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It’s time to take Joe Biden seriously

The nature of his success — never mind the obvious flaws — suggests the Trump campaign should be somewhat alarmed

March 10, 2020

9:14 PM

10 March 2020

9:14 PM

Everybody knows that Joe Biden’s mental health is a concern. We all understand that he is not the Democratic party’s ideal candidate. We appreciate that his nomination could leave a huge numbers of anti-Trump voters feeling apathetic. But tonight’s results suggest it is time to consider something else: Joe Biden may be quite a formidable presidential candidate in 2020. Biden has won in Michigan, Missouri, and Mississippi. He can win across America.

It’s not just that the establishment has quickly rallied behind him. It’s not just that the African American vote seems to be solidly in his favor — although his numbers tonight suggest his appeal to black voters is extraordinary. Biden also speaks to poor whites, to suburban middle-classes and even to students who just hate Trump. He has a coalition that can challenge Trump in a way Clinton couldn’t.

Look at Macomb County, at those ‘Reagan Democrat’ bluer-collar areas around Detroit. Hillary Clinton edged out Sanders in many parts there four years ago. Tonight, Biden destroyed Sanders in that area.


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What does that mean? Well, partly it’s the economy, dumb-dumb. Sanders’s angry populism resonated more in 2016 than it does after almost four years of a booming economy. But it also suggests that Sanders’s 2016 success was in large part down to the fact working class voters really didn’t like Hillary Clinton. Biden may be doddery, but he ain’t loathsome.

The nature of Biden’s success — never mind his obvious flaws — suggests the Trump campaign should be somewhat alarmed. Yes, he is a weak candidate; a restoration man from a time that many Americans would rather forget. But he’s also likable: a good guy in the minds of a surprising number of voters. His connection to Obama helps him here, too, whether rightly or not.

Sure, he may have been a credit-card industry lobbyist, an Iraq war enthusiast, a classic Washington Swamp creature — but he has some public charm and that counts at the ballot box.

Another point to bear in mind: Americans don’t really care about a presidential candidates’ mental state. The Democratic media spent most of 2016 questioning Donald Trump’s brain health. That didn’t matter.

What Biden’s aides call his lack of a ‘cognitive fastball’ doesn’t actually hurt him. His loose temper might not be an election loser, either. Today, a clip of Biden clashing with a factory worker in Detroit over gun laws went viral. Sure enough, it became a hot topic. Is he unstable? Or do people see him mixing with regular people in an unscripted, unslick scene and feel warmer towards him? Biden the mad old uncle is a vote-winner — and Team Trump dismisses him at their peril.


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