Democratic Primary Debate Descends Into Intergenerational 'Food Fight' Before Kamala Harris Shuts It Down

Congressman Eric Swalwell implied that former Vice President Joe Biden, at 76 years old, was too old to run for president and needed to "pass the torch" to the younger generation at Thursday night's Democratic debate.

When asked about the student debt crisis, Swalwell said that he was in $100,000 of student debt and therefore understood the issue more than others. He also implied that there was a generational divide. "I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic convention and said it is time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans," he said. "That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden," he said. "Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago, he is still right today."

Biden didn't take the bait, instead he smiled and said "I'm still holding onto that torch," before explaining that he wanted to focus on bolstering schools in distress and implementing universal pre-K.

Swalwell Debate Stage
Democratic presidential hopeful former US Representative for California's 15th congressional district Eric Swalwell speaks during the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

But the fight didn't end there, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, attempted to grab some time by saying repeatedly "As the youngest guy on the stage..." But he was interrupted by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who at 77 years-old is the most elderly Democratic candidate.

"It's not generational," Sanders said to Swalwell. "It's who has the guts to take on Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry and the big money interests that have economic and political influence over this country."

Finally Kamala Harris did what the debate moderators weren't able to do and shut down the fighting. "America does not want to witness a food fight," she said. "They want to know how we're going to put food on the table." The line got the largest amount of applause of the evening. Less than 10 minutes later, however, Harris interjected into another candidate's answer.

There have been many questions about the age of candidates like Biden and Sanders, who are both in their late 70s. If elected president they would both break the record for oldest president in U.S. history. President Donald Trump is 73 years old.

Other candidates have subtly questioned the age of Biden, who is polling at least 15 points ahead of his competition. "I think our party is certainly ready to lift up leaders from a new generation," Buttigieg said on the Today Show this May. "The exciting thing is that I think this race will create a fair playing field where people who've been in the public sphere for longer than I've been alive and people like me get to compete on the basis of our ideas."