Joe Biden Refuses to Step Aside for Younger Leaders: ‘I’m Still Holding on to That Torch’

Former vice president responds to challenge from Rep. Eric Swalwell at 2020 Democratic debate Thursday

Last Updated: June 27, 2019 @ 8:44 PM

Joe Biden may be one of the oldest candidates on the Democratic stage in the 2020 election, but the current frontrunner declared Thursday that he won’t “pass the torch” to the next generation and stand aside for the younger crop.

After Rep. Eric Swalwell went directly after Vice President Biden during the second 2020 Democratic debate Tuesday, saying repeatedly that Biden should “pass the torch,” which earned a big grin from the former vice president.

“I’m still holding on to that torch,” Biden said in response to Swalwell, explaining how education is the key to the future: aiding schools in distress, tripling Title I funding, having universal pre-K and providing for post-high school education.

Swalwell, 38 compared to Biden’s 76, attacked Biden by saying that he saw Biden speak when he was just six years old.

“I was six 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. That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden,” Swalwell 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’s still right today.”

It was Bernie Sanders, 77, who directly addressed Swalwell’s dig.

“As part of Joe’s generation let me respond. The issue is not generational,” Sanders said. “The issue is who has the guts to take on Wall Street? To take on the fossil fuel industry. To take on the big money interest who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country.”

The moment represented a shift from Wednesday night’s debate, with more of the candidates talking over one another and lobbying for rank and air time. As everyone got louder, Sen. Kamala Harris even got in one of the best, meme-worthy lines of the night.

“Hey guys, America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we’re going to put food on their table,” Harris said.