Round two of the second Democratic Party primary debate was fiery and confrontational, as the race’s front-runners came under heavy criticism from each other and from the less prominent candidates. Former VP Joe Biden took incoming from all sides and found himself largely on the defensive. Pundits love to pick winners and losers from these debates, but nobody won this one outright. It was ugly and it showcased only how much of a clown show this primary race really is.
Other than a few gratuitous shots at President Donald Trump, businessman Andrew Yang and Hawaii’s Representative Tulsi Gabbard were perhaps the only candidates on the stage who didn’t say anything ridiculous, so maybe those two could have been considered the winners. Additionally, Yang is the only Democrat running for president with a unique vision and is, very clearly, the only one who has anything approaching a realistic grasp of economics.
Biden’s Duck and Cover Performance
Biden still enjoys a comfortable lead in primary polling – although his lead may well shrink significantly within the weeks following this second debate. He was, of course, the person who walked onto the stage with a target on his back.
At times, it almost seemed as though former President Barack Obama is running for the nomination and Biden was acting as his proxy. Uncle Joe spent as much time touting Obama’s alleged achievements as he did promoting his own agenda – such as it is. California Senator Kamala Harris, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker all went after Biden’s record – both as a senator and as vice president. The Democrat front-runner was on his heels for most of the debate and appeared unable to effectively respond to his critics.
Even Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who appeared entirely unprepared to discuss policy on any of the issues covered, managed to get some shots in against Biden on the subject of women in the workplace. That was the senator’s best and only moment to shine in the debate.
Gabbard Hits Kamala Harris’s Achilles Heel
Though Kamala Harris has managed, until now, to barely hang in with the front runners, she has always looked like one of the strongest candidates in terms of debating skills. Her armor was cracked in this debate, though, by Tulsi Gabbard, who tore into the senator over her record as a prosecutor.
Citing facts from that record, Gabbard appeared to catch Harris off-balance, pointing out that the senator had “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so.” The Hawaii representative also brought up Harris’s hypocrisy on the issue of marijuana use. During a radio interview, the latter had previously confessed to using marijuana and Gabbard said: “[Harris] put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
In response, the usually sharp Harris appeared at a loss and countered with a weak and rambling statement about how proud she was of her work as California’s attorney general.
Unlike the previous evening’s debate, the issue of the potential impeachment of President Trump was mentioned, though Russia and the collusion conspiracy theory was not. It appears that at least those Democrats who are running for the White House realize the issue is a losing one.
The temperature of the nomination race is certainly rising and much of that is due to two factors: First, the candidates who are, according to the polls, within striking distance of Biden realize that they need to maximize their chances to take him down. Second, the also-rans must justify their continued participation in the campaign. Yang, Gabbard, and perhaps Booker may survive to debate another day but, by the time the next stage rolls around in late September, there may be barely enough candidates left standing to make it another two-night event.