Joe Biden greeted Kamala Harris, his chief antagonist onstage at Wednesday night’s debate, with a simple plea: “Go easy on me, kid.”
She didn’t — and he didn’t either.
Biden and Harris began the debate with an immediate disagreement over healthcare, fighting over whose plan was more realistic and more politically feasible.
The first question of the debate triggered the latest fight between them, with Biden saying her plan wasn’t realistic and “would require middle class taxes to go up,” while Harris blasted his description as “simply inaccurate” and his plan as too skimpy.
“Anytime someone tells you that you get something good in 10 years, you should wonder why it takes 10 years,” Biden said of Harris’s plan.
Harris quipped that Biden’s plan “leaves out almost 10 million Americans.”
Biden was knocked back on his heels by the California senator in their first debate one month ago when she attacked his record on civil rights and forced busing. That one moment shook up the race, with Biden drooping in the polls and Harris surging back into the first tier of candidates.
Since then, the two have sparred for weeks over their civil rights records as well as their competing healthcare positions.
Biden made it clear he was bracing for more shots across the bow during his opening statement at the Detroit debate, before pivoting into an attack on President Trump’s string of racist statements.
“Democrats are expecting some engagement here, and I expect we’ll get it,” Biden said with a grin before talking up the “diverse people from diverse backgrounds” flanking him onstage.
“Mr. President, this is America and we are strong and great because of this diversity,” he said. “We love it, we are not leaving it, we are here to stay, and we’re certainly not going to leave it to you.”
Cover: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., shake hands before the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)