The Poynter Institute helped save Joe Biden from his own “basket of deplorables” moment, and just days before the election. Democrats everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
They shouldn’t have.
According to The Associated Press, at an Oct. 24 Biden drive-in rally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a group of Trump supporters had intermingled with the crowd or were “making a ruckus from a short distance away.”
After the event was over, CNN political correspondent MJ Lee tweeted, “Practically a Trump drive-in rally here now outside the Biden drive-in event.”
Practically a Trump drive-in rally here now outside the Biden drive-in event. Biden has just finished speaking pic.twitter.com/SvsjopLM99
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) October 24, 2020
Throughout the rally, there was plenty of honking, shouting and general disruption.
“I am running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president for everybody,” Biden said in his speech. “I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as those who do, including those chumps with the microphone out there.”
Joe Biden says he’ll be a president for “all Americans”
…Then proceeds to call Pennsylvanians who don’t support him “chumps”
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) October 24, 2020
The Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact fact-checking website pointed to two Facebook posts of static images which said Biden called Pennsylvanians who don’t vote for him chumps — one from Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson and the other syndicated radio host Ben Ferguson — and said there was widespread online dissemination of this quote without context.
Biden, PolitiFact said, “was referring to a very specific group of people — those disrupting his speech — and not all of the president’s supporters in the state. And his comments came as he was saying that he would be a president for all Americans, not just those who support him.” The outlet rated the claim “Mostly False.”
Others — Donald Trump Jr., Kellyanne Conway, Mike Huckabee did share some version of the claim, although the first two included the video which made the context clear and in the latter Huckabee seemed to understand what the context was. The point is, the fact-checkers have spoken, and “chumps” isn’t the new “basket of deplorables.”
Then, when the same ruckus-causing happened at a Biden event Friday in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Democratic presidential nominee did the exact same thing, since apparently history doesn’t repeat itself over generations or ages nowadays, it repeats itself over the period of less than a week.
There are two problems with Biden’s drive-in rallies. First, even though there’s the novelty and social distancing aspect baked in, you see the kind of crowds World TeamTennis used to draw.
In Toledo, Ohio, Biden set up a drive-in rally at a local United Auto Workers plant earlier this month. This should be a captive audience for Biden, who does well with unions and fancies himself a car guy. Instead, the New York Post reported he only drew 30 cars to a “half-empty” parking lot.
Joe Biden’s rally today in the UAW parking lot in Toledo is a drive in pic.twitter.com/IlpJz54A25
— Darrel Rowland (@darreldrowland) October 12, 2020
The second issue is that drive-in rallies don’t make it difficult for supporters of the president to either gain entry or get close if they want to — which they did in St. Paul like they did in Bucks County.
Listen to the cars honking at Biden’s event in St. Paul, Minnesota while he’s yelling at the top of his lungs, trying to give us all headaches.
But then it gets worse as he attacks Trump supporters as “ugly folks.”
Talk about a guy who says he’d represent all Americans! ? pic.twitter.com/ofbIauZxfX
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) October 30, 2020
“We need a president who brings us together, not pull us apart. I’ll deal with this pandemic responsibly, bringing the country together around testing, tracing, masking,” Biden said.
“It’s estimated by the leading doctors in this country that if we just wore a mask for the next few months, we’d save over 100,000 lives of over 200,000 lives they expect to lose. Dr. Fauci called for a mask mandate last week.
“This isn’t a political statement, like those ugly folks over there, beeping the horns. This is a patriotic duty for God’s sake.”
Curtis Houck, the NewsBusters editor who posted the video, makes a salient point: This is puerile behavior that doesn’t make these individuals effective Trump surrogates.
I’d normally question the risk-reward here, but there seems to be no reward aside from group members being able to tweet “LOLZ Joe Biden just got angry at us!!” Tell me if you can plausibly see this conversation happening in America’s kitchens at any point in the next three days: “Hon, I was thinking of voting Democrat. But after watching Trump’s supporters honk at Joe Biden and look at him get flustered during that drive-in rally on CNN, I’ve got to hand it to them — I’ve gone MAGA.”
And then you see the red mist descend behind Joe Biden’s aviator sunglasses, and he goes into full “lying dog-faced pony soldier” mode. He talks about the “ugly folks over there” — a no-win situation, since it brings up the ugly shadow of that “basket of deplorables” remark, even if he’s just pointing out a bunch of people finding a new way to abuse a car horn.
What’s strange is that he dealt with this matter earlier in the speech in a far more deft way. “These guys are not very polite, but they’re like Trump,” he said, pointing off-stage at the pro-Trump cars.
I don’t agree with it, but at least it shows a quick riposte, something ordinarily not seen out of this high-mileage version of Joseph Robinette Biden.
“Ugly people,” meanwhile, is a gaffe I don’t believe the Poynter Institute can effectively run cover for Biden on.
The race in Minnesota is unexpectedly tight, with Trump trailing Biden in the RealClearPolitics polling average by only 4.7 points as of Sunday morning. How much of a wave Biden’s “ugly folks” statement makes is questionable.
But here’s the thing: Biden says he’s going to be the president of all of America, including those “chumps” and “ugly people.” He should act like it, then, particularly in a key swing state.
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