Democratic debate: 2020 race heats up as frontrunner Joe Biden comes under fire

Clark Mindock, Chris Riotta

Democrats have finished up their second round of debates, with the second night of the second round featuring a majority of the candidates on stage piling on with attacks on Joe Biden.

Bill de Blasio attacked him for deportations during the Obama years, while Kirsten Gillibrand took him to task over womens' rights. Meanwhile, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris both attacked his record on criminal justice.

The attacks show that the race to become the Democratic Party's standard bearer is heating up, and Mr Biden has found himself increasingly in a place where he must defending decades of living in the political spotlight.

But, while the second night amounted to a frenzy of attacks on Mr Biden, other candidates were not left unscathed.

Ms Harris, who had a breakout moment in the first debate when she challenged Mr Biden over his past position anti-segegation busing, was attacked by Tulsi Gabbard for her record as a prosecutor in California. Ms Gabbard, whose campaign focuses primarily on keeping the US out of "regime change" wars, said that Ms Harris put people behind bars for smoking marijuana, then "laughed" when asked if she had ever used the drug herself. Mr Booker was attacked for "stop and frisk" policing methods in Newark when he was mayor there. Mr de Blasio was attacked repeatedly for the continued presence of the New York Police Department officer who killed Eric Garner on the city's payroll.

Throughout it all was the underlying schism in the Democratic Party, a divide that is perhaps best illustrated in the various proposals for revamping America's healthcare system.

But, while candidates like Ms Harris stood by their so-called Medicare for All proposals, the candidates better known for their progressive politics — Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — were both present for the first night of debates.

During that debate, Ms Warren and Mr Sanders fielded their own set of concentrated attacks, and emerged fairly unscathed in the end.

The next round of debates will be held in September, when the large field of candidates will likely have slimmed down. Mr Biden may have a chance to spar with the other two front-runners soon.

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