Joe Biden should focus on the issues voters care for in face of accusations

Joe Biden should focus on the issues voters care for in face of accusations
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Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Biden: 'More than one African American woman' being considered for VP Liberal group asks Klobuchar to remove herself from VP consideration because of prosecutorial record MORE has now made his first public remarks about the allegation of sexual assault made against him by a former aide Tara Reade. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, denied the accusation amid growing pressure to address the claim. The allegation creates a difficult situation for Biden and Democratic leaders, particularly in light of the leading role that the party has played in the #MeToo movement and in encouraging women to speak out about sexual assault and harassment.

In an effort to balance his denial with support for the #MeToo movement, Biden unequivocally asserted that the incident “never happened,” saying that “women have the right to be heard” but “in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters.” Yet following this statement, the niece of one of his former Senate opponents came forward and has claimed that Biden told her that she was “well endowed” when she was a teenager.

Regardless of the truth behind these accusations, it has become clear the issue of Biden and sexual harassment is not going away anytime soon. To overcome this challenge, Biden needs to shift the conversation away from these accusations toward positive messages about his candidacy. He can do so by focusing on the national issues that voters care about, such as health care and economic stability, and he should also consider an early announcement of his choice of a woman for vice president.

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Put another way, the full renunciation of these claims and the articulation of his health care and economic agenda, along with the announcement of Kamala Harris or Amy Klobuchar to be his candidate for vice president in the next few weeks, can do as much for his candidacy as about anything else that the former vice president might do at this point.

By focusing on smart policy solutions for Americans, Biden would shift the conversation while emphasizing his ability to provide steady leadership in response to the coronavirus crisis in a way that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE has thus far failed to. More than half of voters say they disapprove of how Trump is handling the pandemic, according to a Emerson College survey last week. Biden also leads Trump on who could better handle a crisis at 47 percent to 38 percent, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll.

Given this position of Trump, the ability of Biden to articulate how he will fix health care, get Americans back to work, and keep the country safe will be central to his success in the election. As he faces allegations, it would help to move up the announcement of his candidate for vice president, as doing so could consolidate support from women and progressives, and it would provide his candidacy with a trusted advocate who could speak to his record in office of championing the issues women face.

His running mate will be in a better position to attack Trump for his history of mistreating women in a way that Biden is now unable to. Moreover, his candidate for vice president could also more effectively refute charges of hypocrisy regarding the response Biden made on the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, as well as his statements about the #MeToo movement, as Biden has had trouble countering these charges himself.

Considering the conservative media made an example of the allegations by Reade for over a week, and now the mainstream media, including the New York Times, has called for a full airing and assessment of the claims, these allegations present obstacles for Biden. Yet the specific substance of the allegations by Reade has changed over time, raising up questions about her credibility and adding uncertainty to the situation.

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According to a report by the Associated Press, Reade said she described her issues with Biden in a formal complaint, but she did not use the term “sexual harassment.” Instead, she remembers the terms “uncomfortable” and “retaliation.” Yet she then disputed the story and said it is “not true.” It is notable that the media is more interested in these types of stories than voters are. We do not have to look any further than in 2016, when Trump won the election in the face of more serious allegations and a lewd tape with him bragging about inappropriately touching women.

Even if we accept the apparent reality that Trump is an exception to the rule, having overcome scandals that would sink other candidates, voters remain invested in the issues that impact their lives and their families, not uncorroborated claims about what Biden may or may not have done more than 20 years ago. Biden can get through these troubling accusations, but doing so will require bold action with a policy agenda and a running mate in order to move past these challenges he currently faces.

Douglas Schoen is a consultant who served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His latest book is “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”