Over at Politico, the great Jeff Greenfield observes Joe Biden “has actually not had that much experience in televised debates with multiple candidates. Indeed, his best performances have come in his two vice presidential debates; one-on-one contests with a single adversary whose arguments were familiar, and with plenty of speaking time to flex his storytelling muscles. Until this year, he has never found himself in a crowded debate as a front-runner, where he is the clear target of opportunity. Thus far, he has seemed unprepared for the challenge.”
There’s one more factor working against Biden tonight. The geniuses at the Democratic National Committee and ABC decided that tonight’s ten-candidate debate will be three hours. The high-pressure circumstances of a live nationally-televised debate are mentally and physically taxing to many candidates. The previous debates were two hours and change. It is not difficult to imagine Biden (or any of the septuagenarian candidates) fading a bit in that third hour. Only a limited number of people will be interested in watching all three hours; millions of people see what happened the day after in short segments shared on social media. Biden could have a pretty good night for the first two hours or so, and then a bad gaffe or lapse at the end, and that would become the big story.