My quasi-prediction on Joe Biden

So, I’m going to temper this with “quasi” prediction, because I think it is a likely outcome, but far from a certainty.

NYT just had a piece on how the old age of candidates isn’t hurting them as Biden, Warren, Sanders, all 70+, are leading in the polls.  But here’s the thing, I feel pretty strongly it is hurting Biden.  Sure he’s never been a particularly strong candidate in the past, but he is so clearly not as good as he was 10 or 20 years ago.  I don’t blame him– it’s a rare 76 year old who would be– but that’ his reality.  The point of the NYT piece is largely that direct attacks on candidates’ age aren’t working.  Maybe not.  But being older and clearly off the top of his game is quite likely hurting Biden.  Interestingly, the older Sanders really does seem kind of ageless, but I’m very much with Jon Bernstein that he’s just not a serious threat to capture the nomination.

Meanwhile, also in the Times, an article on how Biden has not “locked down” the support of Black voters.  Of course he hasn’t.  Nobody has really locked down any support except the true Bernie-Believers from 2016 who are probably going to stick with him no matter what.

My theory, Biden will inevitably collapse as a candidate because he’s just not a very good one (in part, though far from wholly, due to his age) and the Black vote– huge in Democratic primaries– becomes very much up for grabs.  This is one reason why I’m not prepared to write-off Cory Booker yet (also, because I still like the guy).  And definitely why those writing off Harris are premature, (see Leonhardt’s, “How Kamala Harris Can Make a Comeback”).

Would I be surprised of Biden gets the nomination?  Maybe a little, but it is clearly entirely within the realm of possibility, but, my take is that it is more than likely not going to be the case.

And, just because I’m picking somewhat on Biden here, an excellent piece from Ezra Klein reminding us why (and it’s not because Biden is racist– he’s not) Biden is a problematic candidate.  Or, at least from my perspective, would make a very poor choice to actually be president compared to other Democrats:

Biden’s 2020 campaign thoroughly lionizes Obama, but during his vice presidency, the quiet critique of Obama that thrummed through Biden’s world — and was echoed across Washington — is that Obama didn’t spend enough time schmoozing congressional Republicans, or even congressional Democrats. Perhaps if he spent more time building trust and friendship with congressional leaders, he’d be able to get more done.

In his 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner routine, Obama delivered a funny-because-he-wasn’t-joking riff on these criticisms. “Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress,” he said. “‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell!?” …

For that reason, Biden needs to make the argument for his style of politics clearly and explicitly. And, at times, he has. “Some of these people are saying. ‘Biden just doesn’t get it,’” Biden said in his announcement speech. “You can’t work with Republicans anymore. That’s not the way it works anymore. Well, folks, I’m going to say something outrageous. I know how to make government work — not because I’ve talked or tweeted about it, but because I’ve done it. I’ve worked across the aisle to reach consensus. To help make government work in the past. I can do that again with your help.”

The problem Biden faces in rooting himself so thoroughly in the Obama administration is that government often didn’t work in that era. After retaking the House in 2010, Republicans blocked Obama’s agenda and Washington ground into gridlock and recrimination. When Hillary Clinton ran in 2016 as the continuation of the Obama era, she lost to Donald Trump. It’s possible that four years of Trump have caused voters to rethink that preference, but it’s a thin argument.

Biden needs to make the case that he can move beyond the frustrations of Obama’s second term, that his approach will build on what came before rather than simply return to it. This is an argument that my reporting suggests Biden believes, but he spends so much of his energy in the debates extolling Obama’s approach to politics that he’s left himself little space to define his own.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to My quasi-prediction on Joe Biden

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    The Warren-Booker ticket – strong! Julian Castro took himself off in the debate. Booker has executive experience as a tough city mayor.

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