Joe Biden’s URL flub at the Democratic debate is an important lesson for candidates
Most of the times political figures speak during debates, what they are saying is heavily rehearsed. There's some room for flexibility when responding to a question, but there's almost always some talking points that the candidate is trying to work into an answer. This is especially true for opening and closing statements, the one time where there is no follow-up, no challenge from other people on stage. And yet, when it came to Joe Biden's closing statement at last night's Democratic debate, he flubbed it.
He flubbed it so bad that he confused his campaign's text message line with his website and directed the millions of people watching to a URL that didn't exist. Biden either wanted to direct people to his website, JoeBiden.com, or wanted people to text the word "Joe" to the number 30330 so they can be sent more information about his campaign. What came out of his mouth instead, in a pained and awkward message: "If you agree with me, go to Joe 3 0 3 3 0 and help me in this fight."
The message was so entirely confusing that no one was really sure what Biden was trying to say. Did he give the wrong URL? Did he give a URL at all? Did he mess up saying "2020" so bad that he jumped to 3030 and also added an additional 3? Is Joe Biden immortal and already planning for his campaign in the year 30330? Will that even be an election year?
In Biden's defense, it's incredibly unnatural to speak a domain URL. It's equally unnatural to try to casually work in a text message and phone number into what was otherwise designed to be an aspirational closing statement designed to inspire support in his campaign. The reason why Biden's people want him to read off the text line is obvious: they want people's phone numbers. But yikes, it's uncomfortable as hell to watch someone try to speak that into existence.
Biden may have had the most trouble slinging his campaign's social media information, but he sure wasn't the only one who looked silly doing it. Basically every candidate who tried to pitch their website on stage came off awkward. Mayor Bill de Blasio sent people to TaxTheHell.com, which sounded like it was missing a word. Andrew Yang asked people to go to AndrewYang.com and enter their ZIP code. Kamala Harris, for some reason, sent people to KamalaHarris.org instead of .com, even though KamalaHarris.com redirects to KamalaHarris.org. Even when candidates like Michael Bennett and Julián Castro directed people to their websites (Jay Inslee was at least polite enough to only ask people to "consider" visiting his site) which were simply their own names followed by a .com, it still came off as clunky and out of place.
Despite the overall awkwardness of trying to say a website URL out loud, only Biden managed to send people to a site that doesn't exist. Well, didn't exist when he said it, at least. It was a matter of moments before someone scooped up the domain Joe30330.com. According to USA Today, Syracuse University public relations major Josh Fayer managed to land the domain. He paid a whopping $9.06 for it, per Mashable, which makes sense since the address wasn't in particularly high demand until Biden spoke it into reality. Fayer originally used the domain to redirect visitors to PeteForAmerica.com, the campaign website of South Bend, Indiana mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
Fayer has since changed it so Joe30330.com bounces people to JoshForAmerica.com, a satirical take on a candidate website promoting Josh as the "first Gen Z'er to declare candidacy" for President of the United States. Fayer told USA Today that he created the site as an April Fools' joke but is now putting it to use as the destination for anyone looking to see where Biden's flub takes them. While the site says that Fayer and his faux campaign aren't affiliated with any presidential candidate, a donate button on the site recommends people give money to Buttigieg. "Pete's really a guy who knows how to stand up for American values, and, were I not running myself, I'd for sure be voting for him," the site reads.
Biden and his campaign have done everything possible to rectify the error made on the debate stage, including sending out a tweet with the message Biden was supposed to deliver to the audience. Sadly, whatever damage could have been done by the flub — let's be real, it's pretty minimal and everyone is going to forget about this before the week ends — has already been done.
For all future debate performances, here's an idea for candidates as they make a closing statement: stop using the last 10 seconds of your time to fumble through a web address and just deliver your damn message. If you're going to say your website's URL out loud, why not remind people they need to put "H-T-T-P-S, colon, slash, slash, W-W-W- dot" before it, too? Spell out your name letter by letter while you're at it. Just really be as patronizing as possible.
The people watching the debate know how to use Google. They know how to use Facebook and Twitter. They know how to find you if they really want to. Instead of saying your website's URL, say something that resonates with people, that gets them fired up and encourages them to want to actually get to know more about you. Try giving them a reason to seek you out and have a little faith they'll figure out the rest.