Mercifully, the first Democrat primary debate is in the books.
As Joe Cunningham wrote up, there were some pretty distinct winners and losers on night two. No doubt, Kamala Harris helped herself theoretically last night. She managed to interrupt at the right time throughout the event and did a decent job of presenting herself as above the fray. Of course, her actual remarks were just a rehash of every unhinged far-left talking point, but if these debates are more about style than substance (and they are), she did what she needed to do.
Of course, the most talked about moment of the night was Harris hitting Joe Biden over the issue of race. From his comments about segregationists to bringing up his opposition to forced busing in the 1970s, she went down a list of what were obviously pre-planned attacked. They were unfair attacks, but effective nonetheless. Biden looked dazed and was unable to come up with a salient response, especially as he struggled to tow the line between rebutting Harris and not appearing to bully her back.
These hits left Biden’s team scrambling after the debate. Biden did a few pre-scheduled interviews but he didn’t even appear in the spin room to talk to reporters. His staff cited before the debate that he’d be too tired to answer questions in that format and all that does is reinforce the idea that he’s too old and low-energy for the job.
The source said that internally, field staff says the campaign-organized debate watch parties in early voting states have been “awkward” and that Biden isn’t playing well to those who attended.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) June 28, 2019
CNN rips Biden:
“Bad night for Joe Biden”
“Really bad night for him”
“He fed into the Trump frame”
“Undermined the electability argument”
“Such a weak performance”
Needs more “practice”
“Part of the past”
“Mired in the past” pic.twitter.com/CTjQh1jHOR
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) June 28, 2019
Despite all that, I’m not sure I buy that Harris is suddenly ascendant while Biden is mortally wounded. These debates are rarely so decisive that they bring someone from 7% into competition with a guy at 38%. Harris also has her own issues with connecting with voters and yelling at Biden at a debate most voters didn’t watch is not going to dynamically change this race.
Now, with that said, I still believe Joe Biden was the biggest loser but it’s not for the reasons most are talking about.
Biden’s appeal has always been his elect-ability. That’s why he’s currently blowing out the rest of the field. It’s not because he’s an incredibly attractive candidate or that his ideas line up perfectly with the left-wing of his party. If it were about the latter, Bernie Sanders would be dominating. But the great myth of the Democrat party is that all their voters are hardcore Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fans pining for Medicare-for-All and gun confiscation. Polling not only says they aren’t, but that a majority of the party are more moderate than they are radical. They’d rather have Barack Obama’s third term if they think it can beat Trump, deportation of illegal immigrants and all, than Elizabeth Warren.
To this point, Biden has represented a continuation of that. He’s been the safe pick. The guy who isn’t embracing every insane left-wing idea to the point where he’ll diminish his chance in a general but will do what it takes to beat Donald Trump.
That changed last night.
When asked if he’d support healthcare for illegal aliens, a distinctly fringe idea in this country, Biden raised his hand. When asked if they’d decriminalize border crossings, an insane policy that would serve as a magnet for migrants, Biden raised his hand. Even more extreme, he then said that he would not deport anyone who arrived in the United States illegally as long as they didn’t commit any other crimes.
On the question of guns, Biden endorsed the idea of mandatory bio-metric guns, a position that will not play in the moderate, mid-west states that value 2nd amendment rights. In regards to healthcare, the former Vice President painted it as a right and called for a public option, something that Obama shunned a decade ago.
Even before the debate, Biden had flip-flopped on the Hyde amendment, a popular, long time compromise among Americans that we aren’t going to spend taxpayer money on abortion. Once holding almost pro-life positions on the subject, Biden has went as far left as possible, now supporting no restrictions on the barbaric practice.
Lastly, Biden also reinforced his support for raising taxes on the middle class last night. While he may describe it as “tax cuts for the rich,” the truth is that repealing Trump’s tax cuts would raise taxes on around 80% of the country.
What all this means is that Biden hasn’t really hurt himself in the primary, but he’s hurt himself in a possible general election match-up. The ads are already writing themselves for Donald Trump, who will do everything he can to paint Biden as out of touch and too liberal in states like Wisconsin and Ohio. How is a blue collar worker going to respond to a candidate who endorses open borders and paying for illegal immigrant healthcare? The answer is not well.
All Joe Biden had to do was not be crazy. By staying in the moderate lane he’d have won the primary while simultaneously leaving himself in good position to compete with Donald Trump in a 2020 general election. That’s gone now though. He blew it all up to try to appease the clapping seals in the audience of that debate. Trump is positioned to ravage him on all manner of left-wing positions Biden has suddenly endorsed. Meanwhile, the far left of his party still won’t support him anyway. It was a pointless maneuver.
Joe Biden bludgeoned his chances from all angles last night, doing nothing to broaden his appeal in the primary while creating future headaches in a possible general election. For that reason, he was the biggest loser.
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