If Joe Biden revives his flagging presidential campaign, journalists may record that the revival began this weekend in New Hampshire.
In a series of speeches, Biden finally did what he needed to do weeks ago: He attacked his rivals on health care. He defended the Affordable Care Act, and argued that Democrats should build on it—presumably with some form of public option—rather than embrace a Medicare for All system that bans private insurance. He went after Bernie Sanders by name. “Bernie’s been very honest about it,” Biden declared. “He’s said you’re going to have to raise taxes on the middle class. He says it’s going to end all private insurance.”
This tactical shift was the most politically astute thing Biden has done since he launched his presidential campaign. First, it shows that he’s willing to compete. For months now, Biden has campaigned like it’s the fourth quarter of a game in which he’s far ahead. He’s focused on Trump, not his rivals, in an effort to create the impression that his primary victory is a foregone conclusion. He’s done far fewer events than his chief competitors. And he looked at last month’s debate like someone trying to avoid a blunder, not land a punch.
In so doing, Biden hasn’t only come across as entitled. He’s appeared fragile, if not scared. This weekend he no longer did. For the first time, he looked like a candidate willing to make a direct and substantive case that his centrist instincts are preferable to the party’s recent leftward tilt.