Sleepy Joe Awakens

In case you missed it, Joe Biden went off on a town hall questioner yesterday. Not going to say the response was perfectly executed. At one point, he called the man fat. And the worst part is I don’t think it was intentional. The exchange was a little more than two minutes, and we know Biden can’t keep his words together that long.

He was defensive. He cut his inquisitor off. He challenged him to a push up contest and an IQ test. The issue in question was Hunter Biden’s board seat for the Ukrainian gas company. As is his default, Joe didn’t accept any fault, nor admit to any mistake. He claimed nobody credible has ever said he did anything wrong.

Mind you, Hunter has publicly confessed to showing questionable judgment. Viewed through one prism, Joe is a way-past-his-prime old man who got so spun by someone calling him on a topic he should be very prepared for that he sounded like every angry old uncle at the Thanksgiving table ever.

This was a day after releasing a pretty slick campaign ad focusing on world leaders laughing at Donald Trump because he can’t keep his shit together.

So you can see the problems. If you’re questioning Biden’s temperament you have more evidence. He’s absolutely unwilling to apologize for stuff. Most of the people that are on board with this approach are voting for Trump. It’s bad timing to talk about being the adult in the room and then call someone fat.

Zero people who were out on Biden are suddenly getting attracted to this version. I also think this was his best moment of the campaign so far.

A year ago, Team Biden might have hoped they could cruise to the nomination as a unifying force. Pulling the Obama Coalition back together, saving the Republic from evil Emperor Trump. The Obama-Trump voters would become Obama-Trump-Biden voters in November 2020. The Obama-stay at home instead of voting for Hillary voters would become Obama-Pass-Biden.

Then AOC arrived in D.C. It might not have happened anyway. Bernie is hanging in better than might have been expected. Warren had a stronger 2019 than most figured. But there is very much an AOC wing of the party, and that side was never going to let Biden sail.

It’s great to have a unified party for the fall. But a candidate’s first responsibility is getting themselves nominated. And most divisions heal. Remember how Never Trump Republicans were going to keep him from winning? In 2008, there was the Party Unity My Ass group of Hillary supporters who claimed to pollsters they wouldn’t turn out for Obama.

If Biden thinks he’s a better risk than Warren or Bernie (and he definitely does), then he can’t hold back. And part of not holding back is the occasional awkward tirade. He has two and only two things to consider:

Making sure voters deciding between him, Buttigieg and Klobuchar in Iowa pick him

Making sure all of his supporters turn out and vote

That’s it. Anything else only matters after those things happen. If Biden wins Iowa, and can stay upright for another few months, he’s the nominee. If he loses Iowa but doesn’t do horribly, he’s still ok for Nevada and South Carolina. Assuming he can maintain and motivate his base.

And part of that is showing some fire. The people who are semi-horrified about what he did weren’t voting for him anyway. This isn’t the year or field of opposition where Biden gets to be a consensus candidate. He’s not a fresh face who can win over lots of voters who don’t have an opinion yet.

The “No Malarkey” tour was the first step. Getting in this fight was the second. Biden has accepted he’s not going to appeal to all Democrats. That many will only grudgingly support him next November. His path begins with rallying the troops. Yes, this sounds like a moderate version of what Trump did in 2016.

It is. The whole justification for Biden’s “electability” is that the Obama-Trump voters aren’t looking to make another diversity statement. That they need something familiar enough, comforting enough, actually a little bit like Trump without being so over the top. We won’t know if voters thinking this way are correct until November.

But that’s seems like the take now. There’s a point at which it becomes too much. Where Biden turns into a parody of himself. He’s not there yet. And riling up Twitter is good for him. Bernie isn’t letting anyone get to his left. That’s smart. Biden can’t let anyone out crusty him. And his older voters will back him on backing his kid every time.

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