As the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates head into the second debate this week, an enormous amount of pressure is on Joe Biden, who must do a better job defending his record and going on the attack when his fellow candidates go after him. And they will. Biden will share a debate stage with Kamala Harris, who laid into Biden last go-around in Miami, and Cory Booker, who has been a frequent critic of Biden’s record on race.
Meanwhile, Harris unveiled specifics about her health care plan, Warren released a new trade policy proposal, and Sanders traveled to Canada to make a point about prescription drug costs. Check out the 2020 Democrats recap below for these stories and more:
Fmr. Vice President Joe Biden
The stakes for this week’s primary debate are sky high for Biden, who has political analysts wondering if he still has any “zip on his political fastball” anymore. Chuck Todd and the NBC News team note that anyone can have a bad debate (e.g., Barack Obama in Denver in 2012), but you can’t have two bad debates in a row. And that’s what’s at stake for him on Wednesday.
And speaking of that poor debate performance last month in Miami, the New York Times went all in on Monday on Biden’s age. “It wasn’t just Mr. Biden’s halting answers that worried some of them. They thought he was showing his age — that, at 76, he appeared slow off the mark, uncertain about how to counterpunch as he allowed Ms. Harris to land clean hits without interruption.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
The candidate who wants to be known for having “a plan for that” unveiled her latest proposal Monday, a set of criteria countries must meet to establish a trade relationship with the U.S. According to Politico’s analysis, the move puts her more in line with Donald Trump than Barack Obama on the issue of trade. “Warren’s plans list nine separate criteria a country would have to meet before negotiating a trade deal with the U.S. Those standards include upholding and enforcing the labor rights laid out by the International Labour Organization, eliminating all domestic fossil fuel subsidies, fulfilling commitments from the Paris Climate Agreement, not running afoul of the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights, and not being on the Treasury Department’s monitoring list for manipulative currency practices,” per Politico. The trade requirements would not impact existing trade deals, only new ones.
Warren appears to be improving her standing in the area of “likability,” according to a new poll reported on by Vox. Warren came out on top when asked if voters had a favorable opinion of Warren (70%), Kamala Harris (62%), Bernie Sanders (61%), and Biden (58%). However, when Democrat voters were asked who they would vote for if the election were held today, Biden still came out on top (25%), with Warren (23%) trailing closely behind, followed by Harris (17%) and Sanders (16%).
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Harris released the details of her health care proposal on Monday. Previously, Harris had said she backed Medicare for All, a proposal backed by Warren and most closely associated with Sanders. But Harris’s plan keeps in place employer-based health insurance and does not tax Americans earning less than $100,000. That move prompted critiques from Biden’s campaign (who supports ObamaCare with the addition of a public option), Sanders’ campaign, and those closely associated with Warren.
Over the weekend, Harris proposed a student debt-forgiveness plan that prompted a bit of a backlash. “Under Harris’ proposal, borrowers who received a Pell Grant, the money the government provides to low-income students to attend college, will have up to $20,000 of their student debt forgiven if they start a business and operate it for at least three years in a disadvantaged community. In addition, qualifying borrowers would have their loans deferred interest-free for an up to three-year business formation period.” Critics of the plan say it requires people to jump through too many hoops to receive forgiveness on a loan amount that is significantly less than what Sanders and Warren has proposed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sanders crossed the U.S. border into Canada near Detroit on Sunday to make a point about drug costs in the United States. A vial of insulin costs about $30 in Canada, whereas it can cost 10 times that amount stateside. The stunt was designed to draw attention to the price of prescription drugs and discuss ways to bring prices down. Sanders’ proposal goes further, though: Sanders wants to appoint an attorney general that would break up pharmaceutical companies, pass Medicare for All, and have the FDA negotiate drug prices to match other countries.
Meanwhile, Sanders’ decision to allow his employees to form a union continues to cause headaches for the campaign. Sanders’ “campaign’s labor strife does expose a flaw in the candidate’s economic thinking: Sanders argues that unions, strict labor regulation and a high minimum wage will work to counteract the power of the billionaire class. These policies are most burdensome, however, on small organizations,” per Bloomberg News.