The Democrat presidential candidates who tried to gain momentum by going after frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden have not fared well. The latest victim of the curse – be there one – maybe New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.
Senator Booker dropped out of the presidential race. Based on his polling numbers, he was never really in it anyway. He not only struggled to get out of single digits, he spent much of the more recent weeks of the campaign barely exceeding the margin of error.
In those early days of his campaign, Booker looked as though he had the potential of being a contender. He was getting a fair amount of publicity and his polling numbers were inching up. He garnered the greatest attention, however, when he went on the attack against frontrunner Biden. He chastised the former Vice President for supporting President Clinton’s crime bill that put a lot of minor offenders in prison – mostly minority offenders.
Facing Biden on the debate stage, Booker said:
“This is a crisis in our country because we have treated issues of race and poverty, mental health and addiction with locking people up and not lifting them up. And Mr. Vice President has said that since the 1970s, every major crime bill — every crime bill, major and minor — has had his name on it.”
While Booker may have planned that as his “defining moment,” it turned out to be his “declining moment.” Booker spent the rest of the campaign arguably being one of the most underrated and over-exposed candidates in the field. He retained the patronage of the press, but not so much the voters.
He may have been following the example of California Senator Kamala Harris.
Senator Harris was the first to break away from the multi-candidate lovefest. She took Biden on for his past stand on racial bussing. Not only did she defend the concept of bussing to achieve racial balance in the major urban school systems, Harris drew on her own experience – talking about a little girl she knew who was bussed to a nice school every day. The memorable punchline – figuratively and literally – was: “I was that little girl.”
That performance got Harris her 15 minutes of fame and a boost in her polling number. But it led to a precipitous decline in poll numbers and political contributions. She finally had to exit the race.
Whether former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development could have become a first-tier candidate – meaning rising to double digits in the polls – is debatable. Whatever chance he may have had ended when he attacked Biden on the debate stage. Unlike Booker and Harris, Castro mounted a highly personal attack – suggesting that Biden may be entering his dotage.
In the heat of the exchange, Castro questioned the 77-year-old candidate’s mental acuity. “You mean you cannot remember what you said a few minutes ago?” It was a below-the-belt punch that elicited a groan from the audience.
In many ways, it was a double fault for Castro because it was HE who was mistaken about what Biden had previously said.
For Castro, the decision of the public, pundits and press was swift. By the next day, the discussion was whether Castro had inflicted upon himself a politically fatal blow. The very fact that that was the topic of conversations was answer enough. It can be said that Castro’s comatose campaign never recovered — and he soon discovered that he, too, had no path to the Democrat nomination.
Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took a few jabs at Biden during one of the debates – and he threw in the towel shortly thereafter. But de Blasio’s campaign was stillborn, so we cannot say that he was the victim of the curse.
The interesting thing about the political demise of Booker, Harris and Castro is that they were not done in by the effectiveness or eloquence of any retort, response or rebuttal from Biden. There was no witty response. No comeback. Booker, Harris and Castro seemed to have suffered from the Biden curse. The very temerity of attacking Uncle Joe was enough to send three major candidates into a political tailspin.
So, there ‘tis.