Joe Biden concluded last night’s debate by telling everyone to “go to Joe 3-0-3-3-0,” giving people a phone number rather than a website.
Watching that final moment, I wondered: is he glitching? Does this 76-year old dude think it’s 3030? (Mayor Pete’s fans seized on the moment: Joe3030.com now takes you to his website, Pete for America).
Joe Biden ended his debate night with a viral gaffe. He stared straight into the camera and said: “If you agree with me, go to Joe 30330 and help me in this fight.” Cue immediate confusion. (Viewers concluded Biden meant to tell his supporters to text his name to the number.) pic.twitter.com/vsYm4eHkgG
— POLITICO (@politico) August 1, 2019
But more generally, as I watched the current front-runner, I was cringing, and wondered: This is the guy we want? This is who’s going to take on Trump?
Throughout the night, he seemed to stumble over his words, and I started counting how many times he said “in fact,” “the fact” and “single solitary.” Here’s an example with all three, where he’s criticizing Kamala Harris’ record as the Attorney General of California:
“I didn’t see a single solitary time she brought a case against them to desegregate [California school districts]. Secondly, she also was in a situation where she had a police department when she was there that in fact was abusing people’s right. And the fact was that she in fact was told by her own people that her own staff that she should do something about and disclose to defense attorney’s like me that you in fact have been…”
Oftentimes, when he was launching his own critiques against opponents, I could barely follow what he was saying, such as when he told people to Google “Kamala Harris 1,000 freed.” The subject of attacks from all sides himself, he failed to take down any of his opponents or win significant applause.
His critique of Booker, bringing up the former Newark mayor’s stop-and-frisk policy, was something I even saw coming from a mile away. Booker was ready, landing the viral line of the night: “There’s a saying in my community: you’re dipping into the Kool-Aid when you don’t even know the flavor.”
Cory Booker criticizes Joe Biden: "Mr. Vice President, there's a saying in my community — you're dipping into the Kool-Aid when you don't even know the flavor" #DemDebate https://t.co/T6eVNxxlxi pic.twitter.com/yfFLza90zv
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 1, 2019
And this was an improved performance from the last debate. In June, Sen. Kamala Harris absolutely owned him on the issues of desegregation and busing, sending her poll numbers soaring and his plummeting. But this time, she was put on the defense too many times to land a solid blow against the former VP.
Especially when Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did a much more effective job than the VP at criticizing Harris’ criminal justice record, earning huge cheers from the audience. Harris even accidentally sabotaged herself, saying, “I’ve seen people in prison for a lot less,” which immediately made me (and a bunch of other people) think, yeah… you’ve PUT people in prison for much less.
Kamala Harris waving goodbye to her chances of being president after Tulsi Gabbard steam rolled her pic.twitter.com/ZsK1kVxPY7
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) August 1, 2019
But it was far from a great showing for the VP– starting from the very beginning when he greeted Harris with a, “Go easy on me, kid.”
Joe Biden faces backlash for telling Kamala Harris to "go easy on me, kid": "Kid? She's a grown woman" https://t.co/umoEZI6vcl
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) August 1, 2019
And watching Biden, I didn’t really get a sense of his vision for the country. His platform seems to be “I can beat Trump” and “I was good enough for Obama.” As former HUD Secretary Castro noted during the debate, Biden leans on Obama– who has a 95% approval rating among Democrats– a lot.
As Booker argued, you can’t rely on Obama when it’s convenient and avoid him when the more unappealing aspects of his presidency are brought up. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s line of questioning, when he brought up Obama’s record of deportations in office and asked the VP if he had done anything to stop them, served to underline that.
But maybe electability is the strongest argument anyone can make in this cycle, faced with the possibility of another four years of Trump. And Biden does have a lot of chances to build on his performances, easily reaching the threshold for qualifying for the September debates.
Several CNN analysts pointed out that Obama struggled in debates at the beginning of his run, so there still could be hope for Biden. Or maybe being a skilled debater — in this case, having 10 candidates on stage, delivering 30-second sound bytes — isn’t even a good indicator of how someone can run the country.
But right now, I don’t see how these performances will transform Joe Biden into an inspiring figure who can the masses to vote, should he become the party’s nominee. So far, his candidacy has not been a “Yes We Can.” To me, this is an “I guess this is our best shot..?”
Emphasis on the “I guess.”