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Coming Soon: A More Feisty Biden Campaign

If he wants to be president, Joe Biden has to stop the bleeding of his support.

Joe Biden’s campaign is undergoing a shift in strategy. Following the candidate’s lackluster performance in the first round of Democratic primary debates, supporters are calling on the former vice president to take a more aggressive stance with the other candidates. Rather than staying above the fray, Biden and his surrogates are about to come out swinging.

At first, Biden could afford to avoid getting his hands dirty. After his announcement in April, his share of the Democratic voters rose above 40 percent in the Real Clear Politics average. But after a heated exchange with Kamala Harris in the June debate, Biden plunged to the mid-20s. At this point, he is still the frontrunner but momentum is not on his side.

“There are people that are all over Joe to get more aggressive,” a Democratic source told Politico. “People are very nervous.  If he doesn’t come out strong and swinging, you’re going to see a lot of people leaving him.”

Under the new strategy, Biden is more directly referencing his record as Barack Obama’s vice president, often referring to the former president as “Barack,” and his surrogates are making more direct attacks on Harris. Biden, who rarely does interviews, even sat down with CNN.

In a reversal, Biden also apologized to a cheering black crowd in South Carolina for citing segregationists Herman Talmadge of Georgia and James Eastland of Mississippi as people that he worked with in Congress. Noting that Congress was “was full of segregationists” at the time and that he felt he was right to work with “those who we find repugnant to make our system of government work for all of us,” Biden nevertheless said that he was “wrong a few weeks ago, to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again” and that he was “sorry for any of the pain or misconception that I caused anybody.”

“Until the debate, nobody had attempted to land a critical punch,” said former state Democratic Party chair Dick Harpootlian, a Biden surrogate. “They’re responding to deal with issues that arise from someone attacking the vice president’s record.”

Now Biden is trying to defend his record as well as establish himself as the presumptive challenger to Donald Trump. In addition to defending his record on civil rights and health care, Biden will also deliver a speech on Thursday in New York that will lay out his foreign policy goals and critique President Trump’s performance on international relations. The Biden campaign seems to realize, however, that it must go through Harris to face Trump.

“Coming out of the debates, something the campaign felt strongly about is, we needed to be assertive on what his record was, both in terms of moving forward but to also demonstrate to the political world at large that we weren’t going to take that sort of thing without a response,” a senior Biden adviser said in Politico. “We went out and tried to, best we can — especially with a slick and slippery person — try to pin Kamala Harris down on her own record.”

For now, Joe Biden remains at the top of the heap despite numerous predictions of his impending failure. In a race where the other top candidates are far-left radicals such as Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, Biden benefits from being the only major candidate in the moderate lane while the other top-tier candidates split the progressive vote.

Nevertheless, if he wants to be president, Joe Biden has to stop the bleeding of his support to other candidates. To do that, he has to show voters that he is quick on his feet and strong enough to fend off both Kamala Harris and Donald Trump. The next debate will be a make-or-break moment for Joe Biden.

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