- Former Vice President Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign is having its worst week since launching in April.
- Over the past several days, Biden has been at the center of a firestorm, stemming from several largely self-inflicted wounds.
- Biden has taken heat from some of his progressive rivals in the 2020 Democratic field; he’s been accused of plagiarism (again); he’s joked about touching women (again); and he’s infuriated some of the most important factions of the Democratic Party by renewing his record on reproductive rights.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign is having its worst week since launching in April.
Biden was in hot water even before his campaign officially launched in April, after four women accused him of unwanted touching and invading their personal space.
The former vice president didn’t make things any smoother when he released a video that critics deemed a “non-apology apology,” in which Biden said he would try to do better going forward but did not explicitly apologise for his past conduct.
Still, he surged in the polls as soon as he entered the race thanks in part to his long-standing popularity within the Democratic Party, his name recognition, and a strong alliance with former President Barack Obama.
But the past few days have been a test for the frontrunner’s campaign, as a host of controversies over his biggest weaknesses make the former vice president vulnerable to criticism from some of the most prominent factions of the Democratic Party.
It started over the weekend, when Biden decided to skip attending the California Democratic convention. The event was a hotspot for 14 other White House hopefuls, including progressive presidential candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Sanders and Warren wasted no time in skewering their former Senate colleague without directly naming him.
“As you all know, there is a debate among presidential candidates who have spoken to you here in this room and those who have chosen, for whatever reason, not to be in this room, about the best way forward,” Sanders told the roaring crowd. “We cannot go back to the old ways. We have to go forward with a new and progressive agenda.”
Warren, meanwhile, appeared to swipe at earlier comments Biden made, in which he said that once President Donald Trump left office, there would be an “epiphany among my Republican friends,” who Biden believed would be more willing to work with Democrats on policy.
“Some Democrats in Washington believe the only changes we can get are tweaks and nudges,” Warren said. “Some say if we’d all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a time of crisis. The time for small ideas is over.”
Political analysts said the convention was a warning to the centrist Democratic establishment that the party’s base was moving increasingly leftward, which signals bad news for Biden once the field narrows.
On Tuesday, Biden’s campaign took another hit when two of his weaknesses came back into the spotlight: his behaviour toward women and new allegations of plagiarism.
During a campaign event in New Hampshire, the former vice president joked – again – about touching women after a female supporter leaned in to whisper in his ear.
“I want the press to know, she pulled me close,” Biden said, as the older, almost entirely white crowd laughed and applauded. The comment drew immediate backlash from feminists and left-leaning progressives, many of whom took issue with Biden’s cavalier attitude toward the allegations against him in lieu of a direct apology.
Later Tuesday, INSIDER reported that the Biden campaign’s official plan on climate change had lifted or closely copied language from several other environmental groups. The Biden team said it was a mistake, but the report nonetheless brought to the forefront previous issues he’s had with accusations of plagiarism, some of which contributed to tanking his 1988 presidential campaign.
Biden’s record on women’s reproductive rights took the stage once again Wednesday when his campaign confirmed that he still supported the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal money for abortion except in cases involving rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger.
That position puts Biden starkly at odds with the Democratic base.
Abortion-rights advocates and 2020 Democratic competitors were quick to condemn his position on Hyde and restate their support for repealing the law.
“The Democratic Party platform is crystal clear in supporting the right to safe, legal abortion and repealing the Hyde Amendment, a position held by the majority of voters,” Kelley Robinson, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “We strongly encourage Joe Biden to speak to the people whose lives are impacted by this discriminatory policy and re-evaluate his position.”
Warren argued during a Wednesday-night MSNBC town hall that the Hyde Amendment and other efforts to restrict abortion access disproportionately affected poor and marginalized women.
“We do not pass laws that take away that freedom from the women who are most vulnerable,” she said.
And Sanders took the opportunity to tweet out his new hashtag for Biden: #NoMiddleGround.
“There is #NoMiddleGround on women’s rights,” Sanders wrote. “Abortion is a constitutional right. Under my Medicare for All plan, we will repeal the Hyde Amendment.”
Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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