September 13, 2019


And Yet, Joe Persisted: Biden won, again, by demonstrating why Democratic voters have such goodwill for him. (JONATHAN V. LAST  SEPTEMBER 13, 2019, The Bulwark)

1. Joe Biden. This is the third debate he's won, and only the first one was close.

Biden has to show that he's sharp and vigorous. He's passed that test.

He has to hammer the most important difference between himself and his closest rivals: That they want to eliminate private insurance and they'll raise taxes to pay for their health care plans. Poll after poll shows that health care is one of the top three issues for Democratic voters. And Biden is the guy sitting on the spot that says "let people keep their private insurance." That's good ground.

Finally, he has to continue to show voters why people like him. And more than anyone else on stage, he nailed this. Three examples:

First, during the opening segment on Medicare for All, Biden focused most of his criticisms on Bernie Sanders (not the most likable guy on stage) rather than Elizabeth Warren (who is much more likable) even though they could have applied to either.

Second, when Julian Castro went after him for being a forgetful old man, he pushed back but didn't get ugly. He realized Castro was way out on a limb and he let him stay there.

Third, when gun control came up Biden turned to Beto O'Rourke. This is the exchange:

BIDEN: [B]y the way, the way Beto handled--excuse me for saying Beto. What the congressman . . .

O'ROURKE: That's all right. Beto's good.

BIDEN: The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful, to look in the eyes of those people, to see those kids . . . to understand those parents, you understand the heartache.

What makes the praise of O'Rourke come off as genuine is the opening, where Biden calls him by his first name--obviously affectionately--and then catches himself and apologizes for not calling him "congressman."

The frontrunner is always the guy taking the most fire. Yet time and again, Biden was the most respectful person on the stage. Being respectful doesn't win you the nomination. But it's a mark of why Biden has such deep reservoirs of goodwill with Democratic voters.

There's a reason they like him.

Exit take: Toward the end, Biden was asked about his biggest professional setback. He started talking about losing his wife and daughter when protestors started screaming at him.

This struck me as synecdoche for pretty much the entire primary campaign so far: Young progressives so convinced of their own righteousness that they go after a guy like Biden at a moment like this, thinking that it helps their cause.

Posted by at September 13, 2019 7:07 PM