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Biden and Bernie square off while Harris shines

DMT.NEWS


MIAMI — Heading into Thursday’s debate, Joe Biden was prepared to be at center stage and at the center of the bullseye of the other candidates’ attacks.

But after the first quarter of the debate, the other Democrats largely left Biden alone as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gave one fiery oration after another and California Sen. Kamala Harris scored early applause lines while the candidates argued with each other.

“Guys, you know what? America does not want to witness a food fight,” Harris said. “They wanna know how we’re gonna put food on their table.”

The debate hall erupted in applause.

Still, despite the other candidates shining, Biden’s team believes that he still benefited from his biggest weapons: time and his status as a well-known Democrat who doesn’t have to waste precious debate minutes introducing himself to the national audience tuned into NBC and MSNBC.

But Biden didn’t get as much time doing the talking as Harris, Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend in Indiana, did more of the case-making.

Here are the key moments:


Biden and Bernie and a little bit of Trump


The debate began with the top two candidates flexing their rhetorical muscle.

When asked about his comments that the wealthy would not be treated too differently under a Biden administration, the former vice president went right after his favorite target: President Trump.

“Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America. Ordinary middle-class Americans built America,” Biden said. “My dad used to have an expression. He said, ‘Joe, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s being able to look your kid in the eye and saying that everything is going to be okay.”

Sanders was asked about whether his proposals would result in higher taxes for the middle class and, after first explaining the need for Medicare For All and subsidized college debt relief, he said taxes would go up but healthcare costs would go down.

“We have a new vision for America. And at a time when we have three people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of America, while 500,000 people are sleeping out on the streets today, we think it is time for change. Real change,” Sanders said. “By that, I mean health care in my view is a human right.”


Bernie Sanders embraces socialist label — his opponents are eager to use it againt him.


Republicans want to frame Democrats as socialists and Sanders is usually open to the label. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was eager to criticize him for it.

“I think that the bottom line is if we don't clearly define that we are not socialists, the Republicans are going to come at us every way we can and call us socialists,” Hickenlooper said. “If you look at the Green New Deal, which I admire the sense of urgency and how important it is to do climate change ... but we can't promise every American a government job. I believe health care is a right and not a privilege, but you can't expect to eliminate private experience for 180 million people, many of whom don't want to give it up.”

Sanders, given a chance to reply, went right to the polls and right at President Trump.

“Well, I think the response is that the polls ... have us 10 points ahead of Donald Trump because the American people understand that Trump is a phony, that Trump is a pathological liar and a racist and that he lied to the American people during his campaign,” Sanders said.


Harris ends ‘food fight’ over generational change


Rep. Eric Swalwell recalled that he was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic convention with a message of passing the torch to a new generation.

“That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden,” Swalwell said. “Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago. He’s still right today. … Pass the torch.”

The crowd laughed. Even Biden himself smiled before he was given a chance to respond. “I’m still holding on to that torch,” he shot back. “I wanna make it clear to you.”

Then the pile-on began. South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg chimed in, arguing that “as the youngest guy on the stage, I should contribute.” But Sanders also wanted to interject. “As part of Joe’s generation—,” Sanders began, as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also fought for airtime.

Moments later, Sen. Kamala Harris pounced. “Guys, you know what? America does not want to witness a food fight,” she said. “They wanna know how we’re gonna put on their table.”

The audience roared.


Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine


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nmccaskill@politico.com (Nolan D. McCaskill), Khareem Sudlow