Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator for California Kamala Harris 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. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator for California Kamala Harris 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. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:14
Harris to moderator: Where was that question for Trump?
ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 6:  Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale concedes the election to his Republican opponent Norm Coleman November 6, 2002 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mondale and Coleman were in a race for U.S. Senate that was too close to call the evening before.  (Photo by Mark Erickson/Getty Images)
Mark Erickson/Getty Images
ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 6: Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale concedes the election to his Republican opponent Norm Coleman November 6, 2002 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mondale and Coleman were in a race for U.S. Senate that was too close to call the evening before. (Photo by Mark Erickson/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:00
Walter Mondale dies at 93
george w bush congress immigration rhetoric cbs intv sot mxp vpx_00000000.png
george w bush congress immigration rhetoric cbs intv sot mxp vpx_00000000.png
Now playing
01:25
Bush calls on Congress to tone down 'harsh rhetoric' on immigration
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence" on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Many senators spoke both for and against gun control the day after a shooting in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman opened fire at a grocery store, killing ten people. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence" on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Many senators spoke both for and against gun control the day after a shooting in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman opened fire at a grocery store, killing ten people. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:18
Berman on Cruz's latest tweet: 'The pot calling the kettle violent'
Now playing
01:57
Chuck Hagel criticizes Trump's statement on Afghanistan
gun laws shootings Comer pamela brown nr vpx _00015627.png
CNN
gun laws shootings Comer pamela brown nr vpx _00015627.png
Now playing
02:23
'I can't answer that': Kentucky lawmaker responds to CNN on gun policy
Now playing
02:39
National security adviser: Russia will face consequences if Navalny dies in prison
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Now playing
03:20
Marjorie Taylor Greene lashes out at media after backlash over controversial caucus
AP
Now playing
03:16
Maxine Waters: Jim Jordan is a bully and I shut him down
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
03:51
Marjorie Taylor Greene launching 'America First' caucus
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
Now playing
02:22
White House backtracks on refugees decision after criticism
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
02:44
'National embarrassment': Biden reacts to mass shootings
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15:  Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:07
Russia to expel 10 US diplomats in 'tit-for-tat response' to Biden sanctions
Now playing
03:10
Avlon: Here's what we know 100 days since the Capitol riot
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:17
Political scientist: US-Russia relations are in the toilet
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:39
Governor settles with former campaign staffer who accused her of sexual mistreatment
(CNN) —  

California Sen. Kamala Harris dominated the stage on the second night of Democrats’ first 2020 presidential debates.

Harris opened the debate’s second hour with the most stunning moment of the night, launching a scathing attack on former Vice President Joe Biden over race and school busing.

It came after she had spent the first hour personalizing Democrats’ push leftward toward single-payer “Medicare for All” health insurance and on immigration enforcement in terms that showed the human stakes of issues that are likely to be at the center of the general election against President Donald Trump.

And she drew huge cheers when she dismissed a bickering Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Rep. Eric Swalwell, accusing them of taking part in a “food fight.”

Here are six takeaways from the second night of Democrats’ first presidential debates in Miami:

Harris to Biden: ‘That little girl was me’

02:58 - Source: NBC
Kamala Harris confronts Joe Biden on debate stage

In the night’s most dramatic moment, Harris, a former California attorney general and a freshman senator, seized control of the debate as she invoked Biden’s comments at a recent fundraiser in which he discussed the “civility” of an era in which he had worked with segregationist senators.

“Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground, but I also believe, and it’s personal and it was hurtful, to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” Harris said.

She then pivoted to a more personal attack, pointing to Biden’s early-career efforts to prevent the Department of Education from integrating school busing. She said that decision had hurt a little girl in California.

“That little girl was me,” Harris said. “So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.”

The moment put Biden on his heels as he raised his voice and defended his record.

“It’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board,” Biden said. “I do not praise racists. That is not true. Number one. Number two, if we want to have this litigated on who supports civil rights, I’m happy to do that.”

He also channeled a familiar and pointed progressive criticism of Harris, noting that before he was elected to the Senate at age 29, “I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor.”

Biden was ultimately saved by the bell. His final comment of the exchange, noting the clock, was: “My time is up.”

The moment came partially due to the luck of the draw as the 20 candidates who qualified for the debate were divided into two nights. Two African American candidates in the race had sharply criticized Biden in recent days. The other, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, was onstage Wednesday night, so he didn’t get an opportunity to take on Biden face-to-face.

