Where We Stand Now

Biden and Sanders

To belabor the obvious, Biden really cleaned up last night, doing significantly better than expected.

To belabor a point being sorely overlooked, Biden is still a weak candidate. Yes, even after his good day yesterday. He stutters, and he has a penchant for malapropisms. That’s not a serious mental defect (he’s still mentally fit and basically sane), but it’s definitely a campaigning defect. It makes him crappy at debating. People see the stammer and see his age and naturally assume senility. This could significantly hurt him.* Plus he has a lot of political skeletons in his closet (such as the Iraq War vote). So we are not out of the woods yet, and we won’t be until November. This is the case even if Biden is, contrary to current expectations, not the nominee; Sanders is also a weak candidate.

* Yes, that’s unfair. Life is not always fair. Biden should make his stutter (and his personal triumph over it, despite being in a field where public speaking is important) a recurring subject of his campaign ads, to keep this fact in the public mind.

Biden does seem to be a stronger candidate than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders; Biden’s margins of victory over Sanders yesterday were significantly better than Hillary’s in the states Hillary won, and Biden won states that Hillary lost. On the minus side, Biden is untested against Trump. Thankfully, Trump isn’t exactly the best verbal wordsmith, either, so the two should be approximately equally handicapped on the debate stage.

Warren

At this point, she’s an also-ran hoping to be a behind-the-scenes player. Unfortunately for her, she did so poorly last night that she may choose to drop out soon.

Her main achievement in the race was playing a key role in the destruction of Michael Bloomberg on the debate stage in Las Vegas. Bloomberg was an astoundingly weak candidate, and Warren did the party a huge service by helping take him out, particularly given that he was at one point on the verge of being coronated the “responsible” centrists’ candidate of choice.

It’s sort of a pity she seems less likely to play a role behind the scenes at the convention, since (absent being compelled do do the right thing) Biden is likely to fall for the idiocy of appointing a centrist as his VP, when tacking left and appointing a progressive would be the more pragmatic (i.e. the one likely to secure more votes) choice.

Coronavirus

First, all candidates are at risk. Trump, Biden, and Sanders are all elderly, a prime risk group for the disease. Worse, campaigning requires them to travel, and to be present in crowds, making close contact with thousands of other people each day. Political candidate is one of the highest-risk occupations for disease exposure that I can think of. It would not be a surprise if one or more candidates is hospitalized or even dies before the campaign completes.

Second, it presents political opportunities for both sides. Democrats can make political hay by pointing out how our lack of universal health care and universal sick leave makes the USA more vulnerable than it should be to pandemics, and how Trump’s lack of transparency is hurting the effort to fight the pandemic. Republicans can use the foreign origins of the disease to stoke the fires of racism and xenophobia.

Third, travel restrictions and other emergency measures almost certainly will impact the campaign to at least some degree. It is conceivable that they will be used for politically-motivated purposes, being ordered by the Trump regime to disrupt the opposition’s campaign. This should be evident if restrictions start being suspiciously timed with the Democrats flying high in the opinion polls more than they are with the incidence of infection reports. It is even conceivable that Trump will attempt to use states of emergency to postpone or cancel the election, or to indefinitely delay his departure from office should he lose the election.

Conclusion

Those celebrating the lead of an “electable” candidate in the primary must realize that we are not even remotely out of the woods yet.

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