Castro fundraises off of Biden attack following heated debate

Julián Castro is fundraising off of the criticism he's facing after mounting an all-out attack on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters George Conway: Witness missing from impeachment trial is Trump MORE during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, casting it as “the biggest challenge” his candidacy has ever come up against.

“I had a critical choice to make on the debate stage last night,” Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, said in an email to supporters. “I could either play it safe and give Vice President Biden a free pass like everyone else. Or I could speak up, challenge the conversation, and demand answers for you and your family.”

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"I’m not in this race to play it safe. This fight — our fight — is too important to me to stay quiet when what I hear doesn’t add up,” he continued. "I spent every second on that stage fighting for you — and now I’m being attacked for it.” 

“This is now the biggest obstacle I have ever faced. Can I count on you to take a stand for me with $5?” 

The email shows how Castro is trying to capitalize on a controversial exchange with Biden that thrust the 76-year-old former vice president’s age into the spotlight once again.

During a debate over health care on Thursday night, Castro insisted that Biden had contradicted himself minutes earlier on the issue of whether some people would have to buy into a health care plan under his proposed system.

“Are you forgetting what you said just two minutes ago?” Castro asked Biden on stage. “I can’t believe that you said just two minutes ago that you had to buy in and now you’re forgetting that.”

In fact, Biden did not appear to have said that people who have to buy into his plan, but rather that if someone lost their job and employer-sponsored insurance, they could potentially opt into Medicare. 

Castro’s remarks were widely seen as an attack on Biden’s age. If elected, Biden would be the oldest person to ever sit in the Oval Office, and opponents of the former vice president have repeatedly raised his age as a potential concern. 

Castro denied that his comments were meant as “a shot at his age.” Still, the former HUD secretary came under criticism for the attack, with pundits and even some of his fellow presidential hopefuls denouncing the remarks as petty and inappropriate.

"It feels like something that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE might tweet," Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Moore defends Sanders's reputation: 'We don't want the fake, and the phony and the fraudulent' MORE (D-Minn.) told CNN after the debate, adding that the comments were “so personal and unnecessary.”

For Castro, the attack on Biden appeared to be something of a gamble intended to boost his standing in the primary contest. While he qualified for the debate stage, he has been polling in the low single-digits, well below the race’s top-tier candidates, like Biden, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters MORE (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial MORE (D-Mass.). 

There’s evidence that such a strategy can work. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (D-Calif.) surged in the race after a heated exchange with Biden in the first Democratic debate in June, when she hammered the former vice president over his opposition to federally mandated school busing as a senator in the 1970s.