Joe Biden supporters were breathing a collective sigh of relief as the second Democratic presidential debate wound down Wednesday night.
Unlike in the first debate, the aged former vice president had weathered the attacks of his younger and woker opponents over two hours without making any headline-grabbing gaffes. All he had to do was deliver his closing statement along with a routine plug of his campaign website.
One by one, every other candidate looked into the CNN cameras and delivered the obligatory lines. But under the bright lights of the Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan, Biden, 76, got confused.
“If you agree with me, go to ‘Joe 30330′ and help me in this fight,” Biden said, hesitating as he recited the numbers.
That, of course, is not a website. Rather, Biden had apparently tried to direct supporters to his texting platform.
The Biden campaign pretended everything was totally normal, quickly tweeted out an invitation for users to text “Joe” to the number 30330.
I just got off the stage where I shared my bold vision for our future built on uniting our country. Because I know if we work together, there’s nothing we can’t do.
Let's keep our momentum going. If you liked what you heard tonight, text JOE to 30330 and let's get to work. pic.twitter.com/EDIKTYiJB1
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 1, 2019
However, the effort failed to stem the resulting wave of confusion and mockery online.
— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) August 1, 2019
The jokes came from the right.
Poor guy can't even plug his own fundraiser properly! hahaha
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) August 1, 2019
And they came from the left.
Me trying to figure out Joe Biden’s website pic.twitter.com/580k0rIhFA
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 1, 2019
Meanwhile, campaigns and pranksters started buying up similar domain names.
The closest URL — joe30330.com — directed visitors to what appeared to be a spoof campaign, “Josh for America,” which promotes a “no homework in college” platform. The “Donate” button at the top of the site took visitors to a page where they were invited to “donate to our good friend Pete Buttigieg’s campaign.”
https://t.co/jtLkCSFE8i redirects to biden's site https://t.co/JHoOHuzVpi redirects to mayor pete's sitehttps://t.co/YHbH79Sykp redirects to … some guy named joshhttps://t.co/GKSxCBzqia goes to … a real estate co. https://t.co/y8OkKqhgyP is unclaimed, go get 'em tigers pic.twitter.com/2WkGIVc0nT
— Tanya Sichynsky (@tanyasic) August 1, 2019
A spokesman for Buttigieg’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Biden has led in the polls since he entered the Democratic race in April, bolstered by his association with former President Barack Obama. But even sympathetic observers have worried that the twice-failed ― and famously gaffe prone― presidential candidate doesn’t have the stamina to last until the Democratic National Convention next July.
Age-related concerns about Biden’s were only amplified by his faltering response to Sen. Kamala Harris’ attack on his 1970s opposition to school bussing last month during the first round of Democratic debates. On Wednesday night, though, Harris tried to play the same race card to little apparent effect.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan, on July 31, 2019.: Screen grab