Political pundits said all Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden had to accomplish Sunday night in the first presidential debate featuring just he and opponent Bernie Sander was avoiding screwing up.
He managed that and more and scored what most agree was his best debate performance in the 2020 presidential campaign season and, for all practical purposes, a knockout blow to Sanders’ latest faltering attempt to capture the nomination he lost four years ago.
“After this debate, what possible rationale does Bernie Sanders have for staying in the race?” read the headline on a column by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post:
The debate between former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was entirely unnecessary given that Sanders is all but eliminated as a serious contender. He continues to take money from donors and encourage others to congregate (for example, phone banking), which is neither reasonable nor responsible. The debate changed nothing and suggests Sanders should have exited the race.
Biden made real news committing to pick a woman as vice president. Biden also promised to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court. Sanders tried to argue about Biden’s past votes on the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for poor women seeking abortions, but when pressed would only say “in all likelihood” he would pick a woman for vice president. The Sanders camp was caught flat-footed. The rest of the debate did not go any better for Sanders.
What happened on Sunday night was not a presidential debate. It was former vice president Joe Biden’s debut as the Democrats’ presumptive 2020 nominee.
The headline of the evening was Biden’s declaration that he plans to pick a female running mate, and that he would nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court.
But it was the confidence with which Biden conducted himself throughout his two-hour exchange with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that signaled how dramatically the race has changed in the two weeks since the voters of South Carolina rescued his candidacy from oblivion.
Biden’s South Carolina primary win turned his campaign around and big wins on Super Tuesday clinched his role as the front runner, giving him the confidence he needed to take control of the race amid a national debacle in mishandling the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
Biden now the far-and-away front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, with a lead in delegates that Sanders probably can’t overcome, so any sense of urgency for the party to unite in common cause against Trump becomes a summons to send Biden into the general election in the strongest shape imaginable. I suspect many Democrats tuned into this debate, almost certainly the last of the Democratic primaries, not to see Biden tested but to will him onward unscathed.
You can’t tell Americans to pull together at this frightful juncture if you’re pushing them apart. The Democrats seem to get that. If only the president did, too.
What voters who watched the debate on CNN saw Sunday night was a clear alternative to the criminal corruption and self-serving looting of America by a president who must be removed from office before he completes his mission to destroy this nation.
The stage is set.
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