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What Did Biden Just Do?

Biden's DNC convention speech didn't just calm nervous Democrats, he blew away the expectations.
August 21, 2020
What Did Biden Just Do?
(From L) Jill Biden, husband former vice-president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Senator from California and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris greet supporters outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, on August 20, 2020. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

This wasn’t the convention Trump promised us. For weeks, we had been told that this would be the Antifa Convention, headlined by Senile Joe, who couldn’t string together a coherent sentence. We were told that Biden Democrats were virulent Marxists who hated God and America, and wanted to destroy all things good and beautiful.


Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 73 days to go until the election; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day.

Seriously, I try not to be too cynical about these things. But I guess I’ve gotten so used to let-downs and disappointments that what happened last night came as something of a surprise. The Democrats not only did not screw up their convention: they ended on an impressive note. Contra Trump’s predictions, it was a patriotic celebration of empathy, and decency, wrapped in a devastating indictment.

Who knew?

Maybe we’ll have forgotten about Joe Biden’s speech by next week, and maybe it won’t produce anything like a traditional convention bounce. But damn. The old guy brought it last night.

Biden didn’t just calm nervous Democrats, he blew away the expectations. As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted, “Trump’s campaign invested an enormous amount of energy in suggesting that Biden couldn’t manage to appear in public with any competence, which seems like a bar that wasn’t useful to set.”

“For once,” Politico’s Tim Alberta tweeted, “I’m struggling to locate the appropriate sports metaphor…. but we’re watching an old ballplayer whose skills have diminished turn in a career-best performance in the biggest game of his life. Remarkable to witness.”

Even the folks at Fox News gave it high mark, and you know that the Orange One was watching, so brace yourself for the Tweet Storms to come. “I thought it was an enormously effective speech,” said Fox’s Chris Wallace. “Remember, Donald Trump has been talking for months about Joe Biden as mentally shot … I thought that he blew a hole, a big hole in the characterization.”

Because I’m given to contrarian takes, one moment, in particular, hit me. The tributes to Biden’s late son, Beau, were moving, and the video of the young boy talking about his stutter was inspiring and emotional.

But the signature moment may have been when Hunter Biden appeared on the screen.

This has been the constant Trumpist taunt: Where’s Hunter? Where’s the problem son? With the messy life and tacky record?

And suddenly, there he was, introducing his father in the most important speech of the life. The usual precincts of special media reacted predictably. Trump spox Kayleigh McEnany pounced: “WHERE IS HUNTER? We found him at the virtual DNC!”

Others wondered why Biden would put Hunter on TV. This is what I wrote:


It was a signature move for a man who isn’t about to sacrifice his family for his politics. Maybe that’s what made it so jarring for the cynics.

On Earth 2.0, this would be an extraordinary event. “Top Republican National Security Officials Say They Will Vote for Biden.”

“In a letter released hours before Joe Biden delivered his nomination acceptance speech, over 70 senior officials called President Trump ‘unfit to lead’ and outlined their support for his opponent.”

Before last night’s speech, I’d planned to devote most of today’s newsletter to the arrest of Steve Bannon and the latest Trumpian grift. But I’ll leave that to others because a case of severe schadenfreude like this might actually be dangerous to my health.

The whole thing is just too delicious and on point. It is as if the scriptwriters had opted for the best possible end of season twist that tied in all the best/worst characters in one satisfying climax.

The scam that brought Bannon down was, after all “the wall”, which was the primeval grift of the Trump campaign. Like Birtherism, Trump’s promise to build the wall was the Original Con of the Trump political enterprise. He would build the wall and Mexico would pay for it.

The wall was the quintessential Trumpian fraud, combining crude nativism with stupidity and implausibility. Bannon & Co. figured they could cash in by getting the rubes to pony up for a privately built wall that was never going to happen.

And, naturally, it attracted all of the usual gang of misfit toys, from Sheriff David Clarke to Don Jr. And of course, Charlie Kirk endorsed the swindle. And Marsha Blackburn. And Louis Gohmert. And Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft.  And Kris Kobach, who said that he had Trump’s personal, official blessing for the fleecing of the marks.

This is all part of a larger pattern that you could spot from outer space. As Amanda Carpenter wrote yesterday:

Anyone noticing a pattern here? It’s about as obvious as Trump’s makeup line on his jaw. They’re grifters. And like magnets, they have a strange way of attracting other grifters. President Trump is like a galactic electromagnet that brings grifters together into a self-collapsing black hole of suckage.

Okay, who’s up for some white knuckle polling?  When I started this countdown journal, I said that I’d keep track of how we saw this race in real time. That includes the polls we pay attention to, and the ones we want to ignore.

I’m constantly asking this question: What are we missing? Are we getting this wrong? So, in that spirit:


Meanwhile we get this poll out of Minnesota, showing Biden and Trump essentially tied.

The latest survey from the Trafalgar Group finds Biden at 46.9 percent and Trump at 46.5 percent. Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen gets 3.7 percent support, while 1.7 percent are undecided and 1.2 percent said they’d support someone else.

And this potential buzzkill out of Pennsylvania, which shows Biden up by just 4 points.

As Democrat Joe Biden formally accepts his party’s presidential nomination, a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll shows him with a narrow lead over Republican President Donald Trump in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania.

Biden drew support from 49% of likely state voters and 45% backed Trump, when those leaning toward a particular candidate were included. That four-point gap is within the poll’s margin of error.

Reminder: these may be outliers, and we need to average a number of quality polls before coming to any conclusions. As of right now the national Real Clear average has Biden up by 7.6%.

There are 73 days to go.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.