It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, beginning with his poor performance in the first presidential debate. Not only did Biden look tired and distracted (one outspoken observer might say “sleepy”,) but in the debate’s key moments, he totally failed to counter an aggressive volley from Senator Kamala Harris who accused him of racial insensitivity in opposing school busing over the years and of working with former Democratic senators who are now far out of the mainstream of the modern Democratic Party. In the polling after the debate, Biden lost a significant amount of support, mostly to Senator Harris. Senator Elizabeth Warren also saw gains, mostly at the expense of Senator Bernie Sanders.
It’s hard to know what’s more surprising: that Biden didn’t anticipate the attack, or that he couldn’t defend his busing position, which historically has had wide support throughout the country, including among rank-and-file Democrats. Biden has issued yet another apology, but you get so many of those over the course of the campaign and the former Vice President has used up his mulligans. If he is going to survive and become the Democratic nominee, he’ll have to stop apologizing and defend his policy positions, even those that conflict with the views of his party’s noisy activist wing.
That being said, Biden still leads the national surveys of Democrats. In the cumulative polling assembled by the political site Real Clear Politics since the first debate, Biden’s lead over Harris, Warren, and Sanders is roughly twelve points. He is just as strong in Iowa and New Hampshire and still dominant in South Carolina.