Instead, tonight’s show was the debate equivalent of “Kill the Ball Carrier,” and the ball carrier was anyone at the top of the polls.
Moderators, not at all subtly, started the show by revitalizing the Biden-Harris showdown from the previous debate. They pivoted to former Vice President Joe Biden after the opening remarks, asking about his position on Harris’ healthcare plan.
“Any time someone tells you you’re going to get something good in ten years, you should wonder why it takes ten years,” Biden said of Harris’ plan.
The Democrat candidate pulled no punches as he picked apart the former Attorney General’s Medicare for All proposal. He criticized the plan for it’s enormous cost – $3Trillion annually – and dismissed the proposal as double talk.
Though Harris defended her plan, Biden was not alone in his attack. Colorado Senator Michael Bennett joined the fray, dismissing the plan and it’s price-tag as a burden that the taxpayers cannot bear.
Kamala called the criticisms “Republican talking points.”
How legitimate criticisms of policy are synonymous with the strategy of political opponents remained to be seen on the debate stage.
Medicare for All
Kamala Harris saw varying degrees of support. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii supports a Medicare for All plan. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said that the claim that people love their private health insurance was “mythology.”
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined her New York colleague in full support of a Medicare for All plan.
Unlike Gillibrand, who supports the abolition of private insurance, entrepreneur Andrew Yang suggests that private insurance can remain.
Joe Biden, the current Democrat front runner, has been adamant that a Medicare for all plan isn’t affordable or sustainable. Instead, he proposes updates to the Obamacare law that he pushes as a success.
Bennett, too, was in favor of allowing people to keep their private insurance.
Unlike the other democrat candidates, Cory Booker offered little on his position. Instead, he objected to the pitting of Democrats against Democrats. Unfortunately, Booker failed to realize that is the entire purpose of the debate.
Naturally, the sparring matches did not end on the issue of healthcare.
Biden and Harris name dropped one another regularly, which earned them more time to respond according to the debate rules. Moreover, the moderators helped by referencing one or the other in direct questions.
It wasn’t long before the other candidates got wise to the situation. This wasn’t only an opportunity to feed each other more time, but to swing at the top candidates in the race.
Bill DeBlasio, during the second topic of the night, struck at Biden on immigration. When asked how he used his power to stop deportations under Obama, Biden sidestepped.
“I asked the Vice President point blank,” DeBlasio maintained, “did he use his power to stop those deportations. He went right around the question.”
DeBlasio, after being hammered by former HUD Secretary Julián Castro about the Eric Garner case, pivoted. Again referencing the former VP’s power, asked how Biden worked with the Department of Justice.
Later, Mayor DeBlasio again named Biden specifically. He pressed on whether or not Biden would renegotiate the USMCA, which he referred to as “NAFTA 2.0.” Biden simply said, “yes.”
“I take that as a win,” DeBlasio declared. Biden laughed, “I appreciate your affection. You’re spending a lot of time with me.” The crowd laughed, and DeBlasio’s onslaught ended.
Cory Booker, former Mayor of Newark and New Jersey Senator, jumped in. “Mr. Vice President, you can’t have it both ways. You invoke President Obama more than anybody on this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient, and dodge it when it’s not.”
“I want to address Vice President Biden directly,” Gillibrand stated.
“What did you mean when you said that when women work outside the home it contributes to the deterioration of the family?” Gilliband asked about an opinion piece Biden wrote 38 years before.
Biden struck back, clarifying that both of his wives worked while raising their children. “I wrote the Violence Against Women Act.” Biden continued, “I was deeply involved in… the Equal Pay Amendments.”
“I came up with the ‘It’s on Us’ proposal, to see to it that women were treated more decently on college campuses.”
Biden then delivered his final, devastating blow.
“You came to Syracuse University with me and said it was wonderful. ‘I’m passionate about your concern, making sure women are treated equally,'” he continued, paraphrasing a statement Gillibrand made to him. “
“I don’t know whats happened, except that you’re now running for President.”
Of all of the Gillibrand highlights of the night, this exchange is not on her Twitter feed. It is pretty telling that this was an exchange that Biden clearly won.
Though the sparring matches between Biden and Harris were expected, the most hard hitting night came from an unexpected democrat candidate.
After a spirited discussion on segregation and racism, Hawai’i Representative and military servicewoman Tulsi Gabbard placed her cross hairs on Harris.
“Senator Harris says she is proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she will be a prosecutor president. But I am deeply concerned about this record,” Gabbard remarked.
Hitting the Record
Gabbard pulled no punches.
“There are too many examples to cite. But, she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
“She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so.”
“She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California.”
“And she fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”Tulsi Gabbard on the record of Kamala Harris as a California prosecutor.
Clearly, Harris found this attack completely unexpected.
“And the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor, you owe them an apology,” Gabbard finished.
Biden struck at Harris as well, reviving the issue of segregation from the first democrat debate. Unlike before, Biden came prepared.
