Most of the time, Joe Biden is so middle of the road that they should name that yellow line after the former vice president – regardless of whether he wins the election next month.
“There’s not one single syllable I’ve ever said that could lead you to believe that I was a socialist or a communist,” Biden declared in Miami tonight at an NBC Nightly News town hall with Lester Holt in classic MOR fashion.
“Do I look like a socialist? I’m the guy who ran against the socialist,” Biden noted of his primary victories over now loyal supporter Sen. Bernie Sanders when a question sought to trip him up over appealing to GOP-leaning Cuban and Venezuelan voters who are being told he is a prisoner of the left. “I’ve taken on the Castros of this world, the Putins of this world,” Biden added. “I’m no more socialist or communist than Donald Trump is …well, I won’t say it.”
I've taken on the Castros and Putins of the world. I let them know: it stops here. It stops with me. It stops with me as president. pic.twitter.com/p2p1n4ALRY
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 6, 2020
Truth be told, Biden did say it by employing his not-saying-it tactic: this town hall, like this election, was all about Donald Trump.
“Look, anybody who contracts the virus by essentially saying masks don’t matter, social distancing doesn’t matter, I think is responsible for what happens to them,” said Biden, who leads in the polls. Holt had asked Biden if he agreed with a poll that said 65% of Americans think Trump “bears some responsibility” for getting COVID-19.
Unlike the drive-in format of his last town hall on CNN on September 17, Biden was closer to the crowd of 60 audience members, who were still socially distanced in the outdoor setting.
The format worked in an energized Biden’s favor as he took questions from the selected voters, all of whom wore masks.
In an election season that has shed almost all the rules of the game, Monday’s town hall was actually quite a throwback in many ways to the more traditional campaigns of pre-Trump times.
Topics included the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, racial justice and police reform, as to be expected. At one point, Biden even opened up that the “supposedly coming up” second POTUS debate of October 15 may not occur. However, the real deal, to use the ex-VP’s trademark phrase, was Trump, Trump, and more Trump.
That included a question about last week’s first presidential debate and whether Biden stooped to the badgering president’s level by calling him a “clown.” In a post-debate interview last week, Biden didn’t back down from his name calling, telling one reporter that he had no regrets “because everything I said was true.” But faced by a similar question from one of the “average” Americans gathered at this town hall, Biden said, “I should have said it was a clownish undertaking rather than calling him a clown.”
Additionally, as Biden got in most of his personal and professional talking points, the septuagenarian career politician mocked the “tough guy” approach to the coronavirus. It came just hours as Trump left Walter Reed Military Medical Center, flew to the South Lawn of the White House and then staged a photo op on the balcony, appearing out of breath at one point.
After a day of campaigning on Monday in Florida, Biden at one point said “excuse my back, I apologize” to those behind him in the circle – something you would never hear from Trump. Then there was that that rather charming aside in a question on police reform and community about “that kid walking across the street with a hoodie on might be the next poet laureate.”
Yes, there were name drops of Bob Dole and Ted Kennedy and a couple long winded anecdotal tales about his decades in the Senate, but there was a lot of policy-wonking and old school real politicking from Biden too.
“With age comes wisdom, hopefully,” the former Vice President asserted as he started a strong and even impassioned answer at the end of the town hall to a Gen Z voter. Just two days before his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris debates Mike Pence, Biden displayed a comparatively ego free self-awareness. In that vein, the 77-year old worked to make the case that his presidency would be a “transition” to the next generation.
Joe Biden on Gen. Z: "You're the best educated. You're the most open. You're the least prejudiced generation in American history. The future is yours and I'm counting on you." #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/Jkk4QjsppH
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 6, 2020
As concerns are raised about the turnout among young people, given the age of both candidates, it was a better case to make than trying to show that he is totally in sync with the the generation casting their first presidential votes this year.
It also was a keen made-for-TV move by a seasoned politician. Based on recent polls, his middle-of-the-road moves increasingly look like an autobahn to the Oval Office.