This ballgame is over. Barring a stunning seismic event, Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. Pubic polling suggests he's the favorite to win the presidency. Some conservatives believe he'll be somewhat easy for President Trump to defeat. My assessment is that he's formidable but flawed. Setting aside the Coronavirus knuckleball -- which will get worse and be disruptive in Americans' lives -- Trump has a fundamentally strong economy in his corner, as well as widespread optimism and satisfaction.
Biden's strongest assets are dissatisfaction with the incumbent's behavior and a 'return to normalcy' appeal. And, frankly, the fact that he's not Hillary Clinton. While Biden was never a true moderate, he's likely going to try to tack back toward the center after dangling from some left-wing limbs during the primary. Many of his policy proposals are damaging and liberal, but he is a relative moderate, given a number of the alternatives in the race he's effectively now won. The general election will be a slog of mangled syntax and personal sniping. Trump is Trump; he's not a mystery. Biden can seem statesmanlike and unifying in one moment, then...not so much in the next:
WATCH: "You’re full of sh*t," @JoeBiden tells a man who accused him of "actively trying to end our Second Amendment right."— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) March 10, 2020
"I support the Second Amendment," Biden adds while vising under-construction auto plant in Detroit. @CBSNews pic.twitter.com/sueOSBaY9P
“You are actively trying to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns,” the man told Biden as the candidate greeted workers building a Fiat-Chrysler assembly plant.
“You’re full of sh**,” Biden responded. A Biden aide tried to end the discussion, but the candidate silenced her in order to continue speaking with the worker. “I support the Second Amendment … from the very beginning. I have a shotgun. I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. My sons hunt,” he said.
The two men then argued about whether Biden had said he would try to take away Americans’ guns.
“This is not okay, alright?” the worker said, to which Biden responded, “Don’t tell me that, pal, or I’m going to go out and slap you in the face.”
“You’re working for me, man!” the worker responded.
“I’m not working for you,” Biden shot back. “Don’t be such a horse’s ass.”
Better audio is here (content warning). This clip went viral, with many on the Left claiming that it made Biden look "strong." I think he looked like an angry, chest-puffed-up, under-informed old man. Trump defenders don't have a leg to stand on in professing horror that a politician would use foul language in confronting a hostile voter. But that's not the problem with this clip. The problem is that Biden is wrong on the facts, can't seem to remember his own positions, and apparently doesn't know the name of the gun he wants to ban ("AR-14"). Here's Charles Cooke:
Biden was flatly wrong on the details here. Biden took offense at the idea that he was in favor of confiscation — “Don’t tell me that, pal,” he said. But what other conclusion are voters to draw from Biden’s having said that he would put Beto “hell yes, we’re coming for your AR-15” O’Rourke in charge of his gun policy? O’Rourke is now primarily famous for having taken the most extreme gun position any presidential candidate has taken in three decades, and Biden has willingly tied himself to him. Can he really be surprised that voters have put two and two together?
It goes beyond 'Beto-As-Gun-Czar,' though. Biden's own words render "putting two and two together" unnecessary. Bingo:
Biden lies to this worker, and claims that he never said he would take away guns— Zach Parkinson (@AZachParkinson) March 10, 2020
Last August, he said exactly that about many popular rifles
"To gun owners out there who say, well, a Biden Administration means they're going to come for my guns..."
"Bingo, you're right" https://t.co/eaBjUwb41X pic.twitter.com/W0MzAJ1IAb
Why should anyone hand power over their rights to a man who talks about "assault weapons," when he can't even summon the correct name of the rifle he has in mind? This exchange is a Rorschach test. Some people see it as evidence of needed feistiness. Others see it as evidence of a serious liability. I see it as part of the reason why some leading Democrats are calling for the primary process to be 'shut down' and future debates between Biden and Bernie Sanders to be canceled.
"Let's shut this puppy down and... worry about November. This thing is decided."— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 11, 2020
James Carville reacts to Joe Biden's projected victories in Michigan, Missouri, and Mississippi pic.twitter.com/BAAvy7HSLI
Rep. Jim Clyburn Wants DNC To Cancel Future Debates https://t.co/EMXdkEVLYT— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 11, 2020
The more Biden talks, the more peril he's in, and they know it. That's why I suspect that if Biden maintains a lead over the coming months, he'll run something of a "front porch campaign" in the lead-up to November. But playing prevent defense almost tanked Biden's primary campaign; it could be risky in the general. On the other hand, Biden has thus far demonstrated the capacity to marshal Democrats' 2018 victory coalition, also running strong among the key demographic of black voters. Maybe autopilot could work. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the eagerness of Republican voters:
Trump won over 639,000 votes in Michigan, more than Sanders did, while running against no real competition at all. To compare, consider Barack Obama’s results in 2012 running unopposed for his renomination, when he received 174,000 votes in Michigan. In Missouri, the numbers are also rather dramatic. Barack Obama won just under 65,000 votes in the Show-Me State eight years ago; Trump got 300,000 votes last night, again significantly outpolling Bernie Sanders.
Enthusiasm is quite high among GOP-leaners, Gallup shows Congressional Republicans grabbing a rare approval rating lead over Democrats nationally -- with some evidence of that phenomenon popping up in a battleground state just today. We're in for a wild, ugly presidential campaign, in which both major candidates will wage a two front war: One against their opponent, and the other against English language. Buckle up. I'll leave you with Bernie Sanders knocking Biden for being unable to speak for more than a few minutes at a time, ahead of their scheduled audience-free, one-on-one debate in Arizona. He's being much more polite in raising an issue that several of this prominent supporters have been banging on in recent days.