Joe Biden is 'uncoachable' in debates and 'can't stay on the script,' says Democratic strategist

Joe Biden.
(Image credit: JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

It may seem hyperbolic at this stage of the primary, but several political strategists view this week's Democratic debate in Detroit as a crucial moment for former Vice President Joe Biden. And they're mixed on whether he's up for the task.

The consensus is that Biden struggled in the first round of debates last month, delivering a performance Politico described as "anemic." The possibility of a redux in Detroit has some of his own donors and admirers nervous, no matter how — or how much — he prepares.

One Democratic strategist who worked with the Obama campaign team said that even during Biden's time as vice president, he would occasionally flub his words despite undergoing days of preparation for a television spot.

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"It doesn't matter how good the coach is," the strategist told Politico. "He can't stay on the script. He's uncoachable."

Not everyone agrees that Biden is doomed to a bungled performance, though. David Axelrod, who served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama, said Biden's performances on the debate stage during the 2008 Democratic primaries were a major reason why Obama chose the then-senator as his running mate. Axelrod also praised his showing in a 2008 vice presidential debate against Sarah Palin. "There was a lot on the line, we needed a circuit breaker, and he did the job," Axelrod said.

Axelrod said Biden needs to approach the next round of debates with a "sense of urgency," and remain "vigorous" and "engaged" to prove he's up to the job. Read more at Politico.

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.