Tag Archives: Joe Biden

Joe Biden Is Still Not Running For President

Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement a few moments ago that he is not running for president should surprise no one. Pundits, desperate to derail the Clinton coronation, held out hope that by entering the race Biden’s candidacy would at least create the semblance of contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. But as I told The Guardian’s Tom McCarthy in an interview yesterday, Biden was never likely to enter the race because he had no realistic chance of beating Hillary, barring a Benghazi-related smoking email that sent her to the Big House. Given that fact, the logical play for Biden was to fuel speculation that he might run by playing the Hamlet card for as long as he could before the endless media speculation threatened to turn him in a caricature of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo (who in 1992 famously toyed with running for president up until the eve of the New Hampshire primary.)

Make no mistake about it. If Biden saw a path to victory, he would have thrown his hat into the ring long ago. But that path didn’t exist, short of a Clinton indictment. On most issues – with the prominent exception of foreign policy – his views are mostly indistinguishable from her’s. This left him struggling to create a public rationale for a Biden candidacy. Yesterday, at an event honoring former Vice President Walter Mondale, in bid to create such a rationale, Biden went so far as to revise his account of the events leading up to the President’s decision to send in a Seal team to assassinate Osama bin Laden.  After previously stating that he had advised against the raid, Biden changed his story yesterday and said he had privately advised the President to pursue the raid on bin Laden’s compound. The changed was apparently a thinly-veiled effort to make the case that on the most important decisions, he was the President’s closest and most trusted confidant – even closer and more trusted than the President’s then Secretary of State Clinton. The gambit exposed just how weak his case for running for president really was. Indeed, except for the additional gravitas afforded him by serving two terms as Vice President, it was never clear why his run for the presidency today would end any differently than his two previous unsuccessful attempts in the 1988 and 2008 cycles*.

Some pundits will point to last Tuesday’s Democratic debate as the tipping point for a Biden candidacy. In the aftermath of Hillary’s strong performance, a number of pundits pontificated that it removed any pretext for a Biden run. But, as I tweeted on social media at the time the debate had no impact on the underlying electoral dynamics which made a Biden run a longshot all along.

Instead, what it did was make pundits realize that, their fervent hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, there was never any valid rationale for Biden to run.

Absent the indictment, Clinton was going to clean his clock, strong debate or no strong debate. All the polling data led to that conclusion, not to mention the other indicators of Clinton’s strength, including money raised and endorsements received.  As evidence, note that after more than a month of getting hammered in the press for her emails, Clinton continued to lead her nearest rivals by 20% or more in national polls, and she was using her prodigious fundraising to put together a massive campaign infrastructure that dwarfed her rivals’.

So where does this leave the Democratic race? Precisely where it was before Biden’s announcement: with Clinton firmly in the lead. The latest polls indicate that she has pulled even with Sanders in New Hampshire, buoyed no doubt in part by her debate performance but also by the slew of media ads she has been running there for more than a month. Sanders is yet to get on the air in New Hampshire.  Nationally, polls show a slight uptick for Clinton of late, while Sanders’ “surge” seems to have leveled off, although one probably should not drawn any firm conclusions about what might be a short-term fluctuation.

There’s still a long way to go, of course. Sanders, who also did well in Tuesday’s debate, may yet be able to rally enough support to win in Iowa, a caucus state in which Clinton now leads, but which is notoriously difficult to poll. If so, he could conceivably parlay that victory into an upset in New Hampshire. But even then he faces an uphill climb to expand his support beyond the professors/young people/Ben and Jerry’s aging hipster crowd in order to compete against Clinton in states like South Carolina and Nevada that have larger minority populations.  But if Sanders is going to beat Clinton, he can’t count on Biden to help him bring her down.

And what of Uncle Joe? In his speech today, Biden acknowledged that, “As my family and I have worked through the grieving process, I’ve said all along what I’ve said time and again to others, that it may very well be that the process by the time we get through it closes the window. I’ve concluded it has closed.” But that is wrong – Biden’s window of opportunity has not closed. It was never open.

*Correction. An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Biden ran for President in 2000.

Are Democrats Biden Their Time For The Last Hurrah?

Two developments this weekend in the presidential race help illustrate the themes regarding how the media covers campaigns that I’ve been highlighting in recent posts. First, I tuned into the morning talk shows this Sunday to find multiple phone calls with Donald Trump occurring simultaneously. Both Chuck Todd on Meet the Press and Jon Karl on This Week started their shows with telephone interviews with The Donald. And, true to form, they both managed to conduct almost an entire interview with the GOP frontrunner with almost no effort to elicit his stance on key issues. Instead, Karl asked Trump about his views regarding Vice President Joe Biden entering the race, how he might do in Thursday’s debate among the Republican candidates, what he thought of Hillary’s character and whether he’d run as a third-party candidate. Todd covered largely the same issues. In short, the focus was primarily on campaign process and candidate personalities – not on the policies Trump would pursue as president. (To be fair, Karl did ask Trump if he would bring back waterboarding – but I suppose that drives home my point.)

