Biden wants woman VP, other debate takeaways

Nine months after 20 Democratic candidates gathered for the first debate of the 2020 primary season, it has come down to two candidates – Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

Given the circumstances, one might expect a sombre mood with respectful disagreements. Instead it was an at-times feisty affair, with Sanders going on the attack in a way he never did four years ago in his unsuccessful presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton.

If the Bernie revolution is on the ropes, the candidate – who just a few weeks ago was considered the front-runner – isn’t going to go down without a fight.

Both candidates discussed the personal steps that they – as at-risk elderly individuals – were taking to avoid contracting the coronavirus, including limiting their public contacts, having their staff work remotely and holding online rallies and forums.

Both septuagenarian candidates also had a few flubs. Biden referred to the 2009 swine flu as N1HI, not H1N1. Sanders at one point repeatedly referred to coronavirus as “Ebola”.

Biden also made news by promising to choose a woman as his vice-presidential running mate if he were to win the Democratic nomination. Sanders wouldn’t make such a commitment, although he did say his “very strong tendency would be to move in that direction”.

Here’s a look at some of the other key moments and conflicts.

Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic – and the candidates’ plans for addressing it – dominated the debate.

Biden spoke of expanding testing, including mandating at least 10 drive-through sites in every state, bringing together global leaders and experts to form an international response to the virus and building new hospitals.

Sanders agreed, adding that hospitals need to be provided with sufficient equipment and personnel to deal with the coming surge of critical patients.

He also said the US should “protect” the wages of Americans who lose their job because of economic damage from the crisis.

As the evening unfolded, however, a fundamental difference between the two candidates emerged – and it shouldn’t be a big shock to those who have watched the exchanges over healthcare in any of the 10 previous Democratic debates.

Biden said that the coronavirus was an urgent crisis that required the federal government to cover all costs of testing and treatment. -BBC

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