To say former Vice-President Joseph R. Biden’s campaign is rumbling, bumbling and stumbling into tonight’s debate in Charleston, S.C. is a gross understatement. Presidential campaigns in today’s era are akin to marathons, rather than sprints. After Senator Bernie Sanders’s decisive win in Nevada, Biden has gone on the offensive. In an attempt to catch up, Biden has released a digital ad that accused Sanders wanting to primary former President Barack Obama.
The ad includes audio from a 2011 radio interview with the Vermont senator says, “I think it would be a good idea if, uh, President Obama faced some primary opposition.”
The narrator continues, “Bernie Sanders was seriously thinking about challenging our first African American president in a primary. The Atlantic reports that Bernie Sanders told fellow senators he’d take on Obama. And Obama’s team was ‘absolutely panicked.’ Obama’s campaign manager knew it would be a dangerous threat since, ‘every president who has gotten a real primary has lost a general [election].'”
When pressed for comment, Sanders’ deputy campaign director Ari Rabin-Havt denied the ad’s principal claim.
“This never happened. Bernie Sanders never considered a primary challenge to Obama. Bernie was reelection in 2012 and that’s what he was focused on.”
The ad is part of a larger $600,000 digital ad buy in South Carolina.
Biden’s line of attack comes when his lead fell to four points according to a new NBC News-Marist poll. Twenty-seven percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they favored Biden, while 23 percent said they would support Sanders. Moreover, Biden has the edge among likely voters who are moderates (getting support from 38 percent of them), African American (35 percent) and 45 or older (34 percent).
Sanders does best among those younger than 45 (40 percent) and self-described progressives (34 percent).
And while Sanders trails Biden among African American likely voters, the margin is closer than it was four years ago — Biden gets 35 percent, Sanders gets 20 percent and Steyer is at 19 percent.
“South Carolina closes the chapter on the first phase of the presidential sweepstakes,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll for NBC News.
All of that data is nice for Biden heading into tonight’s debate, however, Biden’s campaign has failed to do what Obama’s campaign was impeccably skilled at doing: uniting the coalition.
Biden arrived in North Charleston this Sunday saying, “this election can rip out the roots of systemic racism” if he wins the Democratic nomination.
The venerable quote the Biden campaign is saying among themselves is, “Hope springs eternal.” However, heading into the final debate before Super Tuesday, Biden is still Obama’s Vice-President and he’s leaning on the fact he can be trusted. Consequentially, Tuesday could be the last debate for most of the Democratic candidates not named Sanders, Buttigieg, and Warren. For Biden’s sake, he hopes he will not bid farewell after Saturday’s primary in South Carolina.