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Time For Another Round Of Pointless “Will Obama Dump Biden?” Speculation

Perhaps it’s because the Democratic Convention is two weeks away, or perhaps it’s just because pundits have nothing else to talk about, but we’ve got another round of people talking about whether or not President Obama is going to dump Vice-President Biden and put someone else, say Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the ticket prior to the convention. This isn’t the first time this issue has come up, of course, I’ve written about the same kind of speculation at least six times since 2010 (here, here, here, here, here, and here). Now, in the light of the Vice-President’s “chains” comment in Danville, VA the other day, along with the usual round of mostly innocuous verbal gaffes and miscues we’ve come to expect from Joe Biden, there are people on the right trying to push this meme as if it’s, well, actually news. Rudy Giuliani speculated about the Vice-President’s mental fitness,  Sarah Palin has said that the President should remove him from the ticket and replace him with Secretary Clinton, and The Weekly Standard has joined in on the speculation as well:

President Barack Obama has slightly more than 22 days to drop Vice Presidential Joe Biden from the 2012 Democratic presidential ticket, according to lawyers familiar with the party nominating process. That is, Democrats have until September 6 to formally nominate their presidential ticket which will then be qualified for the 50 state ballots.

And it is still possible for that ticket not to include the current vice president, Joe Biden.

“As a sitting president and vice president, Obama and Biden are both considered the Democrats’ presumptive nominees and will not be the official nominees until after Charlotte,” a lawyer familiar with the party nominating process tells me. “Each party has to file paperwork with each state once the candidates become official nominees. So it’s still quite possible for Obama to drop Biden and replace him with someone else and pay no consequences with listing on ballots.”

The nominating process will take place at the Democratic party convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is being held September 3-6.

(…)

Speculation that Biden could be dropped has been rampant, despite denials from top Democrats. As NPR reported, “no elected VP has been dropped from the ticket since 1944, when Henry Wallace was removed at the national convention that year in favor of Sen. Harry Truman (D-Mo.). And that turned out to be extremely significant, as President Franklin Roosevelt was dead less than three months after he was inaugurated for a fourth term.”

The likeliest time for an announcement that Biden is to be dumped would be just before the GOP convention—around Friday, August 24. This would step on the Republicans’ planned buildup to their convention, and would give Hillary Clinton, perhaps the likeliest replacement, a couple of weeks to resign as Secretary of State to accept her place on the ticket, while arranging a smooth transition at Foggy Bottom.

So look for activity around August 24.

Weekly Standard is even speculating that the day could be today merely because of the fact that the President is having is regular weekly meeting with the Secretary of State, joined by the Vice-President, which will be followed by the President’s weekly lunch with the Vice-President. Seriously. This is what passes for political analysis at The Weekly Standard apparently.

National Review’s John Fund doesn’t see this as very likely, but still agrees with the general conservative idea that Biden is a liability for Obama:

The White House has to worry that for the next 82 days Joe Biden will be under tremendous scrutiny — especially given the fact that Paul Ryan has become such a media-attention magnet. Everyone is anticipating the October 11 debate between Biden and Ryan. Biden’s penchant for off-the-cuff remarks doesn’t inspire confidence that he won’t unintentionally blurt something out when facing Ryan. For example, he embarrassed the Obama administration recently by prematurely revealing he was “comfortable” with gay marriage — forcing his boss to suddenly endorse gay marriage on a timetable not of his choosing.

Biden’s erratic statements certainly should make Team Obama nervous. I’ve no doubt that some Democratic strategists would love for Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to swap jobs and bolster the Democratic ticket with a little Clinton magic. But there’s no evidence that Hillary would take that deal. If she wants to run, she is already the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination and would gain no advantage by being yoked to Obama, her old adversary, for the next three months if they lost or the next four years if they won.

So Democrats are stuck with Old Joe, who will turn 70 this November.

Jim Geraghty seems to agree:

[A] sudden Biden departure won’t happen and can’t happen, for a couple of reasons. First, it would require President Obama to admit a mistake. Secondly, it would de facto concede that the critics who deride Biden as an ill-informed, tactless, often obnoxious, loudmouthed, bloviating rhetorical time-bomb have been right all along. Thirdly, no one would believe the “sudden health crisis” or other story put forth to explain the switch. Fourth, there’s no automatic slam-dunk replacement. Think Hillary Clinton wants to jump in two months before Election Day to help save Obama from his own bad decisions?

This is really the part of the argument that people on the right make that I’ve never quite understood. Yes, Joe Biden has a habit of making odd verbal gaffes (most recently talking about winning North Carolina while campaigning in Virginia, and saying America can dominate the auto industry in the 20th Century), but he’s not the first politician who has had a history of gaffes and malapropisms and he isn’t going to be the last. The real question is whether Biden is such a drag on the ticket that he would endanger the President’s chances at re-election, and there simply isn’t any evidence for that. It’s true that the Vice-President’s favorabilility numbers have typically been below those of the President — a July NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll [PDF] gave Biden a 35 percent/37 percent favorability/unfavorability rating — an April Fox News poll showed that Biden had a 41% Job Approval rating, which quite honestly isn’t that bad for the Vice-President in an Administration during a time when the economy is weak and the public frustrated with government. More importantly, there isn’t a single poll that shows that having Joe Biden on the ticket actually hurts the President’s re-election chances in November.

In fact, it seems rather clear to me that Biden helps the ticket with these campaign trips he takes. He relates to working class audiences in a way that President Obama has always had trouble doing, and he’s a great surrogate to send to states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan to rally the faithful. The fact that Republicans don’t like him and think he’s stupid? That’s really not relevant because they aren’t the audience that the campaign is reaching out to when they send Biden out on the campaign trail. As for the intelligence issue, Biden may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but he served for some 30 years in the Senate and was Chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. Stupid the man is not, and, indeed, it was because of his experience in Washington that Obama put him on the ticket in the first place. On the whole, I would say that has turned out to be a wise decision, and certainly a better selection than the one made by his 2008 Republican opponent.

