Senator Cory Booker has been waiting for this chance for six months.
The New Jersey Democrat, despite having a bigger national profile than many of his rivals in the Democratic primary, has languished in the polls—starved for attention, outshone by competitors both older and younger, and grasping for any kind of traction.
During tonight’s second primary debate, he finally got a clear shot to capture America’s attention, courtesy of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Like others trying to knock Biden out of his top spot in the race, Booker has criticized his competitor’s authorship of the 1994 crime bill, which progressives blame for exacerbating mass incarceration in the United States. He’s also faulted Biden’s more recent proposals for criminal-justice reform as inadequate. Tonight Biden tried to minimize his differences with Booker, saying his plan was “similar” to the senator’s.
Booker wasn’t having it. “This is one of those instances where the house was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those laws,” he told Biden, who stood next to him onstage in Detroit. “And you can’t just now come out with a plan to put out that fire.”
Biden, in fitting with his feisty style, escalated his critique by calling out Booker’s record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He accused Booker of overseeing a police department that engaged in stop-and-frisk, a tactic that’s been widely denounced as racial profiling.