet another example of how the Democrats are wedded to the idea of making government bigger and bigger, raising taxes higher and higher, and spending more and more tax dollars as a way of solving every problem.
In contrast, President Trump understands the value of letting us all keep more of our own money to take care of our families and build better lives. He understands that the more money we’re forced to turn over to Uncle Sam, the more dependent we all become on the government programs that the Democrats are always seeking to expand.
Black voters – like all voters – want and deserve independence, not dependence on government.
On the economic front, the Democratic would-be presidents ignored the record low unemployment rate black Americans are enjoying in America’s booming economy, which is thriving thanks to the tax cuts and abolition of unneeded regulations by the Trump administration.
The strong, vibrant economy President Trump has created is good for all Americans – and is a dramatic contrast to the failed Big Government, high-tax policies the Democrats trotted out.
Black voters – like all voters – want and deserve independence, not dependence on government.
And while history has proven beyond doubt that the socialist policies embraced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and some of the other far-left candidates (though they deny they are socialists) have proven to be an abysmal failure around the world, the Democrats nevertheless held firm to their almost religious faith that government – rather than individual initiative – can solve all our problems.
Right off the bat, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota made a strong impression as a centrist candidate who was not on the far-far left fringe of the Democratic Party that Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth (“I have a plan”) Warren occupy.
During the health care portion of the debate, Kobuchar’s “he wrote it, but I read it” critique of Sanders and his pie-in-the-sky absurdly expensive “Medicare-for-all” legislation was a masterful moment.
Klobuchar spent most of the night drawing a strong distinction between her and the others on the stage and establishing herself as a serious alternative for voters who just aren’t gelling with the radical left extremist wing of the Democratic Party.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Joaquin Castro wasn’t afraid to hit below the belt, mounting a devastating critique of former Vice President Joe Biden. At one point, Castro asked Biden: “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” That was a clear shot at the 76-year-old Biden on the age issue.
If that wasn’t enough, Castro claimed he was “fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama” more than Biden, embracing the nation’s only black president, who remains popular with most black voters. Biden has staked his claim for black support on his close working relationship with Obama when he served as Obama’s vice president for eight years.
It was disappointing that handouts and fear were all the Democrats could offer to black voters – and other voters as well.
Here’s the question facing all voters in November 2020 – whoever the Democrats will nominate: Do we want a president who gives us the freedom to achieve the American Dream – as President Trump is doing so successfully – or do we want a bloated government bureaucracy to take a giant chunk of our paychecks and then “take care” of us in a patronizing, inefficient and ineffective way.
Thankfully, the racist and discriminatory policies that held down black Americans for hundreds of years are long gone. We can – and are – succeeding under the policies spearheaded by President Trump, who despite false Democratic attacks is proving to be the leader best able to deliver for Americans of all colors.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke responded late Thursday to what he claimed was a “death threat” from a Texas state lawmaker.
Briscoe Cain, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, had posted a Twitter message during Thursday’s Democratic debate in Houston, after O’Rourke said he planned to take away high-powered weapons from civilians if elected president.
“Hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15,” O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, Texas, tweeted during the debate.
“My AR is ready for you Robert Francis,” Cain responded, using O’Rourke’s birth name.
Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain. (Facebook/Briscoe Cain)
At that point, O’Rourke made it clear he didn’t interpret Cain’s tweet to be a joke.
“This is a death threat, Representative,” O’Rourke wrote. “Clearly, you shouldn’t own an AR-15—and neither should anyone else.”
Cain replied: “You’re a child Robert Francis.”
Such weapons have become a topic of debate nationally after recent mass shootings – but particularly in Texas, where 22 people were fatally shot at a Walmart store in O’Rourke’s home city of El Paso on Aug. 3 and eight people were fatally shot by a suspect’s shooting spree in the Midland-Odessa area on Aug. 31.
O’Rourke, 46, served in Congress from January 2013 until earlier this year. He launched his 2020 presidential bid after generating national name recognition during a high-profile but failed U.S. Senate run against incumbent Ted Cruz, a Republican.
