- Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
- Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will be back on stage with California Sen. Kamala Harris at the second round of Democratic presidential primary debates in Detroit next week.
- Biden and Harris sparred in their first debate, with the former vice president having felt blindsided by the attacks on his record involving race relations.
- Biden has said he is “not going to be as polite” when they meet again on stage.
- Harris has proven going after Biden is a successful tactic to boost her polling and fundraising numbers.
- The rest of the candidates who will be on stage do not crack double digits in most major polls.
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Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are set for a rematch in the upcoming presidential primary debate on Wednesday, giving the former vice president a chance at redemption after appearing unprepared and blindsided by attacks on his record in the first round.
The two candidates sparred in the first debate in Miami last month. But now Biden is vowing to go on the offensive, saying he is “not going to be as polite” when the two meet again on stage.
Harris went after Biden for his past position opposing busing students to schools as a means of desegregation.
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day,” Harris said. “That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats.”
The coordinated attack on Biden was a major moment from the debate, and the Harris campaign immediately began selling t-shirts and other swag referencing the “that little girl was me” line.
Since the first debate, a handful of national and early voting state polls have shown the top tier of candidates tightening over the past few weeks, though Biden still holds a commanding lead over the rest of the field.
Both candidates flexed after announcing massive fundraising hauls in the second quarter of 2019, with Biden and Harris each raising $21.5 million and $12 million, respectively.
While Biden still has the upper hand on the rest of the field, his poor debate performance showed he is vulnerable, making each debate all the more important. Biden is the primary target of other Democrats looking to chip away at his lead.
But if he can bounce back and not repeatedly struggle on the biggest stage, Biden can hold off the other elite candidates looking to take him down a peg, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Harris going after any of the other candidates on stage would just be punching down
Harris is the only other candidate regularly polling in the double-digits on stage with Biden on Wednesday. The rest of the candidates are primarily investing their time and resources in building name recognition and cultivating just enough donations to even qualify for the next round of debates in September, of which the criteria is considerably more difficult to meet.
Other candidates, like Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have engaged in spats with Biden in recent weeks. But Harris is not likely to gain anything valuable from punching down.
The other candidates who will be on stage include technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. The debate will be split into two nights to accommodate the wide field of Democrats running for president.
Castro showed in the first round he can be a formidable debater when he went after Texas rival and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, which resulted in a major fundraising boost and some increased polling favorability.
While the other candidates could try to engage her, Harris can stick to what has proven effective in the realm of both fundraising and polling: going after Biden.