LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Michigan gave Democrats what they needed Tuesday in affirming Joe Biden’s momentum and making it highly improbable now that they’ll end up with a socialist as their presidential nominee in November.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders couldn’t repeat his upset Michigan primary victory of four years ago. This time, the establishment candidate trounced the revolutionary. Sanders may stay in the race, but he’s going nowhere.

In former Vice President Biden, Democrats have the mainstream standard bearer they have to have to beat President Donald Trump.

The question, though, is whether they can push Biden into the White House before he walks them off the dock.

Tuesday was a good day for Biden in the vote count — he also scored key wins in Missouri and Mississippi — but a disaster on the campaign trail. A bizarre confrontation with a construction worker in Detroit exposed the flaws that sent his campaign into a tailspin before it was revived by black voters and a Democratic Party desperate for anybody but Bernie.

Just a few weeks ago, widespread concern about Biden’s lucidity and ability to excite the electorate dropped him out of the front-runner status he had enjoyed since entering the presidential race. Too many gaffes and too little oomph made Biden seem past his time. Sanders appeared on his way to the nomination, or at least to a brokered convention.

But Biden’s victory in South Carolina — on the strength of the African American vote — gave the Democratic establishment what they needed to craft a narrative of a comeback kid, newly energized and ready to lead the party. The makeover carried him to Super Tuesday wins in several states Sanders was supposed to capture.

After that, all Biden had to do is stand there and look reasonably presidential, which shouldn’t be so hard, considering he spent eight years as president-in-waiting. Popular wisdom was that the anti-Trump vote would be strong enough to carry into the Oval Office any Democrat who didn’t scare voters.

That may be true. But Joe Biden is still Joe Biden, and the 2020 model is even more prone to planting land mines in his own path and then stepping on them.

The embarrassing “where am I” moments and tongue twisting continue — “I’m an O’Biden-Bama Democrat” — keeping alive concerns about his faculties and reminding voters that despite the hair plugs and chemical peels, he’s 77 and shows it.

The incident Tuesday at the under-construction Detroit auto plant will accelerate those worries.

The worker accused Biden of wanting to take away Americans’ guns, causing this eruption from the Democratic front-runner:

“You’re full of s---. I support the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment — just like right now, if you yelled ‘fire,’ that’s not free speech. From the beginning I have a shotgun. I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. My sons hunt. Guess what? You’re not allowed to own any weapon. I’m not taking your gun away at all.”

Biden was cranky, confused and incoherent. “You’re not allowed to own any weapon”? Wonder how denying an established right will play with moderate voters who are also gun owners?

Under pressure, Biden lost his composure. He couldn’t handle being challenged. He got vulgar and insulting. He turned into a bully.

That sounds a lot like the guy Democrats hope Biden will replace. Voters looking for maturity and stability in their president may decide that Biden is as deficient in those qualities as is Trump.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

Sign up for the Nolan Out Loud morning report coming in March at detroitnews.com/newsletters.

Watch Finley on DPTV’s One Detroit at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/nolan-finley/2020/03/10/finley-biden-long-way-presidential/5017032002/