O’Rourke has argued for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons, among other gun control measures.
Cain, 34, is a Republican from Baytown who represents Texas’ 128th District, covering part of Harris County.
The website VoteSmart.org shows that Cain’s pro-Second Amendment votes this year have included support for allowing handguns at places of worship; allowing the storage and transportation of firearms in school parking areas; and authorizing law enforcement officers to carry weapons on school property.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks during a candidates forum at the 110th NAACP National Convention in Detroit, July 24, 2019. (Associated Press)
Harris wasn’t the only one critical of ABC. Her colleague, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., went after the network for partnering with “health care industry” advertisers while defending his signature Medicare-for-all legislation.
“We need a health care system that guarantees health care to all people as every other major country does, not a system that provides $100 billion a year in profit for the drug companies and the insurance companies,” Sanders said. “And to tell you how absurd the system is, tonight on ABC, the health care industry will be advertising, telling you how bad Medicare-for-all is, because they want to protect their profits. That is absurd.”
ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos moved on to the next candidate as Sanders’ line earned some applause.
The president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe a “disgrace” Thursday after it was reported that a U.S. attorney recommended proceeding with charges against the current CNN contributor.
“The fact is that McCabe disgraced the FBI, first of all by leaking FBI agents. By the way you’re not supposed to leak,” Giuliani said on “The Ingraham Angle.”
It was reported Thursday that U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu made the recommendation to move forward with charges against McCabe.
Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City, said that McCabe eventually being charged is likely the first step in an investigation targeting officials who worked against President Trump.
“So I think this is the beginning of investigating and bringing out the real crimes that took place here, which is honestly what appears to be an emerging conspiracy to frame Donald Trump,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani put forth that in order to have “equal justice under the law” McCabe and former FBI Director James Comey both need to be prosecuted.
“If we have equal justice under the law McCabe has to be prosecuted. And so does Comey,” Giuliani said.
But Giuliani stressed that such actions shouldn’t be based on politics.
The 2020 Democratic presidential primary is in the middle of a slog, and Thursday night’s debate reflected that. The campaign is mature enough that multiple candidates have dropped out of the race but still young enough for the top-polling candidates to bring risk-averse approaches to the debate, limiting the possibilities for fireworks. It was late enough in the cycle for most of the arguments to be familiar to a highly informed voter but perhaps not late enough to qualify as must-see television for the less-engaged.
Little happened on Thursday night to directly and immediately threaten the polling lead of the top three presidential candidates ― former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ― and, beyond their now-standard opening 30-minute exchange on health care and “Medicare for All” and a brief scuffle on Biden’s vote for the Iraq War, they avoided directly criticizing each other.
The lower-polling candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), all deployed different strategies for a breakout moment: Klobuchar used her corny sense of humor, Harris tried to focus on criticizing President Donald Trump, and O’Rourke had success introducing his campaign’s new focus on gun control to a national audience.
Here are four takeaways from the third Democratic presidential debate:
The front-runners turn down showdowns
Polling in recent weeks has shown a solid top trio of Biden, Warren and Sanders, with Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ― both of whom had stints in the top tier ― falling into the single digits. The fact that Warren and Biden, who have clashed in the past, were sharing the debate stage for the first time only increased expectations of a showdown.
Instead, new lines of contrast were few and far between, with all three top candidates opting to take a rain check on a climactic battle. Sanders and Warren teamed up to battle Biden in an occasionally testy health care exchange that mostly was a retread of arguments from earlier debates. Repeat viewers who were sold on Sanders’ Medicare for All plan and those who prefer Biden’s more incremental push to expand Obamacare were unlikely to have heard any arguments to budge them.
One answer from Sanders did stand out. After Biden brought up his own vote in favor of the Iraq War, Sanders highlighted his own opposition to the conflict.