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: if journalists continue to treat Trump as a carnival sideshow by trying to elicit controversial statements, rather than as a serious candidate for the highest office in the land, he’s going to maintain the support of the populist faction of Republicans who already think the media is out of touch with reality. Despite much media speculation that Trump’s support would erode after recent highly publicized controversial comments regarding Mexican migrants and Republican politicians, the latest polls show him holding steady with the support of about 20% of those surveyed, ahead of his chief rivals Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

The other big story, one that lit up the twitterverse yesterday and is the subject of countless stories today, is speculation from the usual unnamed sources that Vice President Joe Biden is thinking about throwing his hat into the presidential campaign ring. Again, as I have discussed repeatedly, the thought of several months covering Hillary’s inevitable coronation slog to the Democratic nomination has newsrooms across the country desperate to create the illusion of a real race. From this perspective, the Biden rumors are manna from heaven. The reality, however, is that Biden is a 72-year old man who ran for president twice before, in 1988 and 2008, and lost badly each time. (In 2008 he dropped out after drawing less than 1% in the Iowa caucus, far behind Hillary’s third-place finish.) It’s possible that eight years as Vice President gives him a certain gravitas that he lacked before, as well as instant name recognition. Reflecting that name recognition, most polls give him about 10% support already even though he’s not a declared candidacy.

But it also means that if he runs he automatically makes Hillary the candidate of change (albeit not much change!) Even though their stances on most issues do not diverge markedly (foreign policy is a notable exception), it is not hard to envision Hillary portraying Biden as a candidate of the past. Of course, his candidacy would be buoyed by a media desperate to create the fiction of a competitive Democratic contest. Already the initial media reports are hinting at friction between Biden and the Big Dawg Bill Clinton, and they are framing a Biden candidacy in terms of the contrast between his strong ratings among voters on honesty and likability versus Clinton’s negative ratings on those characteristics. A Biden candidacy, goes the media narrative, would rescue the Democratic Party from the slow drip-drip of negative news stories about Clinton’s emails, money, and general lack of credibility, particularly among independents, that weaken her chances against Republicans. It would also fulfill the deathbed wish of Joe’s son Beau – another bonus in terms of media coverage. As evidence, read this tear-jerking account by Maureen Dowd (who apparently can read Joe’s mind) about Beau’s effort to get his father to run: “My kid’s dying, an anguished Joe Biden thought to himself, and he’s making sure I’m O.K.”

But while a Biden candidacy will undoubtedly draw favorable media coverage, it is important to remember that, among registered voters, he is not viewed much more favorably than is Hillary.

Moreover, most people already have an opinion of Uncle Joe, so those ratings aren’t likely to change that much. And, as with all vice presidents, Joe will have to confront the difficult task of separating himself from the Obama presidency without seeming to repudiate the President’s policies. This could lead to some awkward policy statements (see Clinton on the Keystone pipeline!) from a candidate who is already well known for his verbal miscues that have made him a Youtube favorite.

Nor is it likely that Joe is going to siphon much support from Sanders’ progressive coalition. In short, a Biden candidacy will undoubtedly generate quite a bit of media coverage, much of it initially positive, from a grateful media corps, but there’s no evidence right now suggesting that he could beat Clinton. At best, the current evidence indicates a Biden candidacy might create the semblance of a competitive nomination fight and push back the timetable for Clinton to clinch the race. The question remains whether that prospect is enough to persuade him to enter the fray. The answer may depend on whether Joe is willing to relinquish his time in the political spotlight, or whether, like Frank Skeffington, he wants one more shot at center stage.  Will a presidential campaign be Joe’s Last Hurrah?


Joe Biden: Our Secret Weapon On The War On Terror

One of the great ironies of this presidential campaign is that President Obama, who won election in 2008 in part due to his promise to reverse his predecessor George W. Bush’s militaristic foreign policy, is now trumpeting his aggressive war on terrorism.  As I’ve documented in previous posts, Obama has adopted and in some cases expanded on many of Bush’s foreign policy precedents, including an increased reliance on  drone strikes, even when it involves violating other states’ national sovereignty or targeting American citizens.  The centerpiece of this campaign, of course, is Obama’s decision to send the Navy Seals into Pakistan to assassinate Osama Bin Laden.  As the following pictures indicate, the decision to send the Seals into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden was fraught with tension.

Remember that 3 a.m. phone call?  Obama handled it, but Hillary was listening in.

What many people don’t realize is how involved Vice President Joe Biden was in training the Seals.  Here he is giving pointers to some recent recruits.  Note how comfortable he is handling his assault rifle!


Looking at these pictures, you can understand why our Navy Seals are willing to put their life on the line for our country. Joe is one inspirational dude!

Joe Biden. He’s high-fiving America. (Hat tip to Kate Hamilton).

I should probably clarify that these pictures come from the Vice President’s annual beach bash.

Reportedly, the event is a lot of fun for the kids and VP too.  Go get ’em Joe!