Debate 11 and "N1H1": Biden survives as Bernie swings and misses

Everyone in the DNC likely heaved a sigh of relief after last night’s Democratic presidential debate, even if it caused head-scratching everywhere else. All Joe Biden had to do was to basically stay awake for two hours and not create a horrid stumble that called his faculties into question. And Biden did that, although not without a couple of near-misses picked up by Donald Trump’s rapid-response team (via Townhall):

That might have done some real damage … if Bernie Sanders hadn’t made the same mistake:

Otherwise, this appears to have been a standard Democratic debate, with Biden doing his best to triangulate Sanders on everything — except Medicare for All. After Sanders attempted to blame the US health system for the coronavirus outbreak (after calling it Ebola), Biden ripped into Sanders by noting that “it’s not working in Italy right now, and they have a single-payer system”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuNlyGY2rF0

Sanders had to land a knockout blow last night to have any reason to stay in the race. He clearly failed to do that, and one has to wonder why he didn’t seem to try very hard to do so. Fox News reported last night that it got personal and produced “fireworks,” but only of the safe and sane variety. It did get a little contentious around Social Security, but hardly anywhere near fatal:

Throughout, Biden staked out unusually left-wing positions for a front-runner — including by promising that no one would be deported in his first 100 days in office, and by asserting that there would be “no new fracking” under his administration. Fracking, while opposed by environmental activists, has revitalized the economies of battleground states and is expected to be a major issue in the general election.

Even with no live audience, the debate had lively moments. At one point, Sanders urged viewers to “go to the YouTube” to review evidence of Biden calling for cuts to Social Security on the Senate floor. That prompted one of the night’s most contentious exchanges, as Sanders pinned down Biden aggressively — with Biden eventually acknowledging under pressure that various cuts were “on the table” as part of congressional negotiations, but that he “never voted” specifically to slash Social Security.

“We did not cut it!” Biden exclaimed during the exchange, hammering his lectern.

“I know, because people like me helped stop that!” Sanders retorted. “You’re an honest guy, why don’t you just tell the truth here?”

Meh. This was the last chance that Sanders had to argue that Biden couldn’t handle the job. If the best he can do is this lame Social Security attack — a system no Democrat and few Republicans will touch — then it’s an argument for Sanders to get out now and save Democrats the trouble of holding more primaries in the coronavirus outbreak.

That’s not to say that the debate didn’t produce some tasty clips for later use by Team Trump. As Fox notes, Biden’s triangulation pushed him into some curiously extreme positions, such as his no-fracking pledge, and another promise to stop oil drilling just as the US has finally achieved full energy independence:

Biden won this debate by not losing it. Democrats lost this debate by not having another option on stage.