Rivals clash with Biden at Democratic debate
It also exposed split between the party's progressive wing and centrists
WASHINGTON Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden went on the offensive on Wednesday against his main 2020 opponents but was rapidly assailed on the debate stage over key issues like health care, race, immigration and criminal justice.
Tensions rose rapidly between the former US Vice-President and Senator Kamala Harris, the most prominent African American in the field, as the two reprised their clash from a month earlier at the debut debate.
But while Mr Biden aimed aggressive attacks at Ms Harris and her health care plan, other rivals on stage in the second night of the two-night, 20-candidate debate sought to undercut him on a host of issues.
Mr Biden is polling far ahead of his rivals for the nod to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.
The frontrunner found himself in a series of sharp exchanges with the other Democrats, who attacked him on his health care plan, stance on climate change and his past legislative record including his failure to take decisive action against illegal immigration.
When Mr Biden jousted with Ms Harris about her "double talk" on her own modified Medicare for All plan, Ms Harris shot back: "Vice-President Biden, you're simply inaccurate."
But Ms Harris was not done. She renewed the criticism that gave her a viral moment in the first debate by accusing Mr Biden of making light of his work with the segregationists he served with in the Senate in the 1970s.
"The Vice-President has still failed to acknowledge that it was wrong to take the position that he took at that time," she said.
The crisp attacks came after the deep fault lines in the party between centrists and the progressive wing were exposed during the first night of debates between 10 other candidates.
In one of the few moments of broad unity onstage, several candidates joined Mr Biden in condemning Mr Trump.
Senator Cory Booker called him a "demagogue", Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said the President "is not behaving like a patriot", and Mr Julian Castro, the only Latino in the field, branded Mr Trump an outright "racist".
The intense debate the night before exposed deep fault lines between the party's progressive wing led by candidates Mr Bernie Sanders and Mrs Elizabeth Warren, and centrists who warned that overzealous liberal policies would turn off millions of voters across the country.
"Middle ground approaches are not enough," said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Low-polling candidates on the stage like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mr Inslee, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and entrepreneur Mr Andrew Yang were desperate for breakout moments to boost their exposure, but few were evident.
The stakes are high, with the 20 candidates likely to be winnowed by as much as half ahead of the next showdown in September. - AFP