Even Nate Silver Thought Attacks on Joe Biden During Debate Hurt the Dems, and Not For the Reason You Might Think


Before I begin, I should probably make something clear: I’m not a fan of Joe Biden. In fact, regular readers will be acquainted with the fact that I think he’s a doddering fool who’ll be a disaster for the Democrats if he’s nominated and for America if he’s elected. There are plenty of good reasons to attack both the man and his record.

None of the reasons given by the Democrats who were on stage on with Biden Wednesday during the second round of Democrat debates in Detroit fit under that “good reasons” category.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey scored a lot of the putative hits against Biden. When Biden criticized Booker’s record on crime-fighting as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Booker struck back with, “There’s a saying in my community: You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor,” according to The Hill. “If you want to compare records, and I’m shocked that you do, I’m happy to do that.”

He also attacked Biden on bringing up Barack Obama’s name too often: “Mr. Vice President, you can’t have it both ways,” Booker said. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”

This came after a separate hit from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over Biden’s unwillingness to share his conversations with former President Obama on the issue of deportations. De Blasio would also take aim at Biden for “telling wealthy donors nothing will fundamentally change if he were president,” according to The Hill.

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Sen. Kamala Harris of California hit him on busing. Again. She also took aim at his health care plan for not being as comprehensive as “Medicare for all.” Booker took aim at Biden over his support of the 1994 crime law. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro went after the former vice president for refusing to say he would decriminalize illegally crossing into the United States. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington criticized Biden on his climate change proposals, arguing they didn’t go far enough.

Left-leaning Twitter users loved it, as you might expect they would. However, as FiveThirtyEight impresario Nate Silver — certainly not the least liberal person watching the proceedings — noted, this might not have been the best gauge of how the former vice president did or of where the Democrats want to go. In fact, he thought it might hurt the Democrats, and not for the reason you might think.

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“The people #onhere who are like ‘OMG all these candidates are KILLING Biden’ are the people who don’t get why he’s still 16 points ahead of everyone else in the polls,” Silver tweeted.

As the kids might like to say, yes. With a few clap emojis, of course. Oh, and make no mistake, there was plenty of “OMG all these candidates are KILLING Biden” on Twitter Wednesday night:

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This is the activist base that doesn’t seem to understand why even the Democratic faithful aren’t on board with the party’s dramatic shift to the left. While I get that any front-runner is bound to attract most of the fire, the fact that all the fire seemed to come to one direction should have told you something.

The National Review’s Jim Geraghty, proclaiming Biden the winner simply due to the fact that he survived without any major gaffes (that didn’t include “Joe 30330“), argued that one major problem in this strategy is that by attacking Biden, they also attacked the former president.

“The weirdest aspect of the attacks on Biden was the suggestion that the Obama presidency was some sort of right-wing nightmare, full of draconian deportation enforcement, Americans desperately yearning for health care and having no way to get it, a Department of Justice that shrugged at police abuses . . . almost everyone assumes that Barack Obama will remain on the sidelines during this primary process,” Geraghty wrote.

“But if Biden is the lone defender of the Obama legacy, and every other upstart is painting the previous presidency as a failure, maybe Obama will come out and formally endorse his old wingman.

“Biden may have done himself some good for the general election, if he gets there. At one point during the debate on immigration, Biden declared, ‘The fact of the matter is, you should be able to, if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime,'” Geraghty continued.

“In today’s Democratic Party, that’s a wildly controversial, reactionary statement. Trump will paint Biden as soft on illegal immigration; Biden will be able to say he stood up for immigration law enforcement when those around him didn’t want to hear it.”

Geraghty believes that if Biden doesn’t take any major damage in the polls from this debate, this means “he will probably cruise to the nomination.” That’s profoundly premature; it’s August and we’re dealing with a gaffe machine of epic proportions in the personage of Joe Biden. We’re also assuming that the first debate, which featured Biden stumbling all over the place, was a complete one-off. I remain unconvinced.

However, it could be the sign of a shift in the Democratic field. While Biden’s momentum had previously slowed, it seems like the front-runner is picking up steam again. As Silver noted, Biden’s increased his lead in the RealClearPolitics average to 16 points. The rise of candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren has been, for the moment, arrested. This is all in spite of the fact that most of the media coverage seems to be predicated around the fact that the new Democrats — the liberal, younger, more activist-centric contingent of the party — is in the ascendancy.

Make no mistake: Joe Biden would be a disaster for America. The only things that can be said for him are that a) he wouldn’t be as disastrous as almost all of the other candidates and b) he doesn’t have contempt for the voters that Democrats need to win over. Blue-feed  Twitter aside — and let’s face facts, that’s the part of social media that seemed to be impressed with Marianne Williamson’s performance on Tuesday — perhaps this should be taken as a sign rank-and-file Democrats aren’t as impressed with concepts like “Medicare for all” and decriminalizing border crossing as their choice of candidates are.

What happened Wednesday is not going to stop the media from heaping praise on candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Which is fine — at least if you’re Donald Trump or any of his supporters. They’re the ones perfervidly hoping that praise sticks. After all, even if Biden wins the nomination, they can still make hay off of everything his left-wing opposition said, reminding America that these are the real Democrats.

Silver noted that a lot of people who thought Biden lost Wednesday’s debate are the ones ‘who don’t get why he’s still 16 points ahead of everyone else in the polls.’

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture