AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
- Democrats piled-on presidential frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden this week.
- At a Tuesday night fundraiser in New York, Biden referenced his ability to work alongside segregationists in the Senate in the 1970s, and his rivals pounced.
- Biden’s fellow candidates are increasingly going after his long record in the Senate and the White House in an attempt to chip away at his position in the top spot.
- The first primary debates will be next week, with Biden at the center of the stage.
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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is increasingly bearing the brunt of attacks from his fellow candidates, with the latest pile-on coming after a Tuesday night fundraiser in New York where Biden referenced his ability to work alongside segregationists in the Senate in the 1970s.
Biden has a long, well-documented record as both a senator and as vice president that spans major generational shifts within the Democratic Party. And each time an old position of Biden’s comes back into the spotlight, Democratic rivals pounce with increasing frequency, signaling Biden is going to face more and more criticism as the race heats up.
That means his experience could very well become his biggest liability when he faces off with his 2020 opponents in the first round of primary debates in Miami, Florida next week.
But Biden’s citations of numerous examples of being able to work with Republicans and squeeze out compromises from hardliners can sometimes do more harm than good. That became evident in the backlash to his comments about the simpler times in the Senate working with pro-segregationist lawmakers.
"I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’" Biden said. "Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished."
"But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy," he added. "We don’t talk to each other anymore."
The remarks perplexed and enraged many Democrats, including players in the 2020 field.
"You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’" he said. "Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity."
"Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone," Booker added. "I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together. And frankly, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should."
Booker was not the only candidate to go after Biden. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose wife is black, characterized Biden as out of step and clinging to the past.
"It’s 2019 & [Biden] is longing for the good old days of ‘civility’ typified by James Eastland," De Blasio wrote on Twitter. "Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to ‘the pursuit of dead n*ggers.’"
"It’s past time for apologies or evolution from [Biden]," he added in a followup tweet. "He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party."
The recent criticisms of Biden are increasing each day. While Biden has maintained his comfortable lead in the polls, the field has tightened in recent weeks. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has managed to leapfrog Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in several key polls, while others have fluctuated up and down in the single digits.
Next week, 20 candidates will travel to Miami for the first primary debates. It will be Biden’s first time going head to head with Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, as well as 7 others.
With Biden as a the primary target, he is open to a whole host of attacks — and it appears several candidates are already getting a head start.
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