- The Washington Times
Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s gaffes are piling up, and Democratic campaign veterans warn it will hurt his White House run.

Mr. Biden, an early front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has shrugged off the frequent slips of the tongue and awkward remarks on the campaign trail.

“I want to be clear: I’m not going nuts,” he joked to supporters in New Hampshire after a string of goofs, including misidentifying the state as neighboring Vermont and pondering Barack Obama’s assassination.

SEE ALSO: Joe Biden touts standing among black voters

He also recently contrasted poor children with “white kids,” mixed up the year when he met with survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and declared that “we choose truth over facts.”

Those slip-ups all happened this month.

Mr. Biden’s supporters give him a pass. After all, they say, his political foot-in-mouth disease is legendary. He once even dubbed himself a “gaffe machine.”

SEE ALSO: Joe Biden holds big lead over 2020 Democratic rivals: Poll

Indeed, the wacky banter is part of Mr. Biden’s regular-guy image, the “Uncle Joe” persona that served him well during a 36-year Senate career and two terms as Mr. Obama’s sidekick in the White House.

This time is different.

“It will hurt him,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic strategist.

He warned that the party’s primary voters are turned off by Mr. Biden’s bloopers because, to them, he looks too much like President Trump and Democratic voters want the opposite of Mr. Trump.

“If Trump makes gaffes and Biden makes gaffes, guess what? They’ll want someone other than Biden,” he said.

The assessment is particularly unsettling for Mr. Biden because he has made contrasting himself with Mr. Trump the chief argument for his run.

Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill, the campaign’s most prominent surrogate, tried to make the case at a fundraising event Tuesday in Atlanta that her husband would restore dignity to the presidency.

“When the anchor says the president of the United States is about to speak, you don’t turn the channel,” she said, eliciting laughs from the crowd. “Instead, you call in the kids from the other room because you want your kids to hear what he has to say. A president we can be proud of. … That’s Joe Biden.”

The string of blunders coincided with a national poll by Monmouth University that showed Mr. Biden dropping from front-runner into a neck-and-neck race with Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Other polls show Mr. Biden comfortably in front of the pack. The Real Clear Politics average of national polls gives him an 8.1-point lead in the primary race.

Zach Friend, a Democratic strategist in California, said Mr. Biden’s many years in the public eye and solid reputation have inoculated him from the ill effects of random misstatements.

“My sense is that voters would much rather have a president that occasionally says something they consider a mistake over a president that consistently does something that they consider a mistake,” he said.

The Biden campaign rejected criticism of the gaffes and any suggestion that his front-runner position is threatened.

The campaign sent reporters an email calling the Monmouth poll an outlier and disparaging its methodology.

Kate Bedingfield, deputy manager of the Biden campaign, said new media are applying an “unfair standard” to Mr. Biden.

“If you listen to what candidates say all day as they’re out campaigning — they’re out in front of cameras, they’re in front of people, they’re talking all day. Everybody’s going to slip up and misstate a name or a date or a location — it happens all the time,” she said on MSNBC. “It doesn’t get the outsize attention that Joe Biden gets. So I understand that’s part of being a front-runner. But I also think that people know him, [and] part of his charm is that they understand that they’re getting it straight from him. It’s not overly packaged. He’s always speaking from his heart.

“And sure, that means sometimes he’s going to misstate a couple of things, but frankly, so does every other candidate,” Ms. Bedingfield said.

• David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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