“The truth is, the big mistake, the huge mistake, and one of the big differences between you and me, I never believed what [Dick] Cheney and [George W.] Bush said about Iraq,” Sanders said to Biden. “You’re right,” the former vice president responded, as many in the audience cheered.
But Sanders quickly let the topic drop, moving on to discuss his work to improve veterans’ health care as the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. In the same answer, he noted he had voted against increases in military spending during the Trump administration. That’s a potential point of contrast with Warren, but he never mentioned her votes to make the contrast clear.
Though all three top-tier candidates received plenty of attention from the moderators ― Biden led in speaking time, with 17½ minutes, Warren was second with 16½ minutes, and Sanders was in fourth beyond Booker with 14 minutes ― all also had stretches when they seemed to take a back seat. Their campaigns are likely to be fine with that. At this point, the front-runners have much more ground to lose than they stand to gain.
Beto feels at home in Texas
The goal of any lower-polling candidate is to have A Moment, and O’Rourke’s declaration of support for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons ― “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he told the moderators. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.” ― qualified as one and is likely to be one of the few clips voters who didn’t watch live will see from the debate. It’s likely to generate attention not only because the party’s base seems ready to embrace candidates adopting bolder positions on gun control but also because it’s a risky position for a Democrat to hold for the general election.
O’Rourke, who is polling in single digits, has adopted a more urgent tone in his campaign since the mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, Texas, last month and has put an aggressive gun control push at the center of his messaging. It’s paying off: The O’Rourke campaign bragged that it had its best fundraising hour of the quarter during the debate. It’s possible this is O’Rourke finding his stride. But it’s also possible it leads to a burst of attention with little long-term effect. (See the praise of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro after the first debate for an example.)
Castro the aggressor
Castro has consistently shown his willingness to draw contrasts and critique his opponents ― remember his attacks on O’Rourke in the first debate ― and Biden was his main target Thursday. His attack on the 76-year-old former vice president during the health care portion of the debate ― “You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just two minutes ago said that they would have to buy in.” ― is unlikely to lead to a detailed policy discussion and has already led to a discussion about whether the attack was unfairly ageist. (Castro, in post-debate interviews, insisted he wasn’t taking a shot at Biden’s age.)
Sure, slamming Biden is likely to please progressives eager for the other candidates to knock the Delawarean from his perch atop the polls. The response to Castro’s comments, even in the immediate hours after the debate, illustrates the risks of throwing punches in a primary, especially when the other candidate has an extensive network of surrogates and allies like Biden does. The debate had barely ended when former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on national television calling Castro “mean and vindictive.” Expect similar commentary from other Obama administration alumni with fond feelings for the former vice president.
At the same time, Castro, who is polling at around 1%, was not guaranteed to feature in post-debate chatter. The punches he threw at Biden mean he will be talked about ― something a candidate polling at 1% needs desperately. And another debate exchange made it clear Castro isn’t going to shy away from criticizing the other candidates.
“This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” Buttigieg said after the former San Antonio mayor’s exchange with Biden.
“Yeah, that’s called the Democratic primary election, Pete. That’s called an election,” Castro responded. “This is what we’re here for.”
Moderator diversity matters
Thursday’s debate moderators were two white men, one black woman and one Latino man. It was a diverse group of questioners, and it paid off. Some of the strongest questions of the night came from ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.
Themajority of the moderatorsin the 2016 and 2018 Democratic debates were men, and predominantly white men. But the Democratic National Committee instituted a new rule for the 2020 election cycle mandating that every debate have a female moderator. It also encouraged news outlets hosting debates to include people of color.
On Thursday, Davis pressed Harris on her criminal justice record, listing positions that have changed over the years. And Davis pointedly read Biden one of his quotes from 1975, in which he said he didn’t believe society had any responsibility to address the legacy of slavery.
Ramos pressed Biden on President Barack Obama’s deportations of undocumented immigrants and asked him why Latinos should trust him. He also challenged Biden when he dodged the question. He then turned to Castro, the former Obama Cabinet secretary and the only Latino candidate in the field, and asked him why voters should trust Democrats to deal with immigration reform since the party failed to do it when it controlled Congress and the White House in 2009.
