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 BidenWhite House stresses 'hearsay' in witness testimony ahead of public impeachment hearings Trump highlights Gingrich comments on 'coup' by 'left-wingers' Poll: Buttigieg leads Democratic field in Iowa 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 KlobucharPress: Another billionaire need not apply Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism Warren on winning over male voters: I was told to 'smile more' 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 BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Poll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump demands Bidens testify 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 ObamaSaagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism Pennsylvania's other election-night story Buttigieg praises Obama after Los Angeles Times corrects misquote 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.