The Former Vice President Holds a Lead, but its Tenuous. Is He “The One?”
Joe Biden has been a major presence in this campaign, from the beginning – even before he declared his candidacy. Once he did declare, he went immediately to the top of the polls. He still leads in most polls. Slam dunk, right? Not so fast, there.
Biden is seen by a lot of Americans as the most electable candidate, the most likely to beat Trump. A lot of people are comfortable with him as a person. Stories abound about his personal touch, his kindness, how he remembers and checks in on people. By any measure, he was a very good Vice President. And, by the way, Jill Biden brings a lot to national life as well. She made serious and sustained contributions to the nation. I personally appreciate all she did for military families.
Biden has probably forgotten more about foreign policy than most candidates will ever know. One of the early contributions he likely could make as president would be to quickly reassure allies and put competitors on notice that America is back. Our allies could once again rely on us. Those who oppose us or undermine the values we think are universal would know we are ready to take them on.
Uh Oh, Joe
But all is not sunshine for Biden. He has largely held the line in polls since he declared, but it would not be unreasonable to expect that he would have increased his lead by now, especially since so large a candidate field fragments the votes available to lesser known candidates. But he has not. Primaries are always a dice roll, but he may do rather badly in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Not a great start for the presumed front runner.
South Carolina should be a win for him, based largely on solid black voter support. But here too, there may be weaknesses. I have seen a number of interviews of black voters in SC that impressed me with the thought processes these voters are taking. The short version is that many of these voters see Biden as a known, trusted candidate with a good record on issues that count to them. But many also support him because they think he is the most likely to defeat Trump in the Fall. If that perception changes, many of those same voters are prepared to move on. They are not inclined to take a risk on beating Trump if another candidate develops into being more viable.
Biden is not already president because he ran two really bad campaigns in the past. His penchant for gaffes is well known and are still present. He gets a bit more slack from people now that his stuttering problem is more widely known. That does not seem to be the sources of so many gaffs, but I don’t pretend to know enough about the affliction to make that judgment. That he has dealt with it so well over the years is a testimonial to self-discipline and determination.
Younger voters, including younger black voters, have concerns, or at least doubts, over his legislative history. It is somewhat unfair to look at a position of 40 years ago and judge it by current standards, but still, there is baggage to recognize. The Clarence Thomas- Anita Hill hearings, the 3 strikes and you are out legislation, and some early drug legislation are not easy to overlook.
I have always thought Biden is a pretty good speaker. His closing at the last Democratic debate is a good example. It was passionate, articulate – a barn burner. But he does not do nearly as well in open debate. His performance throughout this campaign has been at about a C level for the most part. I fear that Trump would run over him in a debate. I do not have that concern over many other candidates.
And finally, age is a factor. I am not all that much younger than Biden, so I am comfortable in saying that I see some signs that age is taking a bit of toll. I cannot help but have concerns about his ability to shoulder a full term. For the record, I have noted the same concern, even stronger, over Sanders. Bloomberg, so far, seems to carry it better, and Warren has some buffer years to go.
So, Where Are We?
I really like Joe Biden as a person. If he is the nominee, I certainly will work for him. I think he could make a pretty good president. His theme that this campaign is about the soul of America is exactly right. But I am not convinced this is the right messenger. I think he is a riskier candidate than many might think.
I had hoped he would not run and that the newly elected Democratic president would call on him to lead the Administration’s efforts in Congress to get things done. He would have been great at that. Who knows, he may get that chance yet.
Biden still has better odds than any other candidate at the moment, although not by much. I wish him no ill will. Not my first choice, but a decent, experienced, capable human being. In just a few weeks, we will know if he is The Guy or not. Meanwhile, I am having fun trying to game who would be his VP pick. A couple of names get talked about a lot, and that is likely where he would go. But in politics, you never know. At least we could be confident he would not pick a Democratic equivalent of Sarah Pallin!
This is the last of the candidate series before voting starts. Iowa is on 3 February. My own state’s early voting starts on February 14. See you at the voting booth.
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