Round two of the first democratic national debate, hosted by NBC News, played out like a political boxing match. The gloves came off and the candidates started swinging. Nitza Soledad Perez had a front row seat.
The front-runner in polling, Former Vice President Joe Biden, became the main target.
“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,” Eric Swalwell, one of the Democratic Presidential Candidates waged the attack. “I’m still holding onto that torch,” Biden replied with laughter.
Senator Kamala Harris attacked him on race, the most heated exchange of both debates.
She said,”It’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
“It’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I do not praise racists. That is not true,” Biden said.
Four of the top five polling candidates were on stage Thursday. Government-run “health care for all” is a signature proposal touted by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, among others prompting pointed questions about whether higher taxes on the middle class would be needed to cover the costs.
“Yes, they will pay more in taxes and less in health care for what they get,” Sanders said.
It was his turn to get punched.
Michael Bennet, one of the candidates fired on him first, “Bernie mentioned the taxes we’d have to pay, because of those taxes Vermont rejected Medicaid for all.”
“The bottom line is if we don’t clearly define that we are not socialist the Republicans are going to call us socialists,” said John Hickenlooper.
This second group of candidates tried hard to outline their own plans for health care and not all of them support government-funded universal coverage.
On immigration, the party seems to be moving to the left. The moderator asked them to raise their hand if their ‘government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.’
“The idea that he is in court with his Justice Department saying children in cages do not need a bed, do not need a blanket, do not need a toothbrush. That is outrageous and will stop,” Biden said.
“We should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is okay to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages has lost all claim to ever use religious language again,” said Pete Buttigieg.
And the candidates didn’t hold back when directly targeting President Trump.
“Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation,” said Biden.
“He’s torn apart the moral fabric of who we are,” said Kirsten Gillibrand.
President Trump was clearly listening in. When Democrats pledged to cover healthcare for undocumented immigrants, he took to Twitter, tweeting,”That’s the end of the race.”
But of course, it’s really just the beginning. The Democratic presidential hopefuls will meet again next month in Detroit for more friendly fire followed by ten more debates in the months ahead before a Democratic nominee is ultimately selected.