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Biden in the bullseye at Democratic debate

Senator Kamala Harris again targets former VP over segregation.

Posted: Jul 31, 2019 9:05 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2019 9:26 PM

DETROIT (AP) — The ideological divisions gripping the Democratic Party intensified on Wednesday as presidential candidates waged an acrimonious battle over health care, immigration and race.

Biden, who found himself the target of criticism from nearly half the candidates on the debate stage, was forced to defend his decades-old political record on multiple fronts as other White House hopefuls sought to tear him down. One of his chief rivals, California Sen. Kamala Harris, charged that Biden's past work with segregationists in the Senate could have prevented Barack Obama from becoming the nation's first black president, and stopped her and fellow presidential candidate Cory Booker, both of whom are black, from becoming senators.

"Had those segregationists had 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 Barack Obama would not have been in a position to nominate" Biden to become vice president.

When pressed, Biden repeatedly leaned on his relationship with Obama.

"We're talking about things that occurred a long, long time ago," Biden said. He added: "Everybody's talking about how terrible I am on these issues. Barack Obama knew who I was."

Biden and Harris also had a spirited exchange over health care, with Harris saying Biden's plan was too timid and the former vice president saying that the senator's plan was vague and far too expensive. But it was the discussion of race that marked an escalating rift in the Democratic primary just two weeks after President Donald Trump issued racist calls for four female congresswomen of color to leave the country, even though all of them are American citizens. Over the weekend, Trump again took aim at a prominent congressman of color, charging that "no human being would want to live" in his "rat-infested" Baltimore district, which has a large black community.

This is an internal fight many Democrats do not want, fearing that it could alienate some white voters they would like to reclaim from Trump in 2020. For Biden's struggling competitors, however, they see no better way to undermine his candidacy than raising questions about his commitment to black voters.

While Biden took many hits on the stage, there were multiple opponents aiming for Harris as well. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard tore into Harris' record as a prosecutor and attorney general in California.

Biden, who leads virtually all early polls, is considered the leading moderate onstage. In addition to Harris, Booker and Gabbard, his more progressive opponents include New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Obama administration housing chief Julián Castro, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The evening opened with a spirited exchange over the future of health care. Biden charged that Harris' plan would cost taxpayers $3 trillion even after two terms in office and would force middle-class taxes to go up, not down. He said that would put Democrats at a disadvantage against Trump.

"You can't beat President Trump with double talk on this plan," he said.

Harris slapped back that Biden was inaccurate.

"The cost of doing nothing is far too expensive," Harris said. She added: "Your plan does not cover everyone in America."

There were also tense exchanges on immigration that pitted the 76-year-old Biden against a younger slate of more diverse candidates. There were no candidates of color onstage in the first wave Tuesday night. On Wednesday night, there were four.

Biden was flanked by Harris on one side and Booker on the other. As Biden greeted Harris onstage moments before the opening statements, he quipped, "Go easy on me, kid."

Biden suggested that some of his rivals favor immigration laws that are far too forgiving. Castro, for example, would decriminalize illegal border crossings.

"People should have to get in line. That's the problem," Biden charged.

Castro shot back: "It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one has not."

While the first primary votes won't come for six more months, there is a sense of urgency for the lower-tier candidates to break out. More than half the field could be blocked from the next round of debates altogether — and possibly pushed out of the race — if they fail to reach new polling and fundraising thresholds implemented by the Democratic National Committee.

The dire stakes have forced many Democrats to turn against one another in recent weeks. But they also blasted the impact of the Trump administration on American life.

Biden said Trump was tearing at the "fabric of America" and highlighted the value of diversity in his opening statement.

"Mr. President, this is America," Biden said of the diverse slate of candidates on stage.

Harris also referenced Trump's divisive presidency.

"This becomes a moment we must fight for the best of who we are," Harris said. "We are better than this."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333626

Reported Deaths: 3843
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin700691145
Ramsey29459521
Dakota23564198
Anoka23541236
Washington14864125
Stearns14564125
St. Louis9549121
Scott896460
Wright847548
Olmsted714637
Sherburne618746
Clay529960
Carver509715
Kandiyohi440828
Rice432338
Blue Earth431217
Crow Wing383339
Otter Tail338925
Chisago334516
Benton322753
Nobles316032
Winona297832
Douglas283040
Mower274823
Polk271527
Morrison246731
McLeod233721
Lyon232812
Beltrami230718
Goodhue222932
Becker221521
Steele21038
Itasca206324
Isanti203917
Carlton201417
Todd190314
Nicollet172126
Mille Lacs164632
Freeborn16227
Le Sueur157012
Brown156115
Cass153511
Pine14498
Meeker144812
Waseca143411
Roseau13035
Martin124721
Hubbard119729
Wabasha11301
Redwood104620
Chippewa9808
Renville95530
Cottonwood9454
Dodge9311
Watonwan8944
Wadena8637
Sibley8404
Rock8249
Houston8004
Aitkin79930
Fillmore7690
Pipestone76518
Pennington7058
Yellow Medicine69612
Kanabec68614
Swift63610
Murray6124
Faribault6093
Pope5721
Clearwater55410
Marshall5459
Stevens5403
Jackson5321
Lake4518
Koochiching4216
Wilkin4175
Lac qui Parle4124
Lincoln3811
Unassigned38159
Norman3718
Big Stone3392
Mahnomen3225
Grant2986
Kittson2518
Red Lake2303
Traverse1531
Lake of the Woods1071
Cook800

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 237371

Reported Deaths: 2571
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk34873347
Linn14787169
Scott1184692
Black Hawk11288147
Woodbury10763137
Johnson985939
Dubuque947999
Story701924
Pottawattamie682474
Dallas661260
Sioux383829
Webster378339
Cerro Gordo373252
Marshall360950
Clinton345645
Buena Vista316614
Muscatine305172
Des Moines300623
Warren294115
Plymouth287044
Wapello265072
Jones237118
Jasper231546
Lee228719
Marion211922
Carroll204325
Bremer202713
Henry19367
Crawford183116
Benton175423
Tama157442
Jackson151117
Washington150216
Delaware147621
Dickinson145812
Boone144912
Mahaska133928
Wright13107
Clay12505
Buchanan123410
Hardin122812
Hamilton119514
Page11925
Kossuth11768
Clayton115510
Cedar114614
Harrison113432
Floyd111921
Mills11129
Calhoun10987
Fayette109812
Lyon10769
Butler10748
Winneshiek105513
Poweshiek103714
Iowa101414
Cherokee9674
Winnebago96325
Chickasaw9195
Hancock9138
Sac9068
Louisa90122
Grundy89514
Allamakee88413
Cass84725
Union8437
Mitchell8429
Appanoose81613
Humboldt8125
Shelby80511
Emmet79026
Guthrie78315
Franklin76421
Jefferson7635
Madison7265
Unassigned7090
Palo Alto6744
Keokuk6567
Pocahontas6024
Howard5859
Ida54915
Osceola5461
Greene5422
Montgomery51411
Clarke5064
Davis4839
Taylor4833
Monona4567
Adair4539
Monroe45113
Worth3881
Fremont3823
Van Buren3815
Decatur3410
Lucas3416
Audubon3112
Wayne3087
Ringgold2432
Adams1812
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