Budowsky: Biden's game-changing debate moment

Budowsky: Biden's game-changing debate moment
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When Democratic candidates for president take the stage tonight for the second presidential debate this week, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Panel: Jill Biden's campaign message MORE, the only Democratic candidate who polls consistently suggest would win a decisive victory over President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems MORE, faces the most important moment in his political career. It’s comparable to the day he was wisely chosen by former President Obama to be his running mate and partner in his presidency.

Biden should use the debate to seek common ground with his Democratic opponents and to launch a full-scale and aggressive broadside against the bitterly divisive, chronically deceitful and thoroughly corrupt swampland of the Trump presidency and his Republican sycophants in Congress.

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Biden should use the debate to paint a vivid and compelling portrait of how he would debate and defeat Trump and the horrific values he represents, from acting like America’s first Confederate president who appears to believe that working-class voters are racist, and systematically praises foreign dictators and attacks American allies with actions that alarm and appall friends of freedom around the world.

Biden should use the debate to directly and personally appeal to white working-class voters and charge that as Trump works to make them hate and fear minorities while he governs like the president of the wealthy, Biden will fight to lift their wages, achieve equal pay, and receive better and more affordable health care and education while he will govern — unlike Trump —  as the president for all the people.

Biden should simultaneously appeal to women and minority voters as treasured members of the American family and vow to fight for their higher wages, equal pay, more affordable health care and education and voting rights which he has championed for a lifetime alongside leading Democrats named Kennedy and Obama.

Much has been written and said about Biden’s performance in the first debate. Several key points remain crystal clear. 

A month later, Biden retains a substantial lead over his primary opponents among all Democratic voters. He retains a substantial lead over his primary opponents among black voters, with far more support from this vital constituency than those who attacked him in the first debate, Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Sanders leads Democratic field in Colorado poll MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCastro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report MORE (D-N.J.). Above all, Biden retains a powerful lead in match-up polling against Trump, while similar polling suggests that Harris and Booker would perform far worse than Biden against Trump — which should alarm Democrats who are intensely focused on defeating Trump.

It would be a serious tactical mistake for Biden to use the debate to triangulate himself against more strongly progressive candidates by appearing to demonize the “Medicare for All” proposals or claim that they would undermine ObamaCare, which originally included a public option that Biden and Obama supported.

On health care, one of the most powerful issues against Republicans, Biden supports allowing all Americans to buy into Medicare or a Medicare-like public option without forcing them to give up their private insurance. He should emphasize the seismic and dramatic power of this reform and suggest that every American would have access to the most profound improvement in health care since the creation of Medicare, which would give the most progressive Democrats 90 percent of what they want.

Biden should respectfully note that this kind of proposal generates support from 65-70 percent of voters — while support for a plan that would lead to some 180 million Americans receiving letters that their private insurance is terminated collapses in support to 35 to 40 percent at best. Progressives would fare much better with a plan that would get them 90 percent of the policy they want with a highly popular proposal that helps them win the election, rather than a plan that collapses this support and would help reelect Trump.

While there is legitimate concern about the age issue, a strong, aggressive and futuristic debate performance could do for Biden what JFK’s speech before Protestant leaders in 1960 did to persuade Americans that a Catholic could become a historically successful president.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.