Asserting that “we’ve had enough debates,” the former vice president claimed that he is focused on combating the coronavirus outbreak. “My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now,” Biden said on Wednesday, when asked if he wanted another debate next month. “I think we should get on with this.”
Mainstream media is generally treating his decision as an understandable reaction to the new realities of social distancing, with the New York Times reporting that “Biden has been forced off the physical campaign trail because of the coronavirus outbreak, and is grappling with new ways to connect with voters and break through in the news media.”
But his dismissal of the opportunity to meet his opponent in a one-on-one debate fueled speculation that his campaign is afraid of giving him too much public exposure. With hashtags such as #WhereIsJoeBiden trending on Twitter, critics pointed out that the DNC had promised 12 Democratic debates and there have been just 11 so far.
The rejection of another debate with Sanders comes after several public appearances that drew widespread scrutiny for signs of Biden’s apparent cognitive decline and possible health concerns. In a series of interviews this week, Biden repeatedly coughed and acted confused, sometimes making statements that made little sense.
In a discussion on The View about the need for a vaccine for the coronavirus, Biden left everyone scratching their heads when he said, “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what.”
At other times his sentences have tapered off without completing a thought. In a live interview on MSNBC, he started to express pride in the frontline responders to the coronavirus but failed to finish his sentence. “I’m so darn proud,” he said, “of those poor people who have lost…. anyway.”
These gaffes have led to interviewers looking visibly uncomfortable, with Biden’s apparent cognitive difficulties on display for all to see.
President Trump’s supporters are already seizing on some of Biden’s slips to ridicule the presumptive nominee, with the Trump War Room Twitter account noting on Wednesday that “Joe Biden literally forg[ot] he was Vice President of the United States” in an appearance he made on CNBC.
The Biden campaign is now struggling to control the damage of these disastrous public appearances, but critics are claiming that Biden has abdicated national leadership by disappearing for days in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
While some in his campaign would no doubt like to hide him until the general election in November, this is not realistic, especially considering that the country is in the grip of a public health emergency. So it looks like he will be forced to choose his forums with increasing care.
How the campaign walks this tightrope could determine his chances against Trump heading into the general election later this year.
BIDEN: "The president's numbers with the public have gone up in handling this crisis, but they haven't gone up in terms of his presidency."
REPORTER: Actually, his job approval is also up.
BIDEN: "Well, I hope that he's so strong that he's up way above that." pic.twitter.com/VfWksMSpJi
— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) March 25, 2020
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