Monday, March 12, 2018
Former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. is a busy man.
Biden sure is acting like someone planning a presidential run in 2020, or at the very least, someone keeping his options open for such a run. Traveling around the country on behalf of fellow Democrats allows him to stay in the public eye, keep in touch with donors and officeholders, demonstrate his political heft (provided that those for whom he campaigns win their races) and, most importantly, position himself to get the endorsement of grateful Democrats. Just as Mitt Romney did for the 2010 midterms, Biden is positioning himself as the indispensable defender of his party.
The objections to his candidacy are familiar. He’s old. He’s a little goofy. He’s a tad too “handsy” in the #MeToo era. But seriously, is there a single Democrat who could, in a large field, immediately command a big plurality if not a majority of the vote? He surely has the staff, the fundraising ability, and the energy and drive to run for at least one term. And if he is up against President Donald Trump—who is only 4 years younger and looks much less fit than Biden—age, goofiness and his treatment of women will be much more problematic for the incumbent president than they will for the challenger.
Whatever you think of Biden’s politics, he does have the presence to stand up to Trump and to throw a punch or two of his own. Although there is a serious downside in running as a one-term candidate, Biden might embrace that option, present himself as being there to perform triage, and get American democracy back on its feet before handing it off to the next generation. To the last point, he could distinguish himself upfront by selecting a younger running mate, most likely a woman and/or a minority. Could he persuade, say, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to be his running mate—with the obvious opportunity to run for president on her own in 2024?
Critics will say it is a sad commentary on the Democratic Party that it must rely on a septuagenarian to bring it back from the wilderness. Perhaps, but that is essentially what 69-year-old Ronald Reagan did in 1980 when he rode to victory for the Republican Party. Biden is no Reagan, but he could provide a bridge between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton factions, and between one generation of Democrats and another.
Let’s face it: As we look out on the potential field of 2020 contenders, we do not see among the crop of contenders (either in the Senate or in state and local offices) someone who stands head and shoulders above the rest—and more importantly, someone who won’t be bullied and bulldozed by Trump.
A Biden run isn’t as crazy as one might think. In any case, he would have the luxury of deciding whether to jump into the race until late in the run-up to the 2020 primaries. In the meantime, watch for him to stay on the campaign trail and collect political chits. He can decide in a year or so whether to cash them in.
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