Tuesday 20 August 2019

Round 2 for Biden and Harris

Put in there: Mayor of South Bend, Indian Pete Buttigieg shakes hands with former Vice President Joe Biden after the debate in June. Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar/File Photo
Put in there: Mayor of South Bend, Indian Pete Buttigieg shakes hands with former Vice President Joe Biden after the debate in June. Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar/File Photo

John Whitesides

Democratic presidential front- runner Joe Biden and rival Kamala Harris were due to stage a rematch of last month's explosive debate confrontation during Round 2 last night, with a re-energised Mr Biden promising a more aggressive approach.

The second of the back-to-back nights of Democratic debates was due to be held at 1am Irish time, after the Irish Independent goes to print, with Mr Biden to be flanked at centre stage by Ms Harris and Cory Booker, US senators who are the most prominent black contenders in a nominating contest where race has played a prominent role.

Seven other candidates, including former US Housing Secretary Julián Castro, Washington governor Jay Inslee, mayor of New York Bill de Blasio and senator Kirsten Gillibrand, were also hoping for a breakout moment that will generate new momentum for their campaigns.

The crowded field of about two dozen candidates has been vying for attention and financial support in the Democratic race to pick a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

Mr Biden did not figure prominently on the first night of the debate but is likely to be the focus of the second.

The former vice president has engaged for weeks in an escalating fight with Ms Harris and Mr Booker for the support of black voters, a vital constituency in the Democratic nominating battle.

Mr Biden admitted he was taken by surprise last month when he was criticised for opposing 'desegregation busing' to reduce racial segregation in schools in the 1970s and for working with segregationists while serving in the US senate decades ago.

The sharp attack gave Ms Harris a bump in the polls, and Mr Biden's feeble response led to a dip in his standing. He has recovered in some recent polls and still maintains a firm grip on first place, helped by strong support from black voters.

Mr Booker, who was not on stage with Mr Biden at the last debate, has also stepped up his attacks.

He called the former vice president "the architect of mass incarceration" during the NAACP convention in Detroit last week, a reference to Mr Biden's work as a senator on crime legislation in 1994, which critics say led to the disproportionate imprisonment of African-American men.

Irish Independent

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