Former Vice President Joe Biden took most of the hits during the second Democratic primary debate, facing attacks from nearly every other candidate onstage.
Still the frontrunner in the polls, the former senator from Delaware was the prime target for the other nine candidates on a whole range of issues covered in the debate.
Here are some of the biggest hits on Biden of the night, issue-by-issue:
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked Biden to answer for the ramped up levels of deportation that occurred under the Obama Administration, and the vice president dodged. Saying he “didn’t hear an answer,” De Blasio followed up. “I asked the vice president if he used his power to stop those deportations. If you want to be president of the United States, you need to be able to answer the tough questions. I guarantee you, if you’re debating Donald Trump, he’s not going to let you off the hook. Did you say those deportations were a good idea or did you go to the president and say this is a mistake, we shouldn’t do it?”
On Criminal Justice Reform
- During a discussion of mass incarceration, Biden got into a brief tiff with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), criticizing Booker’s record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. The senator replied to the vice president by saying, “We have a system right now that’s broken.” He then alluded to ongoing criticism about Biden’s policy record on race, saying, “and if you want to compare records – and I’m shocked that you do – I am happy to do that.”
- Booker pressed the attack on Biden, accusing him of inauthenticity on the same point: “There’s a saying in my community that you’re dipping into the Kool-aid, and you don’t even know the flavor,” Booker said. “You need to come to the city and see the reforms we put in place.”
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) recalled Biden’s work with segregationist senators in personal detail, bringing up his moves to oppose busing. “Had I been in the Senate at that time I would have been on the other side of the aisle,” Harris said. “Had those segregationists their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate, Cory Booker would not be a member of the United States Senate, and President Obama would not have been in a position to nominate him to the title he now he holds.”
On Health Care
- This one may have flown under the radar for some folks, but it was sharp and went to the heart of Biden’s identification with the Obama administration. Biden opened with an attack on Harris’s health care plan, calling it too expensive and claiming it would take away people’s coverage. Harris parried by noting that under Biden’s plan, health insurance companies would continue being able to jack up co-pays and deductibles, while boasting that “the architect of Obama’s Affordable Care Act,” former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “endorsed our plan as being something that will get us to where we need to go.”
On Social Issues
- Harris brought up Biden’s past support for the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds from paying for abortions outside of cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother. The California senator called Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment a decision “to withhold resources from poor women to reproductive healthcare, including women who were the victims of rape and incest. Do you now say that you have evolved and you regret that?” she asked, before going on to cite her own experience prosecuting rape and child molestation cases. “This directly impacted so many women in our country.”
- Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) cited a newly revealed op-ed that Biden wrote, saying that women working outside the home would cause families to deteriorate. Gillibrand cited her own experience “as a woman who worked my entire career as the primary wage earner and caregiver.” She added that “many women want to work to provide for the community. Either you don’t believe it today, or, what did you mean?”