But as Biden prepared to give an address Tuesday night, the scene looked nothing like his raucous victory rally in Los Angeles just seven days ago.
This time, with the coronavirus outbreak prompting Biden and Sanders to scale back their campaign events, there were no crowds of screaming supporters or vegan activists storming the stage. Instead, a notably calm Biden delivered a measured speech calling for unity while also appealing directly to Sanders’s supporters.
“Replacing a president who demeans and demonizes people with a president who believes in empathy, compassion and respect for everyone, it is my hope that today’s divisiveness will soon be over,” Biden said. “We’re a decent, brave, resilient people. We are better than this moment we’re in. We just need to remember who we are. This is the United States of America, there is not a single thing we cannot do if we do it together.”
As Biden’s words circulated Tuesday night, many called them presidential, a sign of leadership and a contrast to President Trump’s bluster. The moment came hours after Biden was widely criticized for swearing at a voter during a campaign stop in Detroit after the pair got into an argument over gun rights.
“Joe Biden’s speech tonight was inclusive, soft-spoken, empathetic, and positive,” journalist Dan Rather tweeted. “It was about decency, dignity, and honor. … It suited him well and may bode for a heck of a showdown of style and substance in November.”
“To all those who have been knocked down, to all those who have been counted out, left behind, this is your campaign,” the 77-year-old said Tuesday night. “Just over a week ago, many of the pundits declared that this candidacy was dead. Now, we’re very much alive.”
Even with Biden maintaining his momentum toward clinching the Democratic nomination, some expressed concern about the former vice president’s ability to rally support from Sanders’s passionate base. Biden is still some distance from reaching the 1,991 delegates needed for a first-ballot victory at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee this summer, but his recent performance is a strong indicator that he will probably continue to build his lead, The Washington Post’s Dan Balz reported.
On Tuesday, CNN’s Van Jones described the situation as “a very dangerous moment" for the Democratic Party.
“You have an insurgency about to be defeated. What do you do with the people you defeat?” Jones asked. “Last time Bernie Sanders got beaten, there was an assumption that all his people were just going to fall in line and vote against Trump and there was not enough care for the concern and the pain of his base.”
During Tuesday night’s speech, Biden made an effort to address those concerns by speaking about Sanders and his backers in a way that some viewers considered “respectful and welcoming."
“I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion,” Biden said. “We share a common goal and together we’ll defeat Donald Trump. … We’re going to bring this nation together.”
Biden went on to provide a glimpse of what the country could look like with him as president, noting that the “ultimate goal” of the Democratic Party is “restoring decency, dignity and honor to the White House."
“At this moment when there is so much fear in the country, and there’s so much fear across the world, we need American leadership. We need presidential leadership that’s honest, trusted, truthful and steady,” he said. “If I’m given the honor of becoming your president, I promise you I’ll strive to give the nation that leadership every day.”
To conclude, Biden turned to Irish poet Seamus Heaney for inspiration.
“I truly believe it’s in our power, for the first time in a long time because of what’s happened in the past three years, to make hope and history rhyme,” he said, referencing one of Heaney’s verses. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
Some used the speech to hit back at Biden’s critics who have argued that the longtime politician is unlikely to beat Trump. Several people opined that they preferred the “quiet, deliberate, calm Joe Biden” to the “loud, herky-jerky, yelling Joe Biden” who appeared at the Los Angeles rally on Super Tuesday.
“Quiet, measured Joe Biden is a very effective Joe Biden,” tweeted David Axelrod, who was an adviser to President Barack Obama.