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Biden’s gaffes is worrying Democrats

Joe Biden’s string of gaffes is raising questions among Democrats about his ability to beat President Trump in 2020.
Biden made headlines three times in the last week by misspeaking.
Over the weekend he mistakenly said he had met as vice president with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“Those kids in Parkland came to see me when I was vice president,” he told reporters in Iowa.
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The Parkland school was attacked by a mass shooter and many of the students were turned into gun control activists in an incident in 2018 — more than a year after Biden’s vice presidency ended.
That blunder followed another two days earlier when Biden, 76, told an audience of Asian and Hispanic voters that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.”
Biden later told reporters he botched the comment he’s delivered many times and meant to say “wealthy kids.”
“On the spot, I explained it,” he said. “At that very second, I explained it. And so the fact of the matter is that I don’t think anybody thinks that I meant anything other than what I meant.”
Earlier that day, Biden also declared in a speech at the Iowa State Fair, “We choose science over fiction. We choose truth over facts.”
The rash of gaffes are poking holes in Biden’s argument that he is the most electable candidate in the very crowded Democratic primary field.
Biden is the clear Democratic front-runner, in part because of his years serving as President Obama’s vice president. He has leaned into the argument that he is the candidate best poised to defeat Trump, and supporters have questioned whether some of his liberal rivals would be weaker in a general election battle.
The gaffes could threaten Biden’s position at a time when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been on the rise and he faces a difficult contest in the Iowa caucuses.
“The substance of individual gaffes may be negligible but they’re a proxy for his political endurance, which some feel is waning, particularly as Warren is creeping up in the polls,” said Democratic strategist Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party.
While Biden has always been known for verbal slip-ups, the recent mistakes are also coming at a time when he is facing questions about his age.
They also have given openings to President Trump, who last week said his potential rival wasn’t playing with a “full deck.”
Trump over the weekend took to Twitter to dig in further.
“Does anybody really believe he is mentally fit to be president?” Trump wrote. “We are ‘playing’ in a very big and complicated world. Joe doesn’t have a clue.”
Biden aides and allies are downplaying the mistakes, saying the electorate doesn’t care about gaffes. What they want, Team Biden says, is a candidate who can defeat Trump.
Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders in an appearance Monday on CNN said Biden had immediately corrected himself on the white kids remark.
She challenged the media to “elevate” its discussion.
“This is a press narrative, not a voter narrative,” she said, adding that it does not register with the American people.
Pointing to Biden’s gaffe on meeting with the students from Parkland, Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield said the former vice president was the antithesis of Trump in some of the nation’s darkest hours.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a president who consoles Americans in their time of need so often that he sometimes mistakes the timing?” Bedingfield wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “But even more so, would it be nice to have a president who will actually prevent these tragedies?”
She linked to a story in The Hill about Biden praising Parkland students for their work on gun control, while she retweeted another news outlet’s report on Biden’s gaffe.
Privately, Biden allies acknowledged the slip-ups could have some impact on their campaign if their candidate isn’t more careful.
“It isn’t great,” one longtime ally acknowledged. But at the same time, the ally added, “This isn’t new and it’s not worse than normal.”
Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo, a veteran of presidential campaigns, said people know Biden is prone to verbal missteps and suggested it might not hurt him that much.
Biden’s “slip of the tongue is already built into how the public views him,” he said.
At the same time, the mistakes also have been seen as a Biden weakness.
When Biden was making a decision about whether he would enter the 2020 fray, Obama also told advisers and confidants that he was concerned about his former partner’s ability to stick his foot in his mouth from time to time.
Democratic donors say the worry for Biden is if voters see the mistakes as opportunities for Trump.
Democrats have been focused on how their various candidates might fare on a debate stage against Trump, and the Biden gaffes have received the wrong kind of attention in that context.
“If I’m being totally honest, that’s always been a concern,” one Democratic donor said. “And it’s only worse now because he’s older.”