If there was one takeaway from Wednesday night’s debate, aside from the fact that the candidates are crazy, it’s just how bad a night Joe Biden had. He’s losing Iowa, and looks like he’s slipping in New Hampshire as well. He seemed tired and disengaged, and it didn’t go unnoticed.
The Boston Globe gave Biden the lowest grade of all the candidates, a D, calling him “the Admiral Stockdale of this debate.” Ouch. “He ended up being a total non-factor and did nothing to stop the bleeding on his early state poll numbers or his campaign cash.” At least the bleeding in his eye has stopped.
Chris Cillizza of CNN declared Biden a loser of the debate. “The former vice president’s opening answer was shaaaaaky,” he noted, which was particularly bad since he’d gotten a softball question. “Biden committed something he is known for: An unforced error. In talking about domestic violence, he said that people have to just keep ‘punching’ at the problem.” Yeah, that was pretty bad. Cillizza continued, “He said he had the support of the only black woman elected to the Senate. Except that he forgot that Harris was on the stage.” Unless Biden was acknowledging the fact that Harris is half Jamaican and half Indian, but his sloppy clean-up of the gaffe suggested that wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell called Biden’s omission of Kamala Harris a “colossal gaffe,” “unlike any other I’ve seen in a debate performance.”
The Washington Post agreed Biden was “shaky.” “His shaky debate performances haven’t really cost him thus far, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are almost unfailingly shaky.” Maybe Democrats will start to reconsider?
German Lopez of Vox also declared Biden the loser of the debate. “These debates have not shown Biden at his best. That was on display on Wednesday. Biden’s answers were long-winded, hard to follow, and at times ended abruptly with little explanation.”
Mediaite outright said Biden “tanked” it. “It is tempting to take the front-runner’s performance as neither a win nor loss, and in polling that may bear out. But as a political performance his was past sub-prime.”
HuffPost noted that Biden “routinely stumbled over his words, fumbling several times throughout the two-hour event.” They highlighted Biden’s cringe-inducing response to Cory Booker about his African-American support. “I come out of the Black community in terms of my support. If you notice, I have more people supporting me in the Black community ― who have vouched for me ― because they know me,” Biden said.
The New York Times‘ slate of columnists and contributors gave mixed reviews his performance. “Maybe it was past his bedtime or maybe he’s just bad at this, but either way, it wasn’t a great showing,” said Nicole Hemmer. The highest rating came from NeverTrumper Liz Mair, who likely sees Biden as the most moderate Democrat, and thus the easiest Democrat to vote for over Trump. She called his performance “perfectly fine.” I’m not sure which debate she was watching.
Newsweek eviscerated Biden, “Biden couldn’t even get out his first sentence without stammering,” wrote Tara Francis Chan, who noted the previously mentioned gaffes. “These sorts of gaffes don’t seem to have mattered in the past to Biden voters. Still, when he started the campaign the nomination was his to lose–and he seems up to the task of losing it.”
Joe Biden has run a campaign based on his perceived electability, but if you’re siding with Biden on that perception, it seems likely that you’re wondering how he will hold up going toe to toe with Donald Trump. Those debates won’t happen for another year. That’s a long time of rigorous campaigning that is bound to take a huge toll on a candidate who already seems too exhausted to put coherent sentences together.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis