“Joe Biden is reminding everybody that he’s a terrible candidate,” writes Philip Klein today at the Examiner. It’s hard to argue given the results of Biden ’88 and Biden ’08 but the answer he gave in the clip below outside the venue after his speech this morning is pretty shrewd. Especially the “Obama-Biden” label. It’s perfectly safe for his opponents to attack him and his record in the primary; it’s lethally dangerous for them to attack Obama’s. The more Biden can hide behind O, the more shielded he’ll be. He’s already trying.
I don’t think his jokes about physical contact during today’s speech were as much of a gaffe as they’ve been cracked up to be either. Yeah, political media didn’t like them. Political media didn’t like Trump three years ago either. Who cares what political media thinks? Nate Silver is closer to the truth, I suspect:
This strategy *wouldn't* work for, say, Bernie or Beto or Booker, because they're relying on younger, "woker" Democrats. But around 25-30% of the Democratic primary electorate consists of voters who are Baby Boomers or older and without a college degree.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 5, 2019
Matthew Walther elaborates:
Biden knows how this will play out with the kind of voters whose support he would actually need to beat Donald Trump in 2020, i.e., retired moderates in places like Michigan and Ohio, who are just so sick and tired of all the young people with their #MeToos and their tweets and their video game phones and their not wanting to hold hands at Mass anymore…
It’s genius. It is also all of a piece with the argument for the neoliberal centrism that Biden has espoused throughout his political career. When Pelosi heaped scorn recently on “the green dream or whatever,” she was speaking for an entire generation of older Democrats who don’t understand why the 20 and 30-something debt slaves whose childhoods unfolded against the backdrop of the most expensive foreign policy disaster in American history and came of age during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression aren’t happy yet.
The age divide on the left is real and it’s spectacular. Bernie is the candidate of the young, of course (and ironically, given that he’s older than Biden). That’s well known. What’s less celebrated is that Biden does extremely well with older Democrats. Even on the #MeToo issue, per this new data from The Hill:
Voters of most stripes say Biden shouldn't be disqualified by accusations. Overall: 56 no disqualify – 23 yes – 21 unsure
— Matthew Sheffield (@mattsheffield) April 5, 2019
Watch his remarks in the clip and you’ll find him pitching directly to that older audience. “The fact of the matter is the vast majority of the members of the Democratic Party are still basically liberal to moderate Democrats in the traditional sense,” he says, the word “traditional” ringing in the listener’s ears. The party should welcome progressives, he goes on to add, as if progressives haven’t already been members of the party for years. (Bernie typically hasn’t identified as a Democrat but most younger progressives do, including AOC.) To younger ears the idea of progressives being some strange foreign element that needs to be invited into the Democratic Party will sound bizarre. To older ears that belong to the sort of person who already likes Joe Biden it might make sense. In a 20-candidate field, pandering to older liberals as a candidate of continuity with Democratic traditions seems like … not the worst strategy. He probably only needs 30 percent of the vote to clean up in the early states.
Here’s the clip via the Free Beacon. Note his emphasis on the fact that the House candidates in the midterm who actually proved capable of beating Republicans in a competitive race were all happy to have him campaign for them. We’ll hear that argument, that the far left can’t win a contested general election, again.