Biggest loser in #DemDebate? Joe Biden

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The more than 15 million people who watched the first debate for Democratic presidential candidates might have their own opinions on the winner. But it was obvious that the big loser in the debate (besides the Republican party) was Vice President Joe Biden.

The media’s favorite recent electoral meme has been amplifying the will-he-or-won’t-he-run game, aided in no small part by Biden backers pushing the idea that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is too toxic to be elected. Biden can jump in to save the day, his backers insist.

I think the media need to find a new story line.

A well-prepared and polished Clinton looked ready and able, answering questions on a range of topics, from gun violence to the Middle East to progressive ideology. She got a big boost from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who, in the best line of the evening, said that the country was tired of hearing about “your damn emails” and instead wanted to hear something of substance.

The Democrats delivered. Sanders was a little shaky early on, stumbling when pressed about guns and foreign policy, but he recovered, winning the point that climate change was the biggest issue facing the country. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley tried hard to hit both Clinton and Sanders, citing his experience and his strong anti-NRA credentials. The other two candidates, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Sen. and Gov. Lincoln Chafee, seem almost like also-rans at this point.

Timing worked in Clinton’s favor, as the purpose for the House Benghazi committee becomes clearer daily. First it was House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California accidentally admitting the truth that the purpose of the committee was to hurt Clinton. Then a committee investigator — who describes himself as a conservative Republican — blew the committee’s cover by charging that he had been fired because he wouldn’t focus solely on Clinton. Panel Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina denied all, but Clinton was able to denounce the panel during the debate — the eighth such investigation, as she pointed out, when the first seven panels found no blame on her part.

After the debate, pundits were almost universal in their praise for Clinton. Cable and network focus groups seemed to be feeling the Bern. It’s too soon for post-debate polling, but numbers might tell a new tale within days.

So what about Biden? The Draft Biden super PAC ran ads on CNN before the debate, but there’s no word from the would-be candidate, who was far away across the country from Las Vegas. Time is definitely running out for the vice president — several states have primary ballot deadlines in November, some within a few weeks. Those campaign forms gathering signatures aren’t going to sign themselves.

Perhaps Clinton’s most interesting and masterful debate point was pointing out that, despite her vote to approve the Iraq War resolution, President Obama chose her to be secretary of state. She established that there already was a candidate to carry on the Obama legacy, and that it didn’t need to be Biden.

“Clinton’s win was Joe Biden’s loss,” said a story on CNN, labeling Biden among the debate’s losers. “Clinton’s dominant showing Tuesday night makes the case for a Biden candidacy that much more difficult.” A story from Huffington Post quoted an anonymous Biden supporter who said the door may have closed on a Biden run.

Meanwhile, Republican reaction to the debate was predictable. Some, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, sent out racist tweets. Some, like GOP front-runner Donald Trump, live-tweeted throughout, showing that the would-be narcissist-in-chief can’t bear to be out of the spotlight, even for an evening.

Whatever. The first voting starts in less than four months in the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary a week later and South Carolina and Nevada primaries and caucuses a few weeks after that.

The next GOP debate will be Oct. 28 in another two-tiered package. The next Democratic debate is Nov. 14, preceded by a Democratic forum on Nov. 6 led by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, in what may turn out to be the most intelligent discussion we hear this campaign season.

Let’s hope the American people have more chances to hear what all of these candidates have to say.

 

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