Biden Says Harris Caught Him Off Guard in Debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that he had not been prepared for Senator Kamala Harris to so pointedly question his record on school busing during the first Democratic debates, extending the dispute between the two presidential candidates, who have sparred repeatedly in the week since their high-profile confrontation.

In an interview broadcast Friday morning on CNN, Biden said that while he had expected candidates to target him, he had been caught off guard by Harris’s criticism in part because of their relationship, The New York Times reported.

“I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn’t prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me,” Biden said, adding that Harris “knows me” and had known his late son, Beau Biden.

Biden also asserted that Harris had taken his position on school busing out of context. He reiterated in the CNN interview that while he believed federally mandated busing “did not work,” he was in favor of voluntary local busing efforts to desegregate schools like the one Ms. Harris participated in as a child in Berkeley, Calif., in the 1970s.

Asked about whether he needed to select a woman as his running mate should he win the Democratic nomination, Biden said, “I think it’d be great to have a female vice president, and if I don’t win, it’d be great to have a female president.”

Pressed on whether he would consider choosing Harris, he said he did not wish to be presumptuous, noting that his comments on the subject had previously been used against him.

Biden’s latest remarks come as his support has slipped in several post-debate polls that have also shown Harris on the rise. The candidates have continued to litigate the details of their contentious exchange throughout the week, and on Thursday, Harris flatly dismissed the notion that her remarks at the debate should have come as a surprise to Biden or his campaign.

“Part of the impetus of the conversation was the statements that the vice president made about his work with segregationists. And that was the subject of conversation for days at end,” Harris said in Indianola, Iowa. “So, you know, if he and his team weren’t prepared for the topic, I don’t know what to say about that.”

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