Harris opens on fire

Debate viewers typically groan when candidates drop in lines that seem practiced. But Harris got major applause when she landed one during the first fracas of the debate, as Biden and Sanders bickered with Swalwell over age.

“Americans don’t want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we’re going to put food on their table,” she said.

The freshman California senator was on course for a breakout performance.

She deflected a question designed to pit her against other Democrats’ big-spending programs when she was asked if the party’s candidates have a responsibility to explain how they will pay for their proposals.

“Where was that question when the Republicans and Donald Trump passed a tax bill that benefits the top 1% and the biggest corporations?” she asked.

Harris also accomplished something other Democrats have struggled to do: personalize her fight against insurance companies as she calls for single-payer health insurance.

She urged viewers to consider a family that takes a child into an emergency room knowing that – even with insurance – they will be staring down a $5,000 deductible the moment they walk through the doors.

“That’s what insurance companies are doing in America today,” she said sternly.

Biden: ‘I’m still holding on to that torch’

NBC

Swalwell was the first candidate in either night of the Democrats’ first debates to go after the party’s front-runner, Biden.

He urged Biden, over and over, to “pass the torch” to a new generation of Democrats.

“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,” Swalwell said. “That candidate was then-Sen. Joe Biden.”

The line came as Swalwell, who is 38, and Biden were split-screen on camera. The audience let out a collective gasp.

“He was right when he said that 32 years ago. He is still right today,” Swalwell continued. “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.”

The 76-year-old Biden shot back: “I’m still holding on to that torch. I want to make it clear.”

Sanders interjected, saying the question isn’t about the ages of the candidates but the generational appeal of their ideas. That’s when Harris shot the group down with her condemnation of the “food fight.”

Biden would return to the theme later in the debate, highlighting his five decades of experience in politics.

“We talk about all these things. I did it. I did it,” he said.

Buttigieg: ‘I couldn’t get it done’

Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg took personal ownership of a tragedy in his city, where a white police officer shot and killed an African American man, saying that the police force there lacked diversity because “I couldn’t get it done.”

Buttigieg’s rise into the top tier of Democratic candidates has been among the most surprising developments of the 2020 race so far. The turmoil in his hometown is the most significant threat to his candidacy he has yet faced, and the stakes were high as Democrats watched to see how he would address it.

Buttigieg said the situation around the shooting is a “mess” because the officer didn’t have his body camera turned on.

“We are hurting. I could walk you through all of the things we have done as a community,” Buttigieg said. “All of the steps we took, from bias training to de-escalation, but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. When I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.”

He added: “This is an issue that is facing our community and so many communities around the country. Until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism and whatever this reaches us, there is a wall of mistrust put up one racist act at a time, not from what happened in the past, but what happened in the present. It threatens the well-being of every community. I am determined to bring about a day when a white person driving a vehicle in and a black person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching, feels the same thing. Not of fear, but of safety. I am going to bring about that very thing.”

The septuagenarians fade

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Biden and Sanders were the top-polling candidates onstage Thursday night.

But the two spent long periods feeling secondary, as Harris dominated the discussion, Buttigieg landed key moments on police shootings and religion, and lower-polling contenders like Swalwell played the role of aggressor.

Sanders’ best moments came in the debate’s first 15 minutes, when it was clear that his policy agenda – Medicare for All, free college tuition and student debt forgiveness – was at the center of the questions every candidate was asked.

But Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, rather than Biden, was the most critical of Sanders’ agenda. And it was Harris who put its stakes in personal terms.

Biden, meanwhile, spent much of the night reaching backward to his time as former President Barack Obama’s vice president, pointing to Obama accomplishments like the Paris climate accord. He rarely broke from his talking points and didn’t steer the debate’s direction at any stage.

The good news for Biden: Polls have shown his supporters are older and more moderate, and aren’t as much a part of the conversation on social media, where Harris was dominating the night.

Buttigieg assails GOP on religion

Buttigieg’s best moment recalled the beginning of his rise, when in a CNN town hall he’d assailed Vice President Mike Pence over faith.

“We should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it is OK to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again,” Buttigieg said.

His appeal is partly about his willingness to take on his home-state foe over issues at the center of Pence’s political identity. Buttigieg has argued that Democrats should not cede values like faith and freedom to the GOP, and he seized an opportunity to make his case Thursday night.