Joe Biden has dreamt of this moment. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in free-fall and Republicans are busily re-enacting Lord of the Flies.
After a lifetime of striving and six years as Loyal Number Two, the door has inched open for Biden to run. Joe Biden is popular, has ample name recognition and most likely the backing of the Obama White House. Moreover, he is liberal to his core, but does not alarm big money Democrats the way Elizabeth Warren might. Biden has a shot and could be extremely dangerous to the GOP.
Hillary Clinton’s polls are crashing. The once inevitable shoe-in for the Democratic nomination is now trailing Republican candidates Bush, Walker and Rubio in critical swing states Colorado, Iowa and Virginia – after leading GOP contestants by a wide margin just a few months ago in various core states.
Polls can change, but emerging character problems may not. Voters don’t trust Clinton, and that reading is likely to get worse, since she now faces a possible Justice Department investigation over her use of a personal email server while Secretary of State. The inspector generals at the State Department and the country’s intelligence agencies have determined that contrary to earlier denials, Clinton received and sent emails on her personal server that contained classified information.
Whether the former First Lady was aware that the messages were classified is a big question. The reason Hillary would veer off-policy and not use the State Department’s sponsored and protected communications network is that she wanted to fly under the radar. That she deleted tens of thousands of emails, some of which we now know (thanks to correspondence volunteered by long-time confidante Sid Blumenthal) contained work-related messages, proves the point. There is nothing honest or transparent about any of this sorry saga, and Clinton will struggle to put it behind her.
Hillary’s email issues are a windfall for Biden, one that backers increasingly think he will seize. Though he recently suffered the loss of his son Beau, the death was not unexpected, and Biden was soon back in circulation. His son, who died of brain cancer, urged him to run; throwing his hat into the ring might pay genuine homage to Beau’s memory.
President Obama is known to be very fond of his vice president, to whom he has frequently turned for help with Congress, and with voters. He is not fond of Hillary, and the Beltway gossip mills for months have suggested that the White House is quietly engineering Hillary’s defeat.
Because of Beau’s death, Biden is riding a wave of sympathy. But he also appeals to Democrats who are unhappy with the “coronation” aspect of Clinton’s candidacy (and also squeamish about socialist Bernie Sanders). A Monmouth University poll out a couple of weeks ago shows that Biden could attract a lot of Clinton supporters should he choose to run. The survey put Biden third with 13 percent of Democrats, but an additional 12 percent said they would be “very likely” to support his run should he enter the race, and another 31 percent saying they would were “somewhat likely” to support him. Most of the defections would be from Clinton’s camp.
In addition, a Quinnipiac poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants in May showed Biden with a high favorability rating of 79 percent, 75 percent saying his positions on the issues are “about right,” 76 percent saying that he has strong leadership qualities, and 85 percent saying he cares about their needs and problems. For comparison, a more recent Quinnipiac survey said 62 percent of Colorado voters think Hillary is not honest or trustworthy, and 57 percent think she does not care about their needs and problems. Similar readings emerge from swing states Virginia and Iowa.
Even more convincing, in potential match-ups with GOP frontrunners in toss-up states, Biden runs about as well as Hillary. In Iowa, for instance, Clinton captures 36 percent of the vote against 44 percent for Rubio; Biden wins 37 percent. In Virginia, Biden runs even with Hillary against Rubio, and better than the former first lady against Bush.
That’s a strong starting point. If Biden enters the race, as some speculate he will during the first week of August, he’ll get a bounce, and become a formidable contestant. Can he win?
If Republicans continue to turn on each other, anything is possible. The ugly behavior of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has captured the headlines, and tarnished badly what began as an uplifting beauty pageant of emerging GOP talent. The “anger” candidates are riding high today, but their unfavorables are also high. It is likely that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker will have enough staying power to ultimately get the nod. While all three trounce Biden in a potential match-up today, that could change.
Biden hinted early this year that should he enter the race, he would run on the accomplishments of the Obama presidency, and on the president’s “unfinished agenda.” He noted, “Some say that would amount to a third term of the president. I call it sticking with what works.” That would challenge Clinton, who has been stingy with policy ideas so far, but is also likely to swim in Obama’s wake. She needs the same voters that elected Obama twice; her problem is – those voters elected Biden twice, as well.
Ironically, Biden would also likely tout his extensive experience in international affairs, which would parry Hillary’s State Department credentials. As former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden, according to some accounts, has been intimately involved in crafting the Obama foreign policy platform – possibly more involved than Clinton, who was marginalized by Obama operatives.
Biden will not walk into the Oval Office. His career has been punctuated with some massive setbacks – including charges of plagiarism and resume puffing that caused him to withdraw from the 1988 presidential contest (yes, he has been running for the Oval Office for nearly thirty years.) He has also been excoriated for boneheaded foreign policy decisions – including by Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who described Biden as being “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Voters also associate Biden with entertaining but embarrassing gaffes.
Nonetheless, Biden reliably carries the progressive torch, and could well overtake Hillary and win the Democrat nomination.
Then it will be up to Republicans, who are busily eating their own. Bottom line: likeable Biden could well be more dangerous than untrustworthy Hillary could. The GOP better shape up.