Posing as an independent pundit while a de facto spokesperson for the Democratic establishment, Neera Tanden generally should be ignored. However, she makes a legitimate point when arguing "Blasting Obama was so moronically stupid. It's mind boggling to me. It's a sign campaigns are listening to the wrong signals, which is usually a sign a campaign is off.:
Wrapping oneself in the flag of Obama in a Democratic primary campaign is similar to the strategy of conservative candidates in the past, who would wrap themselves in the American flag. Therefore, criticizing Barack Obama is a gamble while turning a blind eye to any failure of his is playing it safe, a logical strategy for someone in the top one or two tiers of candidates.
As Matt Stoller tweets, "Obama was a bad President. That's the subtext of all the tension on stage. They can't say it." (Actually, Obama's wasn't a bad presidency, merely one of missed opportunities, some unintentional, others not.)
Yet, if cognitive dissonance was created by implied shots at Obama while any criticism of him is risky business, why did seven of the nine Democratic candidates at Wednesday's debate not named "Joseph Robinette Biden" address him as "Vice President" or "Mr. Vice President?"
Joe Biden still leads the pack. He still leads it through two debates in which it was clear that Joe Biden is not clear. He generally is conspicuously to the right of the party caucus and its voters, awkwardly struggling while wearing his record as anchor, at times befuddled or confused. The former vice-president is the preferred candidate of Democrats for one reason and one reason only: he served President Barack Obama loyally for eight years.
Nonetheless, only Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who were the least negative toward Biden of his nine opponnets (thus reducing the need to address him or his record), refrained from calling him "Vice President Biden" or "Mr. Vice President."
If addressing Biden with the respect of the title he once held was meant to be sarcastic or at least ironic, it failed miserably. My "favorite" was Senator Gillibrand's line "So I understand- Mr. Vice President- Mr. Vice President , I respect you deeply. I respect you deeply but ...."
Title matter. In the general election campaign of 2016, Hillary Clinton was usually referred to as "Secretary Clinton," in recognition of her last job. By contrast, reality show personality, actor Donald J. Trump was referred to as "businessman Donald Trump," reinforcing his (false) reputation as a successful businessman and job creator.
Debate hosts, television personalities, pundits, and anyone who prefers may label Joe Biden as "Vice President" Biden. But every time his name is linked with that title, Democratic primary voters are reminded that he unfailingly did as he was asked by Barack Obama, who has reached near sainthood with Democratic voters.
Upon hearing "vice president," some Democratic voters think that is the closest the country can again come to a Barack and Michelle presidency. However they may question policies from the period of 2009-2016, Joe Biden's rivals should not encourage party voters to think "Barack Obama" when they hear "Joe Biden."