Joe Biden made three pledges during his debate last night with Bernie Sanders that would haunt him in a normal election. The former vice president said there would be no deportations of illegal immigrants during the first month of his term. He said there would be no ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers despite its easing the crisis along the southern border. And he promised no new fracking in a Biden administration.
Biden has tacked left as he’s moved closer to the Democratic nomination. Recently he embraced Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan as well as a modified version of Sanders’s free college proposal. His leftward swerves on immigration and the environment have the most potential to hurt him in a general election. Immigration is a powerful motivating force for President Trump’s base. And fracking is an indispensable part of the economy, especially in a battleground state such as Pennsylvania. Expect the Trump campaign to turn Biden’s three ‘no’s’ into fodder for attack ads.
But there’s an asterisk. The coronavirus guarantees that 2020 won’t be a normal election. The economy is headed for recession. Developed nations are in varying stages of shut down. The spreading infection has upended social and civic life throughout the world. No one knows how things will shake out. And the next two months will make or break Donald Trump’s presidency regardless of what Joe Biden says or does.