Don't Run, Joe

Biden should retire, not run

Today: Democratic race
CAL: August is traditionally a quiet political month. Politicians are on vacation, and people are paying attention to other things. This August has been one of the most incredible political summer months I’ve seen in years, topped-off by news that Vice President Biden is considering candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. He’s tried and failed twice. Should he run, will it be different this time?

BOB: That Biden is a big political story is more a commentary on the field of candidates than Biden. When Biden last ran for president in 2008, he received less than 1% of the Iowa caucus vote and withdrew. Why the resurrection? His son Beau’s deathbed plea for him to run is a huge motivation.

CAL: One thing Biden has going for him is that he was right about Iraq. He was ridiculed by many conservatives for suggesting that Iraq be divided between Sunni and Shia Muslims. In light of the religious wars between those two factions of Islam, Biden comes off as a foreign policy genius. And foreign policy is going to weigh heavily in this campaign.

BOB: Foreign policy is also supposed to be the strongest card for Hillary Clinton. But there is growing concern among Democrats about her performance. Her negatives are growing rapidly. Should she stumble, Biden would appear to be a safer alternative than Sen. Bernie Sanders, who, like Donald Trump on the Republican side, scares the establishment.

CAL: Clinton can’t publicly criticize Biden, not only because she was a member of the same administration, but also because she might force President Obama to publicly defend his loyal vice president. You know there is no love lost between Obama and the Clintons. She is trying to discourage Biden from running by claiming she already has one-fifth of the superdelegates to the Democratic convention next summer and touting her large fundraising advantage.

BOB: I seriously doubt Clinton has wrapped up that many super delegates, but it is a problem for Biden because he would expect to get many of those delegates, given his long political career. The obstacles for Biden are greater than Hillary’s delegate totals. Joe has never been a great fundraiser, and many of the party’s major donors have already committed to Hillary. And the party’s best organizers in Iowa and New Hampshire have already signed on with Clinton or Sanders. Having run a presidential campaign, it amazes me that people think you can make a decision to run and just do it. There are a thousand moving parts, which requires planning and strategy. To my knowledge, Biden has done little or none of this.

CAL: Then there is the age factor. Biden is 72. If he won, he would be 74 and our oldest president. Age was an issue for Ronald Reagan, who was 69 when he took office in 1981, though as you know from running the Mondale campaign, Reagan’s great line that Mondale’s “youth and inexperience” shouldn’t be an issue took his age off the table.

BOB: I don’t think age is as important in this election as it has been in the past. The talk that Biden would serve only one term, committed to the job and not to re-election, is interesting but unworkable. He would automatically become a lame duck and reduce his presidential power substantially even before he took the oath. Besides, even though he is a career politician, Biden is not perceived as one, unlike Hillary Clinton.

CAL: I’m not sure age won’t be a factor in 2016. It was when John Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon in 1960. In his Inaugural Address, Kennedy said, “The torch has been passed to a new generation.” That notion might resonate with many younger voters who are tired of the mess the old guys have made. Biden would also add some levity if he entered the race. His malapropisms are legendary.

BOB: It is because Biden has had so many off-the-wall comments that people don’t perceive him as being very political. Good politicians don’t say to an African-American audience, “They’re going to put you all back in chains.” The question for Biden is, does he have the stature to be president? People do trust him. Clinton is perceived to have the stature to be president, but serious trust questions dog her.

CAL: Then there is the gender issue. Your party is big on “firsts,” as in first African-American president. Biden would encounter opposition from women who support Hillary largely because of her gender, especially if he is seen as a threat to her getting the nomination. Republicans ought to take this on by telling the apocryphal story of a woman with five children who was asked if she had to do it over again, would she have five kids. She replied, “Yes, just not these five.” Republicans should be for a woman president, just not Hillary. And they have a very fine female candidate in Carly Fiorina.

BOB: I have always been fond of Joe Biden, but I think the obstacles that confront him are so enormous that his chances of winning the nomination are slim. For a guy who has committed his entire adult life to public service, I would hate to see him embarrassed by being beaten soundly by Hillary Clinton. He has had a lot of tragedy in his life. He should retire while at the top and serve his nation in another way.