Amanda Terkel contributed to this report.
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Did Biden rebound? Is Warren a winner? Did a disastrous health care discussion make Trump the real winner? Grading the 2020 Democratic candidates.
Jill: The best parts of this debate were the beginning and the end. In their opening statements and closing remarks on professional setbacks, these candidates distilled their essence and showed who they are. And that is what regular voters want and need to know. Even devoted policy junkies might have taken a popcorn break during an argument over automatic enrollment versus opting in to a hypothetical plan of Medicare for whoever wants it. But, in the personal moments that framed the debate, anyone looking for an alternative to President Donald Trump probably would have found more than one successor who would do.
David: The health care discussion was a disaster for Democrats, making the party look like a gaggle of socialists bent on beating each other to the far left flank. The remaining moderates, former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, came through the night with the most bruises. Sure, there are plenty of plausible alternatives to Trump, but how extreme will the last person standing appear after more of these debates? Trump is smiling.
Now, on to the grades …
David’s grade: F (for feeble). “Make sure you have the record player on at night?” Who even has a record player any more, and what does that have to do with education? That flub capped off a night of dodging questions and mishandling tough moments, including a wandering mess of an answer on his support for the Iraq war. What a disaster.
Jill’s grade: B+. This was a Biden who perhaps had chugged a can of Red Bull before coming onstage. There was a no more Mr. Nice Guy aspect to him. He had at least one slip-up besides the record player (90% of Americans support comprehensive gun background checks, not an assault weapons ban as he said). But overall it was an energetic performance interspersed with cutting retorts, especially to former Housing Secretary Julián Castro’s repeated attempts to make Biden seem old. Those rooting for Biden will feel better about him after this outing.
David’s grade: C. I came away from the debate thinking the New Jersey senator was the most likable and potentially inspiring, but I can’t figure out why really. Can you get much leverage from the bold plan to create a White House office to target white supremacy? I don’t think so.
Jill’s grade: B+. He emerged for the first time as a real competitor who could frame issues with a relatable urgency. It was refreshing to hear a Medicare for All supporter argue for progress however we can get it, because people have high blood pressure and unaffordable insulin “right now.” He was talking about guns when he said we have a “crisis of empathy,” but I think people understand that is the broader problem right now in the Oval Office. (Also, he would probably be the first president who lost out to penguins in an Academy Awards competition for best documentary.)
David’s grade: D. The veneer is coming off the mayor from Indiana. He didn’t stand out as particularly articulate as he has in previous debates, and he said some monumentally foolish things. First, about Afghanistan, the war he served in: “The best way to avoid an endless war is not to start one in the first place.” Well, anyone who remembers 9/11 knows we didn’t start the war in Afghanistan. Second, given a chance to say something important about reforming education, he said the first thing he would do is “put in place a secretary of education who actually believes in public education,” as if who the education secretary is actually moves the needle. Please.
Jill’s grade: B-. He had a few memorable moments, such as when he told Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders his Medicare for All plan amounted to “my way or the highway” and said that as a soldier serving under don’t ask, don’t tell and a public official in conservative Indiana, “I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was, was going to be the ultimate career-ending professional setback.” But Buttigieg was outshone for most of the night by the more dynamic people onstage with him.
David’s grade: C. He will be remembered for taking it to Joe Biden and making the former vice president look weak and lost on stage. Too bad it was the former Housing secretary who turned out to be wrong. Right or wrong, the way Castro handled it will probably hurt him at the polls. Democrats didn’t need his attack to reveal how fragile their frontrunner remains.
Jill’s grade: C-. I was not a fan of how he went after Biden. How many times did he have to say to him, “You just said that two minutes ago. You just two minutes ago … Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago …” Five times, I guess. Also, his defense of his pugnaciousness was “that’s called an election.” But others managed to mix it up without seeming like they were bashing their grandfather. I’m not sure where Castro goes from here.
