Joe Biden undercut the “electability” strategy his campaign team has been pushing rigorously in recent weeks, claiming on Thursday that “almost anybody” could beat President Donald Trump in 2020.
Biden, who has argued that he is the best candidate to win back the White House for Democrats, made remarks during an interview in South Carolina for the Washington Post’s Cape Up podcast with Jonathan Capehart. During the interview, Capehart told Biden an anecdote about how his Aunt Gloria was supporting him, although she preferred other candidates because she believes “it’s gonna take an old white person to beat an old white person.”
“Well, I hope she’s wrong. I don’t think that’s the case,” Biden said before arguing many African Americans held the same perspective because of an “overwhelming concern about Trump remaining as president.”
“Your aunt could be right. I don’t think she is, when the assertion is made that … the only person that can beat Trump is, ‘an old white guy,'” he added. “I just think that … there’s other people in the race who can beat Trump.”
When pushed to answer if he had a specific candidate in mind, Biden replied nonchalantly that “almost anybody” could beat Trump in the general election.
“Well, I think almost anybody,” he said. “They’d all make a better president than Trump, no matter who’s left in the race.”
The answer was surprising given that Biden and his campaign team have argued that the biggest draw for him being the Democrat nominee is that most polls show him with the best chance of beating the president in a head-to-head matchup. The argument has not only been used to repel concerns from the left that Biden is not progressive enough, but also to squash doubts — coming from even the staunchest of allies — that the former vice president is not up to the rigors of being commander in chief after a string of recent gaffes.
The former vice president’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, exhibited the strategy best this month during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire.
“Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election,” Jill Biden said. “And maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, ‘Okay, I sorta personally like so and so better,’ but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.”
“I know that not all of you are committed to my husband, and I respect that,” she said. “But I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability, and who’s going to win this race.”
Biden’s campaign has doubled down on the message since then. When unveiling its first campaign ad of the 2020 cycle last week, Biden’s team took direct aim at the issue of electability. In a 60-second ad currently running across Iowa’s media markets, Biden’s team made no mention of the candidate’s personal story or policy proposals, instead choosing to focus on his standing in recent polls.
“We know in our bones this election is different. The stakes are higher. The threat more serious. We have to beat Donald Trump,” the ad’s narrator states over images of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia. “We have to beat Donald Trump, and all the polls agree that Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job.”