Why is Joe Biden running for president? Does the former senator and former vice president have more of a chance than many observers assume? What are his strengths and weaknesses? One thing is already certain; the launch of his campaign has been an absolute train wreck. If he was trying to provide a lesson for future Democrat candidates on how not to campaign for president, “Sleepy Joe” – as President Donald Trump affectionately refers to him – could not have done it better.
Biden has the advantage of name-recognition as a natural result of his eight years as Barack Obama’s V.P. There is nothing “hope and change” about his platform, though. After some apparent false starts, Biden kicked off his third run for the White House with a dreadfully depressing video, which entirely missed the most important message of any candidate for office, which is “This is what I bring to the table and that’s why you should choose me, above any other candidate.”
Biden’s Video Message Totally Misses the Mark
The video was mostly about how terrible the Trump presidency is, how much worse it will become in a second term and why it is so important to defeat the incumbent in 2020. The problem is, Biden did not actually sell himself as the one to defeat Trump; his message was simply that Trump must be defeated – by someone. Well, Joe, primary voters have a choice of twenty candidates for that, so what makes you so special?
Though he is a man – which is a strike against him, in the eyes of the party, if not necessarily in the eyes of Democrat voters – Biden is certainly in touch with American women. In fact, it seems as though he has been in touch with most of them, so he has that going for him.
He is also white and old. Recent polling of his party’s primary voters suggests the overwhelming majority of them have little interest in identity politics but the party leadership appears obsessed. It is hard to imagine that they will countenance a male candidate. They need the gender card up their sleeve when the head-to-head with Trump comes around.
Hardly a Change Candidate
Other than these factors, Biden’s biggest obstacle on the road to the nomination may be that he is hardly a “change candidate.” Democrats always run on change but Uncle Joe seems to have kicked off with a conservative (small “c”) message: Let’s go back to the good old days of the Obama presidency, he appears to be saying, and that is not a message that will play well with the base. Democrats adored Obama, certainly, but Biden was never anything more than an afterthought during those eight years before Trump. He is, quite simply, no Obama, who was a once-in-a-generation candidate for the Democratic Party. Obama caught lightning in a bottle. Joe does not have the lightning and Hillary Clinton already drained the bottle.
Biden appears destined to give the country a good laugh, though, before he abandons his White House bid. Known for his gaffes and unfiltered remarks, he is certain to give us many more in the coming months. In fact, he has already begun; suggesting that he asked Obama not to endorse him. The former president – surveying the host of misfits vying for the Democratic Party nomination – made the wise decision not to endorse any one candidate at this stage. The fact that Obama hasn’t backed his former V.P. means little, but the latter gave the interwebs a good chuckle when he tried to pass off that non-endorsement as something that he, himself, requested.
The Embarrassing Racial Problem
There is another matter that will surely haunt Biden’s latest political adventure: He hired Symone Sanders as a senior campaign adviser. Sanders, a black woman and veteran Democratic Party operative, does not seem to be very fond of white people:
“In my opinion, we don’t need white people leading the Democratic party right now. The Democratic party is diverse, and it should be reflected as so in leadership and throughout the staff, at the highest levels. From the vice chairs to the secretaries all the way down to the people working in the offices at the DNC.”
In fairness to Sanders, she did say this back in 2016 so perhaps she has changed her mind since then. Nevertheless, it makes for a very awkward situation: A black woman who does not want her party run by white people is trying to get a white man elected president. Trump himself may decide to leave that one alone but his supporters will have a field day with it, should Biden shock the country by claiming the Democratic Party nomination.
In reality, of course, Joe has much bigger problems: his “hands-on” approach to women and young children, his dodgy deals with Ukrainians and Chinese on behalf of his son, his standing as an elder of the Washington establishment, against which the voting bases of both parties have turned in recent years.
So, the Biden train – already somewhat battered – limps out of the station. Despite having declared himself the most progressive candidate (another hoot), he may be the closest thing to a moderate the Democrats have. In the maelstrom of crazy that his party’s primary campaign is sure to be, this one characteristic may be both his greatest strength and his most fatal weakness. How ever it turns out, Biden is going to need a lot more than “Trump has got to go” to survive the coming storm.
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