The 11th debate of the 2020 Democratic primary was the first head to head of the cycle, with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden the final two candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination, in the backdrop of a growing global crisis.
Dubbed the Coronavirus debate, the candidates spent almost an hour discussing their responses to the crisis, suggesting what they would do to tackle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that is now gripping the United States.
Describing the pandemic as a ‘war’, former vice president Joe Biden suggested he would utilise the military to put in place temporary hospitals and ensure that the US healthcare system did not become overrun, before moving on to suggest that he would ensure the government would cover all healthcare costs.
Bernie Sanders went further, suggesting that the reason for the difficulty America has had in reacting to the crisis is fuelled by a broken healthcare system, where many Americans, too scared of high healthcare costs, are putting off treatment and testing, potentially putting themselves and others at greater risk.
Sanders suggested that whilst a strong response is needed to the pandemic specifically, the spread of Coronavirus is indicative of a wider issue within the United States’ healthcare system.
Biden hit back, suggesting that a single-payer system has not helped to prevent the crisis across much of Europe, before suggesting that his healthcare plan, an extension of Obamacare would be more effective and far easier to pass through Congress.
Heading into the debate, Biden was the frontrunner but had been hit with scandal in recent days following an argument with a factory worker in Michigan whilst on a campaign stop. This fuelled suggestions that he was struggling with his mental state and in decline, with several recent gaffes making headlines across the media.
For Biden, the debate was an opportunity to arrest these fears, putting in a strong performance to show statesmanship and a sharp mind that would allow him to take the nomination and the presidency in November.
Despite a few slip-ups, Biden largely came through unscathed, largely settling many of these fears and suggesting that he could be in for more big wins in Tuesday’s primary.
Should he win big again in states like Florida and Michigan, it is likely that the presidential primary will be all but over, with Biden likely to announce his running mate in the coming days and Bernie Sanders likely to drop out of the race if he falls further behind on Tuesday.
Sunday night’s debate was a strong opportunity for Sanders to push Biden in a more progressive direction, allowing for the former vice president to gain the trust of Bernie Sander’s supporters and unify the party in the lead up to November.
Whilst Biden has moved to support free college tuition for low-income Americans and has thrown his support behind Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy bill, it is unlikely he has done enough to fully address Sanders’ supporters concerns.
Uniting these voters behind him will be crucial for the November election and the Covid-19 debate showed that doing so will not be an easy task.