How did Joe Biden manage to eke out a presidential win after washing up in fourth place in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire?
Co-host Molly Jong-Fast still wants to know. “I’ve spent much of the week talking about being wrong about Cuomo, but I would like to take a minute to talk about being wrong about Biden,” she tells NBC News’ Jonathan Allen, co-author of the new book Lucky: How Biden Barely Won the Presidency, on the latest episode of The New Abnormal.
While Molly and others were writing Biden’s political obituary in February 2020, his staffers were suggesting the former vice president refinance his house to put money into his dying campaign, Allen says.
“It’s not the most unheard of thing for a candidate to do it,” he says, but “a presidential candidate doesn’t do that. And the subtext of going to him to tell him that is that it might be time to just wrap up the campaign. To Joe Biden’s everlasting credit, he believed in himself.”
Allen describes how Biden’s key endorsement from South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn came about—and how the coronavirus pandemic provided another key to his win.
“COVID hits and Biden is taken off the trail, and he is able to be scripted,” Allen says. “For his entire career, he’s been undisciplined and reporters love him because he’ll talk, but he’s undisciplined. And now his campaign has the ability to control his message and choose when he talks and how he talks and who he talks to. And he’s able to make those discretionary decisions along with his advisers. And meanwhile, Trump is on the stage at the White House, telling people to inject disinfectant to combat COVID.”
Allen also talks about whether Biden will be able to unify the country and get any Republican votes to get legislation passed. “I think that there are things on which Biden will be able to get votes from moderate Republicans, sort of independent-thinking Republicans. The converse is some of these bills are going to be incredibly difficult for them to vote against. I mean, think about voting against the COVID relief bill. That’s… an entire campaign’s worth of ads for an opponent. Marco Rubio is going to vote against this COVID relief bill, and he’s going to have a Democratic opponent next time. There’s several that are thinking about getting in, including Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy from Florida.”
Also in the episode, Molly is joined by famed scientist and physician Eric Topol, who shares how he thinks the COVID-19 vaccinations are going and how hard the U.K. variant will hit the U.S.
The U.K. variant, he says, will hit hard in Florida, California, and Texas, but he’s not so worried about the South African and Brazilian variants, which “don’t seem to be nearly as infectious.”
While the U.S. is finally averaging 2 million doses a day, it needs to prioritize giving one dose to each person to get ahead of the spreading U.K. variant, he says. “We’ve actually been pushing for that in the U.S. to get ready for this variant that we’re going to be hit with, but there isn’t receptivity at the White House, or with Tony Fauci. We think that just for a month to go with the one dose, and then get these people their second dose a little bit delayed, would be really advantageous, but we haven’t had much success in pushing for that.”
Topol also calls Trump’s decision to cover up the fact that he was vaccinated a “travesty.”
“We have politicization of vaccines,” he says. “We have a remarkable gap between the Democrats and Republicans as to their interest in getting a vaccine, where only about half of Republicans want to get a vaccine. This is a serious issue because had Trump been proud of having received the vaccine, he could have helped sway a lot of the people who follow him... So the fact that he hid this in January, it’s really a shame because it was a really great opportunity to help bring more people along.”
Last, Jong-Fast interviews Jenna Griswold, Colorado’s secretary of state, about its record turnout and stellar model for voter access, and whether that can be brought nationwide with H.R. 1.