Jacques: Biden misses opportunity in Democratic debate

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

All eyes were on Joe Biden heading into the second night of the Democratic presidential debates Thursday. The former vice president has held a decisive lead in the polls since he announced his candidacy, and this was his chance to prove why he should stay there. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, speaks during the debate as former vice president Joe Biden listens.

Biden’s popularity has been fueled in large part with his ties to former President Barack Obama, but also because of his more moderate stance on the issues. As Democrats veer sharply to the left, many are looking to Biden as the one candidate who could reach blue-collar Democrats and independents. 

Biden didn’t do enough to set himself apart during the two-hour, 10-candidate debate. While he strove to put forward a more rational point of view on topics such as immigration, health care, education and climate change, he also is clearly feeling the need to jump on the bandwagon of big government solutions. 

It was disappointing to see him join the fray of the other candidates in signing on to more extreme measures, such as offering taxpayer-funded health care to illegal immigrants. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who trails Biden at No. 2 in the polls, was his cantankerous self and wasted no time in calling out the evils of President Donald Trump and how he would do everything in his power to erase everything he’s done, from tax cuts to immigration policies. Sanders also doubled down on his socialist ideas, from Medicare for all to his latest “cancel all student debt” plan. 

Biden countered with a plan that had been floated by Obama to offer a free community college proposal, which seems downright frugal compared to many of the other debt-free and debt-forgiveness plans the new crop of Democrats is pushing. 

It is ironic that two 70-something white guys are leading the pack of Democratic candidates, and it will be interesting to see if they can keep their leads as other candidates become more well-known. In fact, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who is 38, called Biden out for his age, saying it was time for him to “pass the torch.” 

Biden came off as tired and not fully engaged, especially when put next to other candidates on the stage. 

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg stood out of the pack for his intelligence and his logical approach to the issues facing the country. And he’s extremely likable.

It was refreshing to hear Buttigieg say that forgiving student debt for all Americans would simply be giving a gift to some of the wealthiest families, rather than focusing on helping low-income students achieve their dreams. 

California Sen. Kamala Harris also will likely see a spike in the polls after her performance tonight. She certainly isn’t hiding her far-left agenda, but she made the most of her time on stage.

This format would be difficult for any candidate, but I think Biden missed an opportunity to make a solid case for why he stands out of this progressive crowd.

Republicans can’t wait to fight a campaign against these socialist policies, and the further left Dems go, the better chance Trump has of staying in the White House.