There we no standouts in a fiercely combative second night of the Democratic primary debates. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) were joined on stage by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

These are some of the key takeaways from the second night of Democratic debate:

Biden and Harris Bear the Brunt

Biden and Harris were in everyone’s crosshairs as the other candidates looked to move ahead in the race at the expense of the front-runners.

The clash began when opening candidate Bill De Blasio attaked Biden for “telling wealthy donors nothing will fundamentally change if he were president.” Biden, who led the pack with a commanding 19 points before the debate, also had to defend against his toughest critics in Harris and Booker throughout the night.

Harris, who was the breakout candidate in Miami owing to her fierce criticism of Biden, faced some heat herself this time around, with rival candidates chipping away at her.

She was called out for being unclear on her Medicare for all bill, which aimed to find middle ground between Obamacare and Sander’s progressive version. Harris was also put on the backfoot by Gabbard who challenged her record while serving as Attorney General for California

Racism and Trump discussed at length

The candidate dwelt at length on the issue of race and denounced President Donald Trump’s racist attacks on Baltimore and Democrats of color in the recent weeks.

Booker, Inslee and Castro all criticised Trump, with Inslee becoming the first presidential candidate to brand him a "white nationalist." Castro too denounced Trump’s comments on Baltimore and laid out steps he would take to improve such cities.

Harris and Biden also went at each other on the issue of federal busing, a topic which Harris had used to corner Biden during the first debate and improve her lead.

Medicare takes center-stage once again
Democrats had regained the House in 2018 by staying united to protect Obamacare from the GOP’s repeal and replace effort. However, as the 2020 race unfolds, the candidates appear to be increasingly at odds with the healthcare plans proposed in the run-up. Medicare for all once again managed to take center-stage Wednesday night. Harris who had opted to gain middle ground by proposing her own Medicare-for-all plan, came under fire from Bidden, Bennet and Gabbard on it. Biden said Harris had failed to explain how she would pay for the plan. Biden himself strongly rooted for Obamacare, hoping that the popularity of the program and the former President’s legacy would help him come out on top.
Booker and Gabbard leave a mark
Though Biden improved his performance from the first debate and Harris held on despite everything that was thrown at her, it was Booker and Gabbard who made a mark for themselves on Wednesday night.
The New Jersey Senator and Hawaii congresswoman, entering the debate as low polling hopefuls, put on a strong performance with sharp arguments. While Booker spoke authoritatively to Biden on criminal justice reform and immigration laws, Gabbard push back at Harris on criminal justice reform.
Joe Biden
In this photo Biden looks on during the celebrations after the Philadelphia Eagles win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Feb. 4, 2018. Getty Images/ Kevin C. Cox
No clear winner
It was a drawn out debate, bordering on the nasty at times, which produced no clear winner. This probably was not what the Democrats had planned for, with Booker saying, “The person that's enjoying this debate most right now is Donald Trump, as we pit Democrats against each other.”
The attacks on Biden started from the word go and only increased from there. Harris too was prodded and questioned on her Medicare for All proposal.
The interparty rifts, which sometimes seemed to take on personal tones, are only bound to get worse going forward.