ALL NEWS

Analysis: Biden Sanders Debate

Mar 16, 2020, 6:44 AM
Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, participate in a Demo...
Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios in Washington, Sunday, March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

NEW YORK (AP) — As he campaigns for president, Joe Biden’s moderate approach to governing often fails to excite his party’s most passionate voters. But on the debate stage, as the nation wrestled with the consequences of a frightening pandemic, Biden’s pragmatism broke through in ways that affirmed why he has become the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

The former two-term vice president and longtime senator, who has spent the last four decades as a Washington insider, faced off Sunday night against Sen. Bernie Sanders and his burn-it-down progressive politics in the first one-on-one debate of the Democratic Party’s 2020 primary season.

It was Biden’s first chance to show how he might be seen in a face-off with President Donald Trump. He was crisper in his answers than he had been in forums with multiple candidates and he was more focused when framing his differences with Sanders, who used the evening as perhaps a last, best shot at slowing Biden’s march. But in the midst of an escalating global health threat, it was much more than that.

With the nation focused on the coronavirus outbreak rather than traditions like Selection Sunday for the NCAA basketball tournament, the debate provided a national moment for Americans to more closely consider the final two men who want to be the alternative to Trump in November.

They offered dramatically different visions of leadership to an anxious nation suddenly held captive by crisis, giving Democratic primary voters, and the broader electorate, a chance to take an up-close measure.

Biden and Sanders faced each other from lecterns strategically placed 6 feet (1.83 meters) apart in line with the recommendations of health experts. A live audience was barred from attending. They did not shake hands. The dynamic was far different from the forums of six or more candidates, narrowcasting the choices.

It was a moment seemingly made for someone with extensive governing experience. And if nothing else, Biden has that.

He leaned hard on his experience as vice president, and how he worked in other times of national crisis, something that Sanders simply could not do.

Demonstrating a command of the tools available to the federal government in crises, Biden said he would mobilize the military to strengthen the health care system’s capacity in the short term. He repeatedly cited his experience in the White House situation room, where he and the Obama administration contained an Ebola threat and helped avoid a global economic collapse.

“People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden charged, repeating a familiar attack against Sanders that seemed to carry new weight as millions of home-bound Americans watched. He added: “We have problems we need to solve now.”

The stakes had never been higher for Sanders, who is undoubtedly on the path to losing the presidential nomination for a second consecutive campaign. The Vermont senator has fallen behind Biden in the delegate hunt, and he’s bracing for another bad primary night Tuesday when Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio weigh in.

Already, he’s under pressure from the Democratic establishment to drop out.

Sanders, an experienced debater by now, outlined his own plan for combating coronavirus, which included a call to increase the number of ventilators and intensive care units at hospitals. But he also did what he has done for his long political career: He pivoted to his broader concerns about the nation’s health care and economic systems and tried to frame the current crisis as further proof of the need for his signature Medicare for All plan.

His consistency is often his strength, yet in an election transformed by an unexpected pandemic, that consistency has its limits.

Discussing the ongoing health threat at one point, Sanders declared: “It is time to ask the question of where the power is in America. Who owns the media? Who owns the economy?”

Yet many voters are focused on the immediate health and safety of their loved ones. And they’re looking for political leaders for reassurance and decisive action.

Polls do suggest that Sanders’ plans to transform health care and income inequality are popular. Yet, they are not necessarily seen as realistic.

For his part, Biden showed flashes of the fighting spirit that first signaled his presidential mettle when he sought the White House the first time, more than 30 years ago.

He put Sanders on the defensive repeatedly, including for favorable comments the senator had made about authoritarian regimes in Cuba and other Latin American countries. And he defiantly beat back attacks against his own record on the 2008 economic bailout, his support for the Iraq War, and his past willingness to cut Social Security as part of a deficit-reduction package.

Yet the night will be most likely remembered for a virus that has suddenly turned American politics, and American life, upside down, and in the process, may have driven voters even closer to the candidate who represented far more experience and far less risk.

“This is a crisis,” Biden said. “We’re at war with a virus.”

___

EDITOR’S NOTE — National Political Writer Steve Peoples has been covering national politics for The Associated Press since 2011.

___

Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

Today’s Top Stories

All News

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
12 hours ago
Genealogy tests...
Elizabeth Weiler

Genealogy research now a tax deductible for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Members who want to learn more about their family history through genealogy tests can compile the research and categorize it as tax-deductible.
12 hours ago
USGS posted two photos on Monday from a Civil Air Patrol flight which shows the Mauna Loa volcano e...
Chandler Holt

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is erupting for the first time since 1984

The world's largest active volcano, Mauna Loa on Hawaii, is erupting for the first time in nearly 40 years. Though lava is flowing down one side of the volcano, the eruption in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not threatening communities.
12 hours ago
emergency snow...
Elizabeth Weiler

Emergency snow preparation will prove vital this winter

SALT LAKE CITY — As the inches of snow accumulate, emergencies may become a reality for Utahns. A combination of tools and resources could be a lifesaver. Wade Mathews, with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, said that a preparedness mindset is the best prevention for danger. Starting your excursion with a charged cell phone […]
12 hours ago
dangerous avalanche...
Kira Hoffelmeyer and Elizabeth Weiler

Snow storm brings highly dangerous avalanche conditions

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Avalanche Center is warning of highly dangerous avalanche conditions this morning.  Specifically, Salt Lake County mountains have a high danger rating.  Dangerous avalanche conditions may result in traffic issues and adjustments to morning commutes are temperatures drop below freezing.  In the 2021-2022 avalanche season, Utah reported no fatalities in […]
12 hours ago
Flowers and stuffed animals are lined up outside a sign along Pullman Road in Moscow, Idaho, to pay...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Eric Levenson

University of Idaho students return from break, no arrests in homicides

After more than two weeks since four students were fatally stabbed, students at the University of Idaho returned to class on Monday.
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Analysis: Biden Sanders Debate