Over two nights, the Democratic presidential candidates battled it out on stage. Consider how many candidates there were and that some candidates did not even make it to the stage.
The first night of the CNN debate was all white. The second night was all fight. The fighting involved every candidate hitting Joe Biden. Biden is the front-runner and the man polls show is most capable of beating Donald Trump. Democratic voters say they are more interested in beating Trump than getting someone who agrees with them on every issue.
To take out Biden, one must first hurt the polling that shows he could best beat Trump. To hurt that polling, one must throw Biden off his game. At the NBC debate in Miami, Sen. Kamala Harris went a long way toward doing that. She put Biden on defense over school busing, and Biden seemed ill-prepared. That made some Democrats question if Biden would be able to withstand attacks from President Trump.
Biden, however, has recovered in the polling. He remains the front-runner. He remains the man polls show would most easily beat Trump. On the debate stage in Detroit, the candidates had to get their shots in. But to get to that debate, we first had to get through the first debate. Instead of pitting Biden against a diverse field of candidates, it pitted a bunch of white moderates against two hyper-progressive white socialists, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Warren and Sanders on stage were like the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at peace against the apostasy of those who think policies should be either popular or affordable. Warren and Sanders ignored each other to defend bankrupting the nation and killing free enterprise. Frankly, though I think Warren’s policies are terrible, she came across as the sharpest debater on the stage. Afterward, instead of sitting for a solo interview with Anderson Cooper, Warren entertained a host of questions from a field of CNN analysts for over 20 minutes. It was an impressive performance.
Then, Biden took the stage the next night. “Go easy on me, kid,” he said to Harris. She did not. But he did not let up on her either. He read the opposition research books. Everyone on the second stage took shots at Biden. Bill de Blasio, the thoroughly unlikable mayor of New York, tried his best to hurt Biden. But he did not. Biden held his own and had a remarkable moment against Kirsten Gillibrand. She tried to claim that Biden said that women working was a bad thing.
Biden destroyed her. He pointed out he raised his boys as a single parent because his wife died. He pointed out that both his first wife and his second wife worked outside the home. He pointed out his record fighting for working mothers, which is actually a more thorough record than Gillibrand’s.
Biden won the debate because he withstood the blows without blowing himself up. He had flubs and came across as old, but he held on. Surrounded by people ready to move on from Barack Obama, Biden honorably defended Obama’s legacy to the point that other candidates got solid hits on Biden because he insisted on defending Obama’s legacy. It was remarkable watching so many Democrats savage Obama’s legacy on health care, foreign policy and immigration. They painted Obama as an archconservative and Biden as his Rasputin.
Therein lies the problem for the former vice president. His party is ready to move on from Obama, and he is too decent and loyal to repudiate Obama’s legacy. He stood his ground on stage, but he did not have a shining performance. He just managed to stand the whole time.
When Democrats convene again in September, he will be on stage with Warren, Sanders and Harris. Biden won the CNN debate, but he won in a way that suggests he lacks the ability to win against Warren. So between now and September, Biden is going to have to prepare for the progressive energy those candidates will unleash against him. They all have a vested interest in getting him out soon.