Castro on feisty Biden exchange: 'I wasn't taking a shot at his age'

Castro on feisty Biden exchange: 'I wasn't taking a shot at his age'
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White House hopeful Julián Castro defended his attack on Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it Trump whistleblower complaint involves Ukraine: report MORE in the latest Democratic debate, insisting he was not targeting the former vice president's age during a feisty exchange on health care.

“I wasn’t taking a shot at his age, I was taking a shot at the fact that he had just said the words ‘buy in,’ you would have to ‘buy in,’ ” Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary, said on ABC News in a post-debate interview.

The former Obama Cabinet member defended his tactics in the debate when he accused Biden of forgetting details of his health care plan and whether it would require a buy-in. Castro also claimed Biden was not carrying on Obama's legacy.

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The line of attack quickly provoked reactions among other Democratic presidential candidates, with Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats will not beat Trump without moderate policy ideas Harris revamps campaign presence in Iowa Sanders, Yang to miss CNN's town hall on LGBTQ issues MORE (D-Minn.) saying that Castro's remark about Biden's memory was "not cool" and "so personal and so unnecessary.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Energy: Trump officials formally revoke California emissions waiver | EPA's Wheeler dodges questions about targeting San Francisco over homelessness | 2020 Dems duke it out at second climate forum Two former Congressional Black Caucus chairmen back Biden Strippers, 'Hustlers' and the Democratic debates MORE (D-N.J.) seemed to back up Castro, saying the former San Antonio mayor had some "legitimate concerns" about Biden.

“I think there were a lot of moments where a number of us were looking on stage where he tends to go on sometimes,” Booker said on CNN after the debate. “There are definitely moments where you listen to Joe Biden and you just wonder.” 

Asked directly if he was calling Biden, 76, too old for the presidency, Booker denied he was talking about the former vice president's age.

"I’ve listened to Joe Biden over the years, and often felt that there are times when he’s going on, or meandering in his speech," Booker said.

Both Biden and Castro's health care plans would provide a public option for people who are uninsured, though Biden had said during the debate that people "automatically can buy into this."

“But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt-in,” Castro said to Biden, noting that people would automatically be enrolled under his plan.

Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump spokeswoman: Health care will be 'big' selling point for union workers Democrats will not beat Trump without moderate policy ideas Trump job approval rises amid record partisan gap: Gallup MORE’s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered; he wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that, your plan would not.”

“They do not have to buy in,” Biden responded.

“You just said that two minutes ago,” Castro shot back. “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in, and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy — you’re forgetting that.” 

While Republicans have previously attacked Biden over his age — and some have openly questioned his mental state — such discussions have rarely been as explicit among Democratic rivals themselves. 

Castro defended himself late Thursday, saying he was focusing on the differences between the two plans and not on Biden’s age or state of mind. 

“It’s not an attack on Vice President Biden, it’s not something about the personalities, it’s about the health care policy, that was the focus,” he told ABC.