David’s grade: D (for dangerous). Instead of acknowledging the reality that the Second Amendment makes regulating guns hard, the California senator chose to feed Democratic primary voters the falsehood that all a president has to do is sign some executive orders. Instead of rebuking Trump’s lawless presidency, she plans to build on its executive overreach. She wilted under scrutiny for her record as a prosecutor and California’s attorney general.
Jill’s grade: B-. After a strong first debate and a weak second, this one scored somewhere in between. Her candidacy still seems undefined and doesn’t hold together. She hinted at a theme at the end with a call for “courageous leadership,” the kind she says she showed taking on polluters in California. Time is growing short to come up with a narrative and figure out how to sell it to America.
David’s grade: S (for shaky). Challenged to account for her role as a prosecutor in failing to pursue cases against police officers who shot unarmed minorities, the Minnesota senator started shaking and she never quite recovered her cool. Her appeal to moderates never seemed to break through because she keeps telling people about it while failing to show how it would make a difference for Democrats.
Jill’s grade: B-. She presented herself as the candidate for the forgotten moderate voter well enough: “If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes … you’ve got a home with me.” But the old question about passionate centrism arises: Is there any such thing? Also, Biden has that lane, and one reason he has such a hold on it is a personality many people know and love. That’s tough competition.
David’s grade: A. “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.” That will be the line that is remembered from Thursday’s debate, and if the former Texas congressman has a chance to break through, this will be his moment. He clearly had a strategy to make the El Paso shooting the centerpiece of his pitch to primary voters. We’ll see if he overplayed that card.
Jill’s grade: A-. He managed to turn the mass shooting in his hometown into a broader, bolder argument for what the country needs and why he can provide it. That memorable line —“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47” — came after he described how a 15-year-old bled out over the course of an hour because there weren’t enough ambulances to get to the wounded. It’s part of his new model of throwing caution to the winds. To me it makes him a stronger candidate. But I’m not a middle-of-the-road suburban voter.
David’s grade: B. Bernie was the same Bernie he always is — crazy socialist community college professor who has an answer, delivered in a shout, for everything. His answer always goes back to the destructive role billionaires play in our politics. The Vermont senator didn’t change anyone’s mind tonight, but he didn’t disappoint his fans either.
Jill’s grade: C. Sanders sounded hoarse and his talking points tired, and the evening had the feel of a valedictory. For better or worse in a general election, he did more than anyone up there to set the party on its leftward course. Many onstage paid him respects. But it was hard not to notice that Warren, whose policy ideas are similar, is better able to humanize and explain them. Debate by debate, Sanders seems to be turning into an elder statesman, and a revered one in some quarters.
David’s grade: B+. The senator from Massachusetts started off the night with weak answers on health care, dodging the reality of higher taxes for the middle class and simply refusing to acknowledge that the “Medicare for All” plan she endorses outlaws private medical insurance. As the night went on she got better, appearing passionate and informed. She’ll probably come out the winner.
Jill’s grade:A. Warren’s best night yet. She was more relaxed and filled in the blanks about herself to a mass audience. Everyone knows she has many plans, and they’re big and expensive and unabashedly liberal. This time she started right out with growing up in Oklahoma, three brothers in the military in Texas, and her own time in Houston. At the end she talked about her roller-coaster career path in the pre-feminist world. I don’t know if the personal touches will transcend moderates’ concerns about her policies, but for her it was a start.
David’s grade: D. The only entrepreneur on stage didn’t say anything all night that stuck with me. His attempt to get attention by giving away cash to 10 families came across as a cheap ploy and got the laughter it deserved from his opponents. He doesn’t belong on the stage going forward.
Jill’s grade: C-. He tried to shake things up by offering a $1,000/month “freedom dividend” to 10 families who explain best how the money would help them solve their own problems. All I could think was that this gives new meaning to the term vote-buying. Yang sounded like a conventional, mainstream Democrat on trade, health care and immigration. But there’s no way anyone’s going to convince me that we can risk another political novice in the White House. Ever.
