Joe Biden: Just Bidin’ His Time
Biden-Warren 2016? Joe Biden is one Clinton scandal away from becoming the Democrats’ presidential candidate.
- The biggest advantage that Joe Biden brings to the 2016 presidential race is that he is not #HillaryClinton.
- Could #JoeBiden, who will turn 74 years old right after the 2016 election, be a successful candidate now?
- The biggest problem Democrats face in 2016 - which Biden would quickly solve - is weakness with white male voters.
- Biden-Warren 2016? VP Biden is one Clinton scandal away from becoming the Democrats' nominee.
The Republican field in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is loaded to the brim. By contrast, the Democratic field appears quite sparse. It had also seemed very settled — until recently.
Then, at the end of May, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden succumbed to brain cancer. The rumors in the little Mid-Atlantic state have it that his deathbed wish was that his father, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, would seek the presidency a third time.
That kicked off a fresh round of speculation that the only juggernaut still on the Democratic sidelines might join the race after all.
The biggest advantage that Joe Biden brings to the 2016 presidential race is that he is not Hillary Clinton.
Whether he gets in the race (as his late son supposedly asked him to do) or continues to wait in the wings, he is only one (genuinely serious) scandal in the Clinton camp away from becoming the Democratic Party’s candidate — basically by default.
In the history of the Clintons in politics, major scandals are less a question of “if” than “when.” If a truly unsurvivable scandal — probably involving Bill, rather than private email servers — materializes for Hillary Clinton, it is likely to happen quite late in the campaign. And there is at least one such potential time-bomb already circulating.
Desperate Democrats, looking for a candidate with name recognition, will have very few places to turn. Certainly, the long-shot prospects of a candidate like Martin O’Malley have become even more of a long shot, after the riots in Baltimore (where he previously served as mayor and implemented many of the policies now under fire).
Biden has served two successful terms as Vice President of the United States and many terms as U.S. Senator. Even so, he does not consider himself Democratic Party royalty or to the manor (read: White House) born.
A politician from the country’s second-smallest state and modest beginnings, he is certainly far less wealthy than many Democrats currently in office – even though his surviving son, in typical Washington manner, has managed to cash in on his close connection to the “Veep.”
Biden is often faulted for misspeaking and somewhat awkward or unintended turn of phrases. To counterbalance that, it helps that he is truly folksy and quite likable. Plus, his instincts by and large are closely aligned with those of the American people.
In 2016, they just may end up liking a guy who doesn’t run so much on star power. He could run in the old-fashioned style: by simply having assembled a lot of experience in the legislative and executive branches of government.
Come to think of it, Biden’s life story is the stuff campaign managers dream of. The fact that he kept taking the Amtrak train back home to Delaware for overnights with his family in 36 long years as a U.S. Senator doesn’t just make him a true blue family man. It also oozes of being a common man, in contrast to the always quite regally-acting Hillary Clinton (or the Bushes).
In tune with the people
The biggest problem that the Democratic Party faces in 2016 – which Biden would immediately solve – is the party’s weakness in addressing white male voters. Neither Obama nor Hillary Clinton are a hit with this group.
The party just cannot afford to consign that voting bloc entirely to the Republicans. Nominating Biden would make that Achilles heel far less of a problem.
Better yet, it would be resolved without Biden losing appeal to other key constituencies. His credentials with those blue-collar white male voters are obvious and are not burnished at the expense of other groups.
African-Americans will like him because he served Barack Obama loyally as a Vice President for eight years, without publicly complaining, as some predecessors have, about playing second fiddle. When the rest of the country turned on its first black president, Biden stood by him.
Women will like him because of his leadership as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in passing the Violence Against Women Act at a time when many states had not yet even criminalized some common attacks on women.
Moreover, few men in American political life have as endearing a story and as real a record as a family man as Biden does following the tragic 1972 death of his first wife and their daughter.
And Biden’s early support for gay marriage rights earns him support from another key base of the party.
Having had a direct hand in major U.S. foreign policy and national security decisions for decades, whether as Vice President or as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has earned him the respect of more conservative voters as well.
A flop then, a hit now?
All of which raises the question of why would a guy who would turn 74 years old right after the 2016 election – and who dropped out of the presidential races in 1988 and 2008 – would run. As said above, he would be the default candidate.
And could he be successful in that role? Voters are frustrated with the dynastic feel of the (presumed) Clinton/Bush choice. They also say that experience matters. And even Democrats are nervous about opting for the star power factor again.
Biden also (slightly) eats into Republican voter territory, without losing any votes among Democrats.
And then there is this reason: Because he is actually remarkably humble. Because he has a sense of humor. Because he is down to earth. Because he can poke fun at himself – even if he is a bit goofy at times.
Joe the pragmatist
Unlike Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Joe Biden is a pragmatist. He wants to get things done that matter for the people – and not just give speeches about it.
And in executing a policy agenda, it matters a great deal whether a President is either off-putting (as Clinton is to many) – or too detached (as Obama is). Biden’s style is not one of getting along by (passively) going along. He wants to get the country ahead while remaining personally agreeable, but neither alone is the goal.
In an age of pervasive polarization, Biden still often recounts one of the earliest pieces of advice a Senate leader once gave him: Question your opponents’ policies, but not their motives.
Indeed, it’s no surprise that the Obama Administration sent him to Capitol Hill with increasing frequency after the Republicans took the House majority. He understands the process, but is never buried by it. And he knows how to reach the people across the table and get them to a deal. All quite admirable qualities.
A Biden/Warren ticket?
This raises one final issue: Who would – or should – be his vice presidential candidate? Quite likely, it should be a woman. The question is: Who?
This is where the Elizabeth Warren story gains new currency. Having her reach for the White House at this stage, not least given the Obama experience, does not work. But making her Vice President is quite another matter.
Picking the Senator from Massachusetts and former Harvard professor may seem a no-go on two fronts – Ivy League professor and, with two candidates from the Northeast, the ticket would fail in terms of regional diversity (never mind that Warren grew up in Oklahoma and worked in Texas in the 1980s).
The question is whether that shortfall is not outweighed by the appeal of such a ticket to voters across the country. Democrats would also have a ticket that would let them reconnect with their blue-collar roots and the left of the middle class, in one fell swoop – and hence powerfully rally their base.
Unlike the regal Mrs. Clinton, both Biden and Warren ooze of blue-collar backgrounds. They connect with these voters. And the selection of Warren would be a powerful signal of where the Democratic Party’s priorities lie in the national political war over attracting the middle class.