What Kamala Harris and AOC can't make Joe Biden do

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CNN's Van Jones reacts to former Vice President Joe Biden's performance against fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris during NBC News' Democratic debate.

Posted: Jul 6, 2019 8:40 PM
Updated: Jul 6, 2019 8:40 PM

Anyone expecting to see a major reboot in the Biden campaign or a Joe Biden 2.0 just doesn't know the former vice president. He knows what he knows, which isn't everything, and is not likely to refashion his image based on a poll or a debate performance.

But the fact that he sat down for an extended interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo does indicate that Biden and his team recognize they need to do some things differently. First, Biden has to get out on the campaign trail more, something he accomplished over the past few days in Iowa. Second, he needs to be more accessible to the media, which help shape the view of many Democratic voters in the early voting states. In short, he needs to not look like the nomination is his to lose, but instead his to win.

Finally, he needs a better pushback to the kinds of charges directed at him in the Democratic presidential xebate by Sen. Kamala Harris. Here was one of the more interesting parts of the Cuomo interview. Biden made clear he was surprised not by the attack, but by the way Harris delivered it, in such a personal way. He implicitly charged Harris with a bit of demagoguery — that she criticized his position while holding essentially the same position herself. But he visibly pulled back from elaborating, saying he is determined to stay above what he calls the scrum.

Is this a good strategy? Can he survive in a modern campaign while not going personally after other Democrats? That remains to be seen. What's not in doubt is he's not likely to change his views.

The rest of the interview was a much clearer expression of how he intends to run this race and where he stands on the issues. Apart from his own personal philosophy and ideology, I know Biden will not lurch to the left to be nominated. He doesn't believe that's where Democratic voters are. He smartly cited the 2018 midterm results. While much of the media focused on Alexandria Ocasio Cortez' victory, Biden's team was watching Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative who upset Republican Dave Brat in Virginia's 7th District, which has been reliably Republican for decades.

The Democratic victory in 2018 was the result of center-left Democrats winning against more left-wing opponents in primaries. According to the Third Way think tank, 33 of the 40 Democrats who won in swing districts defeated someone on their left on primary day.

Biden also doesn't want to do anything that will open himself up to Trump-style attacks on election day in November. That's why he'll stick with his version of Medicare for those who want it rather than Medicare for All. Again, from Third Way, no Democratic candidate in a swing district ran an ad touting Medicare for All.

As Ron Brownstein rightly pointed out Friday, Biden is the only top-tier candidate who is for preserving the private insurance market for those who have it and want to keep it. Biden's team believes that is a key element in winning or losing the health care debate next fall.

He also made the point that he believes our system of political asylum works if it is properly administered, following both humane practices and the law. That puts him at odds with many of the candidates running against him and some Democratic party voters. But Biden is betting that a plan to reform immigration policy is both the better approach and inoculates the party from charges that it is for open borders.

On style, this interview was a very good performance by Biden. Make no mistake, he's no Obama or Clinton. His strength is his passion, not his performance skills, so don't expect major changes there.

In the end, some of Biden's tactics will change as the campaign moves forward, but his strategy won't. The voters will decide if he's got it right.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32888

Reported Deaths: 1188
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds259141
DeSoto172418
Madison132635
Jones114049
Neshoba100473
Rankin98213
Harrison96911
Lauderdale92280
Forrest91643
Scott77915
Jackson68917
Copiah62015
Washington61710
Leake58919
Lee56220
Holmes56041
Oktibbeha55227
Wayne54515
Warren53218
Yazoo5236
Lowndes50913
Grenada5067
Leflore50053
Lamar4917
Lincoln48434
Pike45416
Monroe42534
Sunflower4208
Lafayette4094
Covington3755
Attala36523
Panola3646
Bolivar35618
Newton3479
Simpson3453
Adams31518
Tate31011
Pontotoc3046
Marion30012
Chickasaw28719
Claiborne28410
Winston2808
Noxubee2728
Jasper2676
Pearl River26532
Marshall2583
Clay24911
Smith22911
Union21810
Clarke21025
Coahoma2056
Walthall2056
Lawrence1872
Yalobusha1807
Kemper17914
Carroll16811
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1454
Calhoun1414
Montgomery1392
Tippah13811
Itawamba1378
Hancock13413
Webster12711
Jefferson Davis1134
Tunica1133
Jefferson1103
Prentiss1103
Greene1059
Amite1043
Wilkinson939
George913
Tishomingo891
Quitman811
Choctaw754
Alcorn742
Perry724
Stone692
Franklin452
Benton420
Sharkey370
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 46424

Reported Deaths: 1032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5486155
Montgomery4246105
Mobile4219136
Tuscaloosa234644
Marshall177011
Madison15548
Lee143337
Shelby135724
Morgan11285
Walker98525
Baldwin9809
Elmore96215
Dallas9109
Franklin90216
Etowah79013
DeKalb7615
Chambers64327
Autauga63612
Butler63228
Tallapoosa60469
Russell5680
Unassigned52226
Limestone5181
Houston5106
Lauderdale5016
Lowndes47821
Cullman4705
Pike4525
Colbert4266
St. Clair4162
Escambia4118
Calhoun3875
Coffee3863
Covington3727
Bullock36810
Barbour3572
Talladega3237
Marengo31711
Hale31521
Dale3020
Jackson3022
Wilcox2948
Sumter28512
Clarke2836
Winston2663
Chilton2622
Blount2511
Monroe2412
Pickens2386
Marion23613
Conecuh2177
Randolph2169
Macon1999
Choctaw19712
Bibb1961
Greene1868
Perry1791
Henry1363
Crenshaw1253
Washington1187
Lawrence1090
Cherokee1037
Geneva840
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa591
Cleburne391
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