Thursday, August 27, 2015

The pros and cons of a Joe Biden candidacy

 Until a week ago, there had been vague hints that Joe Biden might get into the Democratic primary race;   but then his son died and he was in mourning.   Now there is a serious testing-the-waters campaign.   The question:  is it still just being a ready alternative should Hillary Clinton's campaign falter and she become unelectable?   Or is Biden wanting to compete against her?

He has told several people that his concern is more that Clinton would not be a "credible messenger" for what he considers the defining issue of this campaign:   income inequality.  So what are the pros and cons of Biden getting into the race at this point?

Chris Hayes had a good discussion of this with his guests on All In With Chris Hayes on MSNBC Monday night.   The gist of that was:

1.  Joe Biden has become the beloved uncle of the political world.   If he retires from politics at the end of eight years as Obama's vice president, he will bask not only in the legacy of his own positive, avuncular status but in what is turning out to be an amazing administration record of achievement.   He will be remembered fondly and positively.

2.  But, if he jumps in the race and loses -- as he likely would, they concluded -- then he will go down in history as someone who ran three presidential races . . . and lost all three.

3.  In addition, as soon as he becomes a candidate, all the negatives every opposition researcher can come up with will be thrown at him.   His approval ratings will go down -- and he will likely lose.

4.  It's late in the game, and most of the wealthy donors and top notch strategists have already signed up with others.   It's also late to start building a campaign team and organizing state by state.

On the other side, there are some positive things about a Biden run:

1.  Aside from the intra-family dynamics, including his dying son's urging him to run, Joe Biden is just a natural campaigner;  and he loves every minute of it.    Whether it's debates or petting pigs at state fairs, he is in his element.

2.  He is the original "authentic politician."  In a season where the public clearly wants straight talk and no political correctness filters, and where people find Hillary Clinton guarded and untrustworthy, Joe comes across as engaged and real.   It just comes naturally to him.

3.  His reputation for blurting out awkward comments like a loose cannon has been tempered by eight years in the shadow of Barack Obama's too-careful public statements.   Joe has learned to hold his tongue.   His forcefullness and candor, tempered by eight years in the world's most important crisis room, has undoubtedly seasoned his maturity and judgment.

4.  Arguable, he is at least as prepared as Hillary Clinton, having served in the Senate for 35 years and been Chair of both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee -- and Vice President for 8 years.

5.  Obama didn't go as far as endorsing Biden, but he did praise his aptitude for the presidency and said that his decision to choose Biden as his running made was the smartest political decision he ever made.   People are reading this an Obama's "blessing," without going as far as an endorsement.

One crucial deciding factor will be his wife Jill.   Reportedly she is not on board yet.   She is likely concerned about him as a person, his age (he would be 74 when he took office) and his legacy.

And what are we to make of the rumors that are flying around that his meeting with Elizabeth Warren was more than just asking her advice about whether he should run.  What if he asked her to run as a team as his vice president?   That would be a formidable ticket.

Both can speak to working class families in an articulate and engaged way.   Warren would balance Biden's more hawkish and centrist positions with her economic populism.   And she might hold the women's vote and would enhance the progressive vote.   Not bad.


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