4 losers and 1 winner from night two of the Democratic debates

By Alexandra Yetter, News Editor

Shane Tolentino
Photos/Associated Press

“Go easy on me, kid,” former Vice President Joe Biden told Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as the two presidential candidates entered the debate stage.

Though she did not take it easy on Biden, neither did anyone else onstage. But Biden managed to exit the second round of debates relatively intact having delivered a few attacks himself.

“I find it fascinating everybody is talking about how terrible I am on these issues,” Biden said. “Barack Obama knew exactly who I was. … He chose me and said it was the best decision he ever made.”

Many of the second 10 of 20 debate-qualifying candidates Wednesday night delivered scathing remarks to their fellow contenders that elicited slacked jaws and wide eyes during round two of the back-to-back Democratic primary debates. The Chronicle is breaking down four of the losers and one winner from the combative debate.

Loser: Joe Biden’s immigration record

With public attention focused heavily on the Trump Administration’s immigration practices, some Democrats are calling out Biden for the relatively high number of deportations under the Obama Administration. Specifically, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who is a fellow Obama Administration veteran.

Biden defended the deportations and said during both his and Castro’s time in the Obama cabinet, he never once heard Castro argue against Obama’s immigration tactics.

“First of all, Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t,” Castro said. “What we need are politicians that actually have some guts on this issue.”

Winner: Cory Booker

There was no moment during the debate more cringeworthy than Biden accidentally slipping up and calling Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) the “future president.” Grinning widely, Booker playfully thanked Biden for the endorsement.

Booker’s stand-out moments came in large part due to the high energy he brought to the stage and his unwavering message of not allowing President Donald Trump and the Republican Party to divide Democrats during a time when a moderate versus progressive argument has dominated discussions about the party’s future.

“This pitting against progressives, against moderates, saying one is realistic and the other doesn’t care enough—that to me is dividing our party and demoralizing us in the face of the real enemy here,” said Booker, who came in third in speaking time behind Biden and Harris, according to CBS News.

That unifying message did not stop Booker from tackling Biden on issues head-on.

“You invoke President Obama more than anyone else in this campaign,” Booker told the gaping Biden. “You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then duck it when it’s not.”

Loser: Kamala Harris’ criminal justice record

After Harris’ standout performance during the first round of debates, she fielded attacks onstage, most harshly for her prosecutorial record as former district attorney and attorney general of California.

Behind the pummeling was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who said Harris put more than 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations then laughed about it when Harris was asked if she had ever smoked marijuana. Gabbard also alleged Harris tried to block evidence that would have liberated an innocent man from death row.

“The bottom line is, when you were in a position to make a difference and an impact in these people’s lives, you did not,” Gabbard said. “There’s no excuse for that and the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor—you owe them an apology.”

Harris defended her criminal justice record and said “history shows” that she is not in favor of the death penalty.

Loser: Those appearing weak on women’s rights

Neither the future of Roe v. Wade nor the numerous state threats to a woman’s right to her own body were discussed in round two of the debates, but whether or not the Democratic frontrunner Biden is sexist was actually called into question.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) pointed to a 1981 opposition vote by Biden to a child tax credit. Gillibrand said Biden had argued “women working outside the home would ‘create the deterioration of family’” and were “avoiding responsibility.”

Biden bit back, pointing to his work for women’s rights including writing the Violence Against Women Act, which Gillibrand praised. “I don’t know what happened [since], except you’re running for president,” Biden said, ultimately referring to her move as a publicity stunt.

Loser: Low-pollers

For a majority of the candidates occupying the outskirts of the stage during both Tuesday and Wednesday night’s debates, they will likely not qualify for the next round of Democratic primary debates set for September either due to low polling or shallow war chests.

Popular picks for drop-outs among the second rounders by September include Gabbard, Gillibrand, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Castro have the potential to slide into the debate mix.

Already slotted to qualify in the September debates to be hosted in Houston, Texas, by ABC News includes: Biden, Booker and Harris, as well as Tuesday night candidates South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).