What matters more — that Joe Biden probably put the Democratic race away tonight, or that he told a voter who accused Biden of wanting “to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns” that said voter was “full of s–t”?
Don’t answer too quickly.
Of course it matters that Joe Biden, left for dead just two weeks ago today, has turned into the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from “Ghostbusters,” stomping on the dreams of the Democratic Left with a goofy smile on his face.
This dramatic turnaround has been exciting to watch, and it has certainly excited Biden himself. He’s full of energy and enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. And when you’re a man with a mission, it annoys you to be challenged on tricky and prickly questions.
Last week, as he accepted the endorsement of former Texas Rep. and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, Biden said, “You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort. I’m counting on you. I’m counting on you.”
O’Rourke isn’t just a garden-variety gun controller. Last summer, asked in Virginia what he would say to a gun owner who feared he would seize weaponry, Beto said, “I want to be really clear that that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell them to the government.”
That might have sent a thrill up the leg of the Democratic metrosexual elite but such a view is deeply threatening to Democratic hopes of reversing the surprise Trump 2016 victories in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
One of Biden’s selling points has been that he can talk to the white working-class voters in those states and pull enough of them back to his party to put a spike in Trump’s reelection hopes.
Many of those voters are outdoorsy gun owners, and Biden knows it.
“I support the Second Amendment,” Biden said to the voter who challenged him. “I have a shotgun, I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. My sons hunt. Guess what? You’re not allowed to own any weapon. I’m not taking your gun away at all.”
When the well-informed gun advocate continued to press the point, Biden then called him a “horse’s ass.”
There’s a Rohrshach test at work here. Some think this is bad for Biden because it shows him cussing out a voter. Others think it shows his passion, his plain-spokenness, and his willingness to mix it up.
I think what we saw here was Biden’s good political instincts coming up against the most pressing problem of his race against Donald Trump — he’s trying to play the common-sense moderate when his party has staked out a position on guns that is anything but.
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