Our Impressions Of Each Candidate On The Second Night Of The Second Debate

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Joe Biden took heat from all sides but came ready to fight. At times he seemed on stronger footing than others. However, he clearly prepared for Gillibrand’s attack over the 1981 op-ed, which was part of an opposition research leak. The end note (“go to Joe three oh three three oh”) was not great.
Kamala Harris’ feud with Joe Biden continues, and she found herself in the position of defending her civil rights record from attacks by Biden, Tulsi Gabbard, and Michael Bennet. It seemed the lesser-known candidates viewed her as one of the ones to beat.
Cory Booker was energetic, and he challenged Biden on criminal justice, rebutting the former veep’s counterattack with the memorable line, “There’s a saying in my community: You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor.”
Michael Bennet sort of ended up as tonight’s John Delaney, with the moderators largely casting him as the moderate foil to some of the candidates with more ambitious proposals. Bennet’s laid-back demeanor was, however, notably different from Delaney’s aggressiveness.
Kirsten Gillibrand’s performance tonight will most likely be remembered for her introduction of a knock on Joe Biden in the form of an op-ed he wrote in 1981. Headlined “Congress Is Subsidizing Deterioration Of The Family,” Biden argued against a tax credit for childcare. She asked Biden whether her “serving in Congress” was “resulting in the deterioration of the family because I had access to quality affordable day care?”
Julián Castro distinguished himself at his first debate as a brawler, and he was at this one as well. Early in the debate, he called Joe Biden out on immigration, saying “it looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t,” and, “What we need are politicians that actually have guts on this issue.”
Andrew Yang, who has already qualified for the next debate, seemed a bit ill at ease when speaking outside of his core areas, such as when asked about U.S. tensions with Iran. But he kept things interesting when speaking well and with urgency about the (gloomy) topics with which he was most familiar, first and foremost the coming robot apocalypse.
Tulsi Gabbard was another of the candidates who comes to the stage with a core issue to push: ending America’s multi-decade forever wars. She seemed to be particularly focused on targeting Kamala Harris, though she did fumble one line of attack by claiming Obama’s Health and Human Services secretary authored Harris’ health care plan when she actually only endorsed it.
Jay Inslee, like Yang, was here to broaden the issues the debaters discussed. His core issue, is, of course, climate change, and he challenged Biden to defend his own climate plan. Other candidates scrambled to align themselves with Inslee’s climate vision. He also talked about mental health care and called for getting rid of the filibuster: “Not a damn thing is going to get done… Mitch McConnell is going to run the U.S. Senate even if we take a majority.”
Bill De Blasio, the candidate it seemed few wanted, continues to be a skilled debater, bringing pointed attacks and grubbing time from the moderators at each opportunity. He did face some tough questions about his record as mayor that he didn’t seem totally prepared for, including about an endemic lead problem in New York City’s public housing and the fact that Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who killed Eric Garner, still has an NYPD job. That latter topic was the subject of some heckling.
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