Speaking to CBS News on Monday, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard defended former vice president Joe Biden against what she called a “smear” from Sen. Kamala Harris over Biden’s civil rights record. Gabbard further went on to call Harris’ actions at the first presidential debate a “political ploy” intended to divide the party and harm Biden by implying he was a racist.

Clearly, the calculation has been made on the part of Gabbard that she stands to benefit more in defending Biden than jumping on the bash-Biden bandwagon as many of her opponents are doing:

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is accusing her Democratic presidential primary opponent Sen. Kamala Harris of staging a “political ploy” to smear former Vice President Joe Biden’s reputation and his record on civil rights.

In an interview on CBSN’s “Red & Blue” that streamed Monday, Gabbard said Harris has been “leveling this accusation that Joe Biden is a racist — when he’s clearly not — as a way to try to smear him.” She tweeted a similar sentiment earlier in the day.

For reference, he’s the full interview with Gabbard via YouTube:

The CBS story notes that Harris prefaced her debate attack by saying she didn’t believe Biden was racist:

Harris never accused Biden of racial animus, and specifically said “I do not believe you are a racist” before confronting him on stage at the debate. Her stinging rebuke of the former vice president on the issue — and his indignant defense — nevertheless became the standout moment of the night.

Despite Harris’ opening salvo, in trying to downplay her forthcoming attack, what conclusion are viewers to draw from Harris’ accusations? She’s attempting to insulate herself from the start by saying she doesn’t believe Biden is racist, then proceeds to launch an attack which implies his actions could be construed as racist, especially in the backdrop of his comments about working with segregationist Senators back in the day.

Biden just recently apologized more fully for those remarks which means he’s clearly feeling the heat over this:

On Saturday, the former vice president under President Obama told a predominantly African-American audience in South Carolina that he was sorry about the pain his remarks may have caused. Harris applauded his apology but said there was still a “point of disagreement” between the two on federally-mandated busing.

Gabbard continued her defense by calling out Harris, and other candidates, for turning this campaign into attacks on each other rather than staying focused on the overall goal of defeating President Trump:

But Gabbard believes Harris’ criticism of Biden is part of an unfair campaign effort by the California senator to boost her standing in the large primary field. She suggested that Harris’ stance on busing today is hypocritical.

“Really what she’s saying saying is her position is the same one she was criticizing Joe Biden for,” she said. “So this is just a political ploy and I think a very underhanded one just to try get herself attention, to move herself up in the polls.”

“I think we need to be above that,” Gabbard added. “All of us.”

It’s become pretty clear that Biden underestimated the point to which his Democratic opponents would go in attempting to score political points using his decades of public service against him. He has weak points in his record, for sure, but serving as vice president for 8 years under Barack Obama would have seemed to give Biden a lot of cover as a preferred favorite in a presidential primary. So far, that hasn’t panned out to be the case.

In the grand scheme, the last thing Democrats need is another primary where an “inevitable” candidate controls the narrative and wins the nomination without any real challenge. 2020 is turning out to be much different than 2016 as far as the Democratic primary is concerned.

Gabbard is doing what she needs to do to also get attention in this race by taking a contrarian approach and defending Biden. Gabbard is unlikely to become the Democratic nominee, but she could still be on the shortlist for vice president.

This issue alone, and basically everything that has transpired since the first debate, will tee up the second debate to expand on these issues. You can be sure Biden will be more prepared, as will the others, to discuss this issue more thoroughly.