Democratic Debates: Biden in the Middle
Night two of the second Democratic Debate has come and gone with a very simple dynamic: Joe Biden was center stage
Night two of the second Democratic Debate has come and gone with a very simple dynamic: Joe Biden was center stage both in where he was standing and in being the focus of incoming fire. The first debate it was widely considered that Joe Biden was shaky at best. And now in the second debate, it is widely considered that Joe Biden was shaky at best.
But let’s back up for a second.
Way back in March, right before Joe Biden jumped into the race and surprised many with a large bump in polling that has kept him in the lead since, some enterprising writer — among others — considered the pending prospect of the third Joe Biden campaign for president:
It feels like some in the Democratic party would rather take a run at known quantity Joe Biden, or more specifically the highly idealized concept version of Joe Biden currently being presented, than deal with the very hard questions a progressive wing that is rapidly growing both in influence and volume is demanding be addressed.
Folks, this is Joe Biden. The reality is meeting the perceptions, hopes, and dreams, that a large chunk of the Democratic party when polled has so far put into Joe Biden. Joe the concept isn’t available for the debates where Joe the 2020 candidate has to be in the flesh. This is what you are getting. The man isn’t changing after nearly 80 years of life, or learning new tricks, or going to get any new skills set. So the only question is, will his poll numbers dip after this debate like they did for the first one, then recover when a suitable second option is not found to the more moderate voters of the party? Those voters have a real problem on their hands because, despite some, like CNN’s after party chat pushed, it isn’t a small leap for those moderates to go from ‘Ol Joe to the much more progressive candidates currently in 2–4 place. It is a wider gap than is being acknowledged by the talking heads, and the question now is can it be bridged as Joe Biden continues to be Joe Biden and plod forward into the primaries.
For that answer though, mostly skip the next few days of opinion and polling. Biden is going to dip, but the question is how far and will he recover. The poll to watch, really the only poll that probably matters right now, is South Carolina. Biden crossed the 50% mark among African-American voters there this past week. The last time an established front-runner collapsed to a more progressive candidate was Hillary Clinton falling prey to the then-untested Barack Obama in 2008. Voters, especially African-American ones, were waiting for a sign he was going to be a viable candidate, and that massive sea-change of support that would propel Obama to an historic election win started in SC with a massive swing. If Biden takes a real hit in that demographic in a state he has had a 30 point chokehold on since announcing, there is your signal he’s in real trouble. Anything short of that, and it will be fair to deduce the folks not ready for the revolution may not be happy, but might feel stuck with Joe Biden out of lack of better options.
Meanwhile, the hyped Joe vs Kamala Harris II didn’t really have the sizzle of the first version, and the story coming out of this debate wasn’t the exchanges between the two at center stage. The clips, some of them below, will make the rounds and tell the tale, but if you are wondering how Kamala Harris’ night went all you really needed to know is she spent her interview in the spin room afterwards having to explain to the world about Tulsi Gabbard’s Assad Appreciate Tour and defending her prosecutorial record that had long been subject of criticism in political circles but finally broke out on TV. For someone who needed to close the gap on Biden and differentiate from Elizabeth Warren while assuaging the concerns of more moderate Democrats, having a really bad optical moment at the hands of Gabbard is taking an L on your night. Senator Harris also took plenty of incoming in the first 40 minutes and while no major gaffe or moment came of it, she also didn’t really distinguish herself. Like Biden, look for her to take a post-debate hit, but unlike Joe she can’t afford to shed the 5–10 percent he has to spare at the moment.
As for the rest, Senator Cory Booker clearly had a stand-out debate, plenty of good lines, and after he got off his annoying overearnestness of his opening statement, rolled with his back-and-forths with an easiness and lack of vitriol that came off well. He will get plenty of social media play with his “Kool-Aid” one-liner against Biden, but the problem with that is if anyone actually Googles him plenty of questions about why the DOJ was stepping into Newark’s police issues in the first place will come up. If Senator Harris’ prosecutor record is fair game, and it should be, and Joe Biden’s 40 years of crime legislation is fair game, and it should be, Cory Booker is going to have to have an answer for his time at the helm of Newark beyond well-timed quips. He had a good night, but he is also polling roughly equal to Andrew Yang, who also had a good night despite having by far the least speaking time but maximized his minutes. If both of them rise in the polls, it’s important to note who they take support from, aka a stumbling Harris and Sanders that has hit his polling floor or do they get some love from folks maybe waking up to the fact Joe Biden 3.0 wasn’t much of an update after all?
Senator Bennet had a good night but isn’t going to be at the next debate without a miraculous surge in polling and donating. Same with everyone else that was on the stage last night. Julian Castro has a good night and will no doubt make a fine cabinet nominee someday, or look at a congressional or statewide race in Texas. Gillibrand managed to make her DOA candidacy even more dead when after having two solid hours of good face time bizarrely pressed home a pre-canned attacked on Joe Biden that got her tagged with “what’s changed is you are running for president” that sums up her candidacy. De Blasio had the same problem of calling out others, especially Biden, only to step on the rake of Eric Garner’s killer still being an employee in his charge. Overall, the culling of the herd for the next debate will be welcomed.
Oh, and ignore all those “Tulsi Gabbard is the most Googled candidate” graphics. It’s been well established that the Russian bot’s favorite candidate gets plenty of social media push from the troll farms, and what real folks Google isn’t going to be kind to the Representative from Hawaii. She and they will scream that it’s all “fake news,” because of course they do.
The speaking times:
And the highlights, in order of their position on stage from left to right:
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
Former Vice President Joe Biden
California Sen. Kamala Harris
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
Originally published at https://ordinary-times.com on August 1, 2019.