In a written statement, Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director, laid down the challenge. “This month is open enrollment for Obamacare. And, at a time when President Trump is attempting to take away health care coverage from millions of Americans by challenging Obamacare in the courts or undermining it through executive action, Vice President Joe Biden is taking him on, as he will anyone — Republican or Democrat — who seeks to undo the most monumental reform to our health care system in a generation,” she said.
She explained that Biden would build on Obamacare and then launched a full-out attack on Warren’s Medicare-for-all scheme, declaring that the $9 trillion on employers “would come out of the pockets and paychecks of middle class Americans and a new financial transaction tax that would impact investments that many middle class Americans are counting on.” (This was an argument Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made over the weekend.) She also accuses Warren of using a low-overall figure to price the Affordable Care Act, which sets up the middle class to fill the gap later on.
Bedingfield ended with a swipe at Warren’s credibility, arguing that “it’s time to be straight with voters” and protect the ACA.
There are several noteworthy parts in this opening salvo.
First, Biden will need to carry the attack himself out on the stump and in the debates. The latter will require he sharpen and tighten up his delivery, although he can count on some help from other moderates who oppose Medicare-for-all. He is poised to knock back her defense that any challenge to her plan puts the challenger outside the confines of the Democratic Party.
Second, he is hugging former president Barack Obama closer than ever, a smart move to appeal to his large base of African American voters. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he is accusing Warren of destroying Obama’s greatest achievement.
Third, Biden’s campaign hits the electability argument hard, asserting Warren’s plan would be “a drag on Democrats up and down the ticket,” and invoking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has said that there is not even enough support for Medicare-for-All in the Democratic House. “We can’t create real change for people if we can’t win elections, and in 2018 we won back the House promising to protect the Affordable Care Act.” Ouch.
And finally, the Biden camp knows Democratic voters rate Biden’s (and Sanders’s as well) honesty more highly than hers. Biden seems anxious to make this into a character issue, a strategy not unlike the one Sanders used against Hillary Clinton (unsuccessfully) in 2016 when he suggested he was the true friend of the working men and women.
Will this work? It depends on Biden’s ability to rattle and expose Warren as a radical populist who cannot win. Fortunately for Biden, his attack on Warren will get reinforcement from others on the debate stage and perhaps Obama alumni acting as surrogates. The battle is now joined.