David Mastio, a libertarian conservative, is the deputy editor of USA TODAY’s editorial page. Jill Lawrence, a center-left liberal, is the commentary editor of USA TODAY. Follow them on Twitter: @DavidMastio and @JillDLawrence
In the most contentious Democratic debate thus far, a winnowed field of 10 Democratic candidates took the stage in Houston Thursday night and sparred over hot-button issues such as health care and immigration.
Notably, this was the first time that frontrunners Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden shared the debate stage.
Warren and Biden exhibited stark differences on style, policy and vision for the Democratic Party, embodying two opposing theories of what the party should be.
This divide was apparent during an explosive debate over health care, during which Biden went on the attack against Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for the hidden costs associated with their “Medicare-for-all plans.”
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Warren deflected when asked if middle-class taxes will go up to pay for “Medicare for all,” saying total costs would go down – but not explicitly stating whether taxes for middle-class families would increase.
“What we’re talking about here is what’s going to happen in families’ pockets,” Warren said.
“This is about candor, honesty,” Biden retorted. “There will be a deductible – in your paycheck … someone making 60 grand with three kids, they’re going to end up paying $5,000 more.”
Though many were watching Warren expecting her to deliver a knockout performance, the senator fell somewhat short of that expectation. While this will likely not impact Warren’s standing in the presidential race at this early stage – which according to most polls is a close second behind Biden – she did not have the debate moment that many were anticipating.
Aside from Biden’s generally strong performance, he compellingly and convincingly delivered his core message of restoring, protecting and rebuilding the Obama-Biden record.
On the other hand, the first 30 minutes of the debate during the health care discussion were arguably Biden’s best moments on the campaign trail to date. Though the former vice president’s performance was not perfect, he exhibited a much-needed display of strength and preparedness.
Aside from Biden’s generally strong performance, he compellingly and convincingly delivered his core message of restoring, protecting and rebuilding the Obama-Biden record.
“The senator says she’s for Bernie. Well, I’m for Barack,” Biden said about Warren’s support for “Medicare-for-all,” referencing last month’s debate, when Warren said she completely agreed with Sanders on “Medicare-for-all.”
At the previous debate, several progressive candidates took aim at former President Obama’s legacy on health care as a way to attack Biden on his record.
However, in a marked reversal, both Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris of California – who sharply criticized Obama in the last debate – praised the former president for the positive systematic changes to health care that came as a result of ObamaCare.
Indeed, if there was an absentee winner of the debate, it was Obama. Aside from Biden, one of the clearest, and most concise health care arguments came from Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who has polled consistently in the low single-digits and had yet to have a strong debate moment before Thursday night.
Klobuchar said that although Sanders may have written the “Medicare-for-all” bill, she “actually read the bill,” noting that under Sanders’ plan “we will no longer have private insurance as we know it” – resulting in millions of Americans losing their private insurance.
Similar to previous debates, the discussion of immigration had Biden on the defensive over the 3 million undocumented immigrants that were deported under the Obama administration.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, in particular, took aim at Biden, using the moment to attack Biden for “taking credit” for positive elements of the Obama legacy and distancing himself from criticism.
“He wants to take credit for Obama’s work but not have to answer any questions,” Castro said of Biden.
These attacks largely fell flat, as did Castro’s attempted jab at Biden’s age, and will surely not result in a post-debate polling spike for Castro that other candidates have experienced after attacking Biden during a debate.
“I stand with Barack Obama all eight years – good, bad, and indifferent,” Biden said in response to the immigration attacks, once again reverting to his campaign message of restoring, protecting and rebuilding the Obama-Biden record.
Aside from Castro’s attacks, throughout the entire night Sanders was the candidate who attacked Biden the most. He went after the former vice president not just on health care, but also on corporations, Biden’s vote in favor of the Iraq war as a senator, and trade.