Democratic presidential candidate Eric Swalwell was the first to launch a direct attack at former Vice President Joe Biden during Thursday’s Democratic primary debate, stating Biden should “pass the torch” to younger candidates by quoting then-Sen. Biden’s words to the now 76-year-old Democratic front-runner.
“I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic convention and said it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans,” said Swalwell, a Democratic congressman from California. “That candidate was then-Sen. Joe Biden.”
“He was right when he said that 32 years ago. He is still right today,” Swalwell, who is 38, continued.
Swalwell’s line of attack was met with a collective gasp from the audience.
“If we are going to solve the issue, pass the torch. If we are going to solve climate chaos, pass the torch. If we want to end gun violence and solve student debt, pass the torch,” Swalwell said.
Biden shot back: “I’m holding onto that torch. I want to make it clear,” he said before launching into call for education reform.
Swalwell made his intention to attack Biden clear earlier Thursday telling CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on “Newsroom,” “I don’t think we can nominate a candidate who has been in government for longer than 20 years. I don’t think that’s going to work.”
“The American people see these issues today as issues of the future,” he said. “We can’t have a candidate who has ideas that are staler than Donald Trump’s.”
He added, “We can’t nibble around the edges any more, these are issues that will affect us. I’ll be a president that will have to live with the decisions I made.”
Heading into Thursday’s debate, Biden has continuously polled above the rest of the Democratic candidates. Swalwell, who announced his candidacy in April, has struggled to break through the crowded field, qualifying for the debates with 1% support in three polls national polls.