That was a bit of a shaky close for Joe Biden. I don’t know how else to put it. You don’t get a lot of leeway on that kind of thing when your in your mid-70s. I don’t know if that matters or not. Because on balance I thought he had a pretty good debate. He was much more focused and aggressive than he was in the first debate. He got hit from all sides but he hit back and often effectively. In the first debate he just didn’t seem to be expecting or prepared to defend himself or his record – which is a bit bizarre as a frontrunner heading into his first campaign debate.
His research team sent him in with a lot of good details to bring to bear on his challengers. I continue to have a lot of questions about what kind of President Biden would be and frankly what kind of candidate he will be over time. But I also think many observers simply don’t get why he remains strong in the polls versus the other Democrats and even stronger against Trump. It’s more than just inertia or earliness or name recognition.
The other thing that I took note of is that Biden basically didn’t engage on the debates on health care, immigration and other issues as they’ve existed in much of this campaign – debates which have focused on candidates trying to outdo each other on Medicare for All or decriminalizing border crossings. He detailed his position on both issues but he was focused on a general election audience and a general election campaign.
Harris seemed to lose the thread early in the debate and seemed unprepared and at some level pissed to see so many candidates attacking her at once from so many different directions. She closed well. But it was a generally so-so or weak performance for her.
I was again impressed by Cory Booker. He’s consistently really good in these debates – not only finesse and image but in substance and policy detail. He was just a lot more together than almost anyone else on stage. So far, it simply hasn’t gotten him anywhere in public support.
Thinking this all over I come back again to how much it shortchanged voters that we didn’t see all four of the frontrunners on stage together, with most of the folks unable to get over 1% just removed from the stage.