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HORIST: Is attacking Joe Biden a political curse?

HORIST: Is attacking Joe Biden a political curse?

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.

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.

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.

Julian Castro

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.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. mark

    Biden is a curse and a worthless POS

    • bren n texas


  2. Joe S Bruder

    First of all, there were 26 Democrats (at last count) in the race, and it’s inevitable that some are going to drop out for lack of support at some point. You cite 4 examples, when really, the field has narrowed to only a half-dozen viable candidates. I’ll admit, attacking someone because of their age is a risky gambit that can turn on a dime – or a snappy retort like, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience” as Reagan destroyed Walter Mondale in the 1984 Presidential debate.

    If you look at who’s left standing, there’s Biden, of course, who was Vice President to a very popular President. That’s purely name recognition. In reality, I think he will eventually fade because he doesn’t really have any real policy proposals.

    Then there’s Sanders and Warren, the two most progressive candidates. You can smear Sanders and call him a Communist all you want (and other columnists here have), but progressive platforms are popular with Democrats and are not far out of the mainstream either (Independents are mostly on board, only the Neanderthal, whoops, I mean Republican Party are against most of the progressive ideas). Sanders is more of a “take care of people” progressive, and Warren is more of a “take care of consumers” progressive, but they both at least have real policy ideas.

    Next up is Buttigieg, who really has no experience and no policy ideas, but he’s a fresh face, and by god, he’s tenaciously hung on while others have dropped out. He’s either running a pretty lean campaign, or he’s a good fundraiser. He might be a VP pick to help with the Midwest and give a little LGBT credibility.

    After that, there’s self-funded billioniare assholes who want to prevent Democrats from raising their taxes, and a couple of one-idea candidates, but no one with substance. I thought Kamala Harris had a chance to get into the top 5, but she gave up early. I’m guessing she’s a possible VP pick too, or she might have her sights set on something like SCOTUS.

    So, rather than picking a few that have fallen by the wayside, and trying to come up with a common reason (hint, hint, it’s always money), why not do an honest assesment of who’s left? Ha ha, I forgot who I’m talking to!