“When Senator Harris was the attorney general for eight years in the state of California there were two of the most segregated school districts in the country in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I didn’t see a single solitary time she brought a case against them to desegregate them,” Biden said.
“Secondly, she also was in a situation where she had a police department when she was there that in fact was abusing people’s rights and the fact was that she in fact was told by her own people that her own staff that she should do something about and disclose to defense attorneys like me that you in fact have been — the police officer did something that did not give you information that exculpate your client.”
“She didn’t do that. She never did that. So what happened? Along came a federal judge and said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and he freed 1,000 of these people. If you doubt me, Google ‘1,000 prisoners freed, Kamala Harris.’”Joe Biden strikes back at Kamala Harris
Jay Inslee, who was rather underwhelming during the democrat debate, made the issue of climate change his campaign priority.
He called for a “bold plan,” and called his own the “gold standard.” He called for the end of the use of coal and other fossil fuels, and maintained that as president he would immediately act to do so.
Andrew Yang maintained that investing in the tech industry was the best solution. He argued that innovation and new, green technology was the best solution.
Naturally, the candidates hammered Bill DeBlasio about the Eric Garner case. After all, the case, which gained national attention, happened in New York City.
The Democrat Mayor defended himself, stating he is no longer waiting for the federal Department of Justice to act.
“No, he should be fired. He should be fired now,” Gillibrand said.
Julián Castro had the best argument on the issue, offering broad policy proposals. Among those were sentencing reform, cash bail reform, fixing the broken policy system, and implementing a national Use of Force standard.
Of all of the candidates on stage, only one candidate promised to pull US troops home from Afghanistan. That candidate happened to be the only military veteran; Tulsi Gabbard.
This mirrors the previous debate night, when the only veteran on stage, Pete Buttigieg, promised the same.
Winners and Losers
As expected, Andrew Yang ended up with the least amount of speaking time of any of the candidates. Additionally, Yang showed little ability to branch out of his main platform.
Instead, Yang used most of his time to discuss technological innovation and his freedom dividend. Unfortunately, this left him little time to display any amount of dynamic thought or ability.
Inslee is an uninspiring Democrat candidate, by contrast of the others. Though he conveys his ideas clearly, he speaks slowly and less passionately than his counterparts.
The exception, perhaps, is on climate change. Inslee displays a working understanding of climate policy from the progressive starting points. As a result, he likely won the climate change debate. Nevertheless, he scored no other victories.
Mayor DeBlasio ended up with the second-least amount of speaking time on stage.
Not only did he spend most of his time attacking Biden, he failed to launch attacks at other candidates. Naturally, this strategy backfired. DeBlasio ended up handing Biden minutes of extra time to speak on his positions.
Spreading his attacks out among the candidates could have caused them to name him in return. Instead, DeBlasio went largely ignored as a non-threatening adversary.
Castro is easily the most polished candidate on tonight’s debate stage. In spite of being well spoken on his positions, he fails to outshine the prominent opponents.
While Castro speaks intelligently on policy, it is overshadowed by the stage presence of behemoth candidates like Biden. In a smaller field, Castro might rise to prominence. Unfortunately, this isn’t his year.
Senator Gillibrand, like Castro, is completely overshadowed. Though she earned the fourth highest amount of speaking time, less than a minute separated her and the third lowest, Castro.
In that time, she launched strikes that failed to land, and jokes that did. Her woke monologue about being a woman with white privilege certainly failed to land with moderates, who Biden has virtually exclusively.
Additionally, it likely failed to sway progressive voters who mostly rest with Sanders and Warren.
The New Jersey Senator brought little to the table in terms of specific policy. While opponents like Harris and Castro bring specifics, Booker brought many platitudes.
Without substance and solutions, Booker will likely be passed over as the Democrat to go head-to-head with president Trump.
While Bennett tried his hardest to make a case for the moderate wing, he was no match for Biden. In fact, Biden earned almost twice as much speaking time than did Bennett.
In light of that, coupled with far less name recognition, it is unlikely Bennett will steal away any of Biden’s base.
Undoubtedly, Harris won against the less popular Democrats. Unfortunately for her, this was a show down between her and Biden. Each of whom are vying for the top spot.
Over the course of the night, and through many sparring matches, Kamala failed to repeat her first debate performance against Biden.
From the start, it was clear that Biden came prepared for battle. Unlike the previous debate, Biden expected to be hit from all sides and angles. He also expected to go on the offensive.
Biden did a much better job fending off the onslaught. For example, he defended his record better. By the end of the debate, Biden captured 21 minutes of speaking time in making his case to the American people.
While Biden, at times, doesn’t speak clearly or eloquently, he did a much better job of delivering and defending his message than before.
Gabbard’s entire performance, save her closing statement, was stellar.
She knew her material, delivered her positions with poise and clarity, and made strong cases for her positions.
Furthermore, she delivered some crucial blows along the way. Of course, that includes the devastating blow dealt to Kamala Harris.
Overall, and for the second debate in a row, she delivered a debate performance that was completely memorable. And again, she trended on Twitter in the United States and internationally.