- - Wednesday, July 3, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s quest for the Democratic nomination for the presidency is feeling, well, a little less inevitable.

After the first round of debates, Mr. Biden dropped 10 percentage points, according to a CNN poll released Monday.

On the debate stage Mr. Biden seemed unprepared, uncertain and, well, frail. He ceded his own time after being filleted by Kamala Harris over his opposition to school busing in the 1970s. His entire performance undermined the core premise of his candidacy: That he’s the only Democrat who can defeat President Donald Trump.

And electability is key. More than half of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters think it’s more important the party nominate the candidate who’s most likely to beat the incumbent president, than one of whom they always agree with, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll.

This is where Mr. Biden’s incessant gaffes, unwillingness to apologize for tone-deaf comments and lack of active retail politicking could become real hazards jeopardizing his path to the White House — just as they were in his 1988 and 2008 runs.



Last month, Mr. Biden came under fire for referencing his work with two Democratic segregationists in the Senate. His remarks caught the attention of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who demanded an apology for their insensitive nature. Mr. Biden not only dismissed Mr. Booker’s demands, but asked Mr. Booker to apologize to him.

Mr. Biden also refused to admit the 1994 Crime Bill he cosponsored led to mass incarceration. On the campaign trail, he’s stood by his vote for the bill, despite protests from Mr. Booker who said it was “a stunning mistake,” and a Washington Post fact check that gave Mr. Biden’s defense two Pinocchio’s. He’s also refused to apologize for it.

Even more problematic are the leaks coming from within the Biden campaign. Aides have spoken to press anonymously about how they advised Mr. Biden not to reference the segregationists in making his pitch on civility — yet he stubbornly did so anyway. The night of the debate, they were also reportedly “freaking out” to the press about his poor performance on stage.

Yet his unnamed aides are quick to take credit for what they feel are his successes — even if it comes at a price for the former vice president.

Mr. Biden’s aides spoke to the press about how they convinced him to change his longstanding commitment to the Hyde Amendment, explaining to him it was out of touch with today’s Democratic electorate. Mr. Biden conceded, flipping on the issue only 24 hours after publicly supporting it, and drawing in much criticism.

Mr. Biden’s also repeating many of the same mistakes he made in his two previous, unsuccessful runs for the White House.

He plagiarized progressive activists and think tanks in his climate change proposal. Mr. Biden blamed his staff, which went onto say their failure to cite the original sources was an accident — a really bad one considering Mr. Biden was accused of plagiarism in 1988.

Then there’s his campaigning — or lack thereof. Mr. Biden’s been noticeably absent from Democratic forums in Iowa and California, and is reluctant to do press, granting interviews only after a major gaffe has been made.

The Daily Beast wrote an article titled “Duck the press unless you’re under duress,” where David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s senior adviser, was quoted as saying this “is not a tenable strategy. [Biden’s] message is that he’s the guy who can beat Donald Trump and he is viewed as the least risky choice. Over time, if the only interactions he has is around these screwups and gaffes, then he is going to start losing that message.”

Notably, Mr. Biden was absent from the spin room post debate.

Which now brings us to electability: Why would anyone ever think Mr. Biden is actually electable, when history has proven this to be utterly incorrect?

The first time he ran for president in 1988, he withdrew from the contest in less than four months in because of several unforced errors. He lied about marching in the civil rights movement, falsified his academic record and, as previously mentioned, plagiarized speeches from such sources as Bobby Kennedy and British politician Neil Kinnock.

The second time, in 2008, Mr. Biden described then-Sen. Obama as “articulate and bright and clean,” again drawing race complaints. Mr. Biden withdrew from the contest after failing to win a single percentage point in the Iowa caucus.

When Mr. Biden was selected as Mr. Obama’s running mate, it was not because he could deliver any states, but rather because he was “the safe choice,” that wouldn’t necessarily “do [Obama] any harm,” CNN commentator Terry Holt observed at the time.

So now Mr. Biden’s running again — and making the same mistakes that haunt his past. Yes, he’s still leading in the polls — but for how much longer? If history can predict the future, then soon. Just give Democratic voters a few more months — or another debate.

• Kelly Sadler is the communications director of America First, the official super PAC for President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.

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