Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at CNN Studios, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders squared off in the 11th Democratic Debate on Sunday night, standing before not a crowd, but a production studio. It is a shame that it took a global pandemic for America to realize debates shouldn’t have live audiences.
However, it was Joe Biden who came across most comfortable in the debate, despite Sanders turning the screws several times on the issues of abortion, Social Security, TARP, and Medicare for All. Sanders had to turn the screws, however, and he had to try and make some cracks appear in Biden’s seeming inevitability as the nominee. Ultimately, though, Sanders is more and more coming across as a one-note candidate who can’t offer any real experience beyond his time being a contrarian in the Senate.
Sanders’ issue, which is really just “eat the rich,” only goes so far, and Biden made it a point on more than one occasion to point out that a revolution destroying the entire system doesn’t solve any short-term problems, nor does Sanders actually tell anyone how he’ll get that revolution passed through Congress. To Biden’s credit, he has experience doing that. Sanders’ only experience is being in the legislative branch. He has no major executive experience, private or public, and doesn’t appear to know that he’s supposed to bring people to the table to work out issues.
That’s part of the reason that it’s become so incredibly clear that Sanders can’t convince enough voters he’s the right guy. Much like the youth he’s failing to get out to vote, he’s just expecting things to happen without actually having a plan to make them happen. Rather than present immediate plans for any of the key issues, Sanders has remained defensive and attacked Biden over past votes.
Biden’s weaknesses were not as obvious as Sanders’, and he was able to stay above that fray for most of the night. Obviously, it’s impossible not to get dragged into some of it, but he was able to stay positive throughout the night, and that matters.
Sanders also really messed up in his response on supporting Fidel Castro’s regime and other communist nations. In a truly stunning couple of moments, he defended China – in the midst of the Wuhan virus pandemic, in which he ALSO said that China had been dishonest about the outbreak and its role in covering it up – and actually asked Biden to acknowledge that China had done some good. Biden didn’t and, again, it just shows that Sanders does not have anything substantive to bring to the table.
Biden was comfortable and didn’t have very many gaffes at all. He was focused on presenting himself as the guy who can stop this pandemic crisis now and lay down the plans to make the necessary changes down the road. Sanders didn’t have any ready-to-go solutions, but he was very concerned with making sure we all know he’s going to eat the rich. That’s not a platform that shows confidence and leadership, and it’s why Biden’s going to win this primary now.
Neither side is going to admit the other had any victories tonight, but it’s very clear that Biden’s experience is going to make more people feel comfort during this crisis, and that matters.
P.S. One other thing I’d like to point out is how consistently CNN has done a good job in presenting these debates. NBC in particular has been painful to watch when they present one. ABC hosted an okay debate. CNN has been consistent and actually easy to watch. That makes a difference and I think if you go back and look at the numbers, you’ll probably see the biggest shifts in polling have come after CNN-hosted debates rather than the others.