Joe Biden weathers Democratic debate but uncertainty persists15 September 2019 AFP, Washington
Democratic 2020 presidential frontrunner Joe Biden meets with students at Texas Southern University Student Life Center in Houston on Friday one day after he squared off with party rivals in their presidential debate
Joe Biden did what he needed to - avoid major blunders - in the latest debate featuring the top Democrats in the 2020 race for the White House, but the frontrunner faced lingering doubts Friday about his ability to take on President Donald Trump.
The centrist former vice president weathered sustained criticism from his rivals on Thursday, far-left Senator Bernie Sanders in particular, on issues from health care and immigration to foreign policy.
In extended exchanges that highlighted the party's ideological schism over health care and the cost of shifting to government-run universal coverage, Biden was often in the limelight, occasionally going on the offensive against rivals. "Last night I thought was a good night," Biden told donors Friday at a Houston fundraiser. "I think I could have done better," he added. "I will do better, God willing."
The 10 candidates agreed on the need to defeat Trump, yet the president's record was not a mainstay of the event. There was no mention of a potential impeachment, something Democratic lawmakers are grappling with.
Next to Biden, progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has risen to joint-second alongside Sanders in polling, breezed through largely unscathed, avoiding personal attacks and crisply outlining policy proposals.
Analysts saw Biden's first half hour, when he defended his health plans against Warren and Sanders and challenged them on the costs of their proposals, as among his most engaging debate performances.
But by the second half of the nearly three-hour marathon the frontrunner appeared less steady and Julian Castro, a former cabinet colleague under Barack Obama, launched an unwarranted attack on the 76-year-old over a memory lapse that hadn't happened.
·Biden survived the jab, and it was a low point of the three debates for Castro, who was immediately upbraided by commentators pointing out that it was he, and not Biden, who had his facts wrong.
The exchange nevertheless exposed what many have wondered behind closed doors: whether Biden has the stamina and mental acuity to prosecute an exhausting campaign over the next 14 months.
"There's a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball across the end line without fumbling," Senator Cory Booker, who departed from his normal position as courteous unifier, told CNN after the showdown.
"And I think that Castro has some really legitimate concerns about, can (Biden) be someone in a long, grueling campaign that can get the ball over the line?"