Loading...

Analysis: Biden’s Pragmatism Shines in Virus-Centered Debate

March 16, 2020by STEVE PEOPLES, AP National Political Writer
Analysis: Biden’s Pragmatism Shines in Virus-Centered Debate
APTOPIX Election 2020 Debate

NEW YORK (AP) — As he campaigns for president, Joe Biden’s moderate approach to governing often fails to excite his party’s most passionate voters. But on the debate stage, as the nation wrestled with the consequences of a frightening pandemic, Biden’s pragmatism broke through in ways that affirmed why he has become the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

The former two-term vice president and longtime senator, who has spent the last four decades as a Washington insider, faced off Sunday night against Sen. Bernie Sanders and his burn-it-down progressive politics in the first one-on-one debate of the Democratic Party’s 2020 primary season.

It was Biden’s first chance to show how he might be seen in a face-off with President Donald Trump. He was crisper in his answers than he had been in forums with multiple candidates and he was more focused when framing his differences with Sanders, who used the evening as perhaps a last, best shot at slowing Biden’s march. But in the midst of an escalating global health threat, it was much more than that.

With the nation focused on the coronavirus outbreak rather than traditions like Selection Sunday for the NCAA basketball tournament, the debate provided a national moment for Americans to more closely consider the final two men who want to be the alternative to Trump in November.

They offered dramatically different visions of leadership to an anxious nation suddenly held captive by crisis, giving Democratic primary voters, and the broader electorate, a chance to take an up-close measure.

Biden and Sanders faced each other from lecterns strategically placed 6 feet (1.83 meters) apart in line with the recommendations of health experts. A live audience was barred from attending. They did not shake hands. The dynamic was far different from the forums of six or more candidates, narrowcasting the choices.

It was a moment seemingly made for someone with extensive governing experience. And if nothing else, Biden has that.

He leaned hard on his experience as vice president, and how he worked in other times of national crisis, something that Sanders simply could not do.

Demonstrating a command of the tools available to the federal government in crises, Biden said he would mobilize the military to strengthen the health care system’s capacity in the short term. He repeatedly cited his experience in the White House situation room, where he and the Obama administration contained an Ebola threat and helped avoid a global economic collapse.

“People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden charged, repeating a familiar attack against Sanders that seemed to carry new weight as millions of home-bound Americans watched. He added: “We have problems we need to solve now.”

The stakes had never been higher for Sanders, who is undoubtedly on the path to losing the presidential nomination for a second consecutive campaign. The Vermont senator has fallen behind Biden in the delegate hunt, and he’s bracing for another bad primary night Tuesday when Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio weigh in.

Already, he’s under pressure from the Democratic establishment to drop out.

Sanders, an experienced debater by now, outlined his own plan for combating coronavirus, which included a call to increase the number of ventilators and intensive care units at hospitals. But he also did what he has done for his long political career: He pivoted to his broader concerns about the nation’s health care and economic systems and tried to frame the current crisis as further proof of the need for his signature Medicare for All plan.

His consistency is often his strength, yet in an election transformed by an unexpected pandemic, that consistency has its limits.

Discussing the ongoing health threat at one point, Sanders declared: “It is time to ask the question of where the power is in America. Who owns the media? Who owns the economy?”

Yet many voters are focused on the immediate health and safety of their loved ones. And they’re looking for political leaders for reassurance and decisive action.

Polls do suggest that Sanders’ plans to transform health care and income inequality are popular. Yet, they are not necessarily seen as realistic.

For his part, Biden showed flashes of the fighting spirit that first signaled his presidential mettle when he sought the White House the first time, more than 30 years ago.

He put Sanders on the defensive repeatedly, including for favorable comments the senator had made about authoritarian regimes in Cuba and other Latin American countries. And he defiantly beat back attacks against his own record on the 2008 economic bailout, his support for the Iraq War, and his past willingness to cut Social Security as part of a deficit-reduction package.

Yet the night will be most likely remembered for a virus that has suddenly turned American politics, and American life, upside down, and in the process, may have driven voters even closer to the candidate who represented far more experience and far less risk.

“This is a crisis,” Biden said. “We’re at war with a virus.”

In The News

Health

Voting

2020 Elections

Biden's Big Bill on Brink of House Votes, But Fights Remain

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats in the House appear on the verge of advancing President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion-and-growing domestic policy package alongside... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats in the House appear on the verge of advancing President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion-and-growing domestic policy package alongside a companion $1 trillion infrastructure bill in what would be a dramatic political accomplishment — if they can push it to passage. The House scrapped votes... Read More

November 4, 2021
by Dan McCue
Murphy Narrowly Wins Reelection as New Jersey’s Governor

TRENTON, N.J. —The nail biter is over. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has been elected to a second term in... Read More

TRENTON, N.J. —The nail biter is over. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has been elected to a second term in the state’s highest office. As of Thursday morning, the Democratic incumbent was leading Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by 37,293 votes, with 91% of the state’s election... Read More

Biden Winds Up G-20 Summit With Dings at Russia, China

ROME (AP) — President Joe Biden wrapped up his time at the Group of 20 summit on Sunday trying to... Read More

ROME (AP) — President Joe Biden wrapped up his time at the Group of 20 summit on Sunday trying to convince Americans and the wider world that he's got things under control — and taking Russia, China and Saudi Arabia to task for not doing enough... Read More

Trump Lawyers Might be Penalized Over Michigan Election Case

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge is considering whether to order financial penalties or other sanctions against some of former... Read More

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge is considering whether to order financial penalties or other sanctions against some of former President Donald Trump's lawyers who signed onto a lawsuit last year challenging Michigan's election results. The lawsuit alleging widespread fraud was voluntarily dropped after a judge... Read More

June 15, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Congress Begins Investigation of Alleged Justice Dept. Abuses

WASHINGTON -- A powerful congressional committee is beginning an investigation into reports the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed information about members... Read More

WASHINGTON -- A powerful congressional committee is beginning an investigation into reports the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed information about members of Congress and journalists during the Trump administration. The committee’s chairman said he was concerned the Justice Department “used criminal investigations as a pretext to spy... Read More

AP Interview: Disinformation Concerns Mail Voting Expert

ATLANTA (AP) — Amber McReynolds, CEO of The National Vote at Home Institute, helped state and local election officials prepare... Read More

ATLANTA (AP) — Amber McReynolds, CEO of The National Vote at Home Institute, helped state and local election officials prepare for the record number of mailed ballots cast during last year's presidential election. She also was recently confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Board... Read More

News From The Well
Exit mobile version