I’ve gone through all the practical and logical reasons why the “Hillary-for-Joe” switch was never going to happen no matter how many times people speculated about it, you can find those reasons at the links above. At this point, though, speculation like this isn’t just wrong, it’s dumb. We’re sitting less than three weeks away from the Democratic National Convention. If President Obama really did want to switch running mates, something that has only happened three times in American history, two of them by the same President, he would have done it a long, long time ago. Joe Biden is staying on the ticket, and I think many people on the right would be wise not to underestimate him.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    No, he won’t, and it’s a ridiculous question in the first place. All of those complaints about what he’s doing show that he is actually doing _exactly_ what a VP ought to be doing during a campaign – saying things the President can’t & taking that heat off his boss.

    Rudy Giuliani speculated about the Vice-President’s mental fitness, Sarah Palin has said that the President should remove him from the ticket and replace him with Secretary Clinton, and The Weekly Standard has joined in on the speculation as well

    As you note, Doug, this is being pushed from the Right, and that just proves my point – he’s pissing off the other side in ways Obama shouldn’t. Biden is right on track.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  2. Jeremy says:

    I agree. This sort of speculation is utterly pointless. The brokered convention theory going on several months ago was at least interesting and somewhat plausible; this is so outside the ballpark it just makes you wonder what the hell the media is thinking and if they actually are thinking.

    One question I have, just as a curiosity, is if a political party ever snubbed a sitting president for the nomination. For example, if the Dems decided to go with someone else for 2012 rather than Obama. I think this has only happened once, with the Whigs back in the 1840s, but I can’t remember. Just a purely political curiosity, and not any real speculation for 2012.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. al-Ameda says:

    I love the speculation.

    Why not Zell Miller or Artur Davis?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  4. Gustopher says:

    Biden is invaluable for the administration.

    He can float trial balloons of any policy, and if it goes badly, everyone just says “Oh, that’s just Joe Biden going off on a wacky tangent.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  5. @Jeremy:

    It happened several times in the 19th Century, most notably with John Tyler, who had taken over as POTUS when William Henry Harrison died 30 days into his term but was unable to secure the 1844 nomination of the Whig Party. That’s one of the reasons there were so many one term President’s in the 1800s.

    The closest we’ve come in the modern era was the 1968 challenge to LBJ that caused him to drop out of the race in March 1968, Reagan’s challenge of Ford in 1976 (but of course Ford had not been elected President), and Kennedy’s run against Carter in 1980.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. stonetools says:

    The right wing tears over Joe Biden’s remarks about Wall Street regulations are delicious to me. All he needs to do is to recast his remarks to remove the “chain” adlib that he the right wingers are in a tizzy abuut and resume firing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  7. PGlenn says:

    Okay, Doug, but it’s also not clear that you have any polling or other data supporting your assertion that “Biden helps the ticket with these campaign trips . . . [to] Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan,” and/or that working class audiences perceive that Biden relates well to them.

    Otherwise, I agree with many of your points, including that it is very unlikely that Biden would be replaced.

    I do wonder, however if Biden might be an indirect drag on the ticket. Sure, most voters pay little to no attention to the VP. But perhaps if elite media perceive Biden to be a problem – and are finding it increasingly difficult to take him seriously, let alone defend him – might that not have a minor negative effect on their morale? Of course, most of them will continue to try to aid the Obama campaign in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, but Biden might make it a little more difficult.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  8. john personna says:

    The beauty of Biden is that he is a proxy inoculated on gaffes. The right, having told us to expect them for 3+ years, cannot quite sell the surprise and outrage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  9. Wayne says:

    I hope Obama doesn’t drop Biden. I think he is a drag on the ticket and it is not because I don’t like him. I like Hillary even less but think she would give Obama a boost politically. It is funny how his lesser significant gaffs get mention and not his “”back in chains” or “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent” ones.

    Yes, every politician makes gaffes. However, not nearly as frequent or as severe as Biden. I just have to mention the hypocrisy of how Biden and the Democrats’ gaffes are treated compare to Republicans’ gaffes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  10. Todd says:

    Biden was never going to be replaced anyway, but the Hilliary for Biden swap idea was particularly far-fetched. A gaff-prone Vice President is one thing, but I would imaging that the ability to think before speaking is pretty much a prerequisite for any Secretary of State.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. grumpy realist says:

    And, of course, if Obama did in fact replace Biden on the ticket, the chatterati on the right would be squawking about Obama’s “demonstrating lack of firmness” or some other reason Why This Shows Obama Can’t Be Trusted As POTUS.

    You can’t win with these guys.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  12. Todd says:

    @Todd: lol .. I would also imagine that the ability to proof-read before hitting the post button might be a good idea for a blog commenter who wants to appear at least semi-intelligent. I failed that one. :-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Just Me says:

    Biden is going to make life hard for the ticket, but to replace him would make life tons harder. Luckily for Obama the media is mostly in his pocket-especially when it comes to who wins the election so they are going to mostly be kind to BIden.

    The only reason Biden wasn’t painted as a total baffoon in the last election was because the other ticket had Palin on it and her gaffes were even worse.

    Biden is going to say some dumb things, but in the end people aren’t voting for the VP they are voting for the President-to replace Biden would hurt the presidential candidate who chose him 4 years ago far more than the occasional verbal gaffe Biden makes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  14. Nikki says:

    @PGlenn:

    But perhaps if elite media perceive Biden to be a problem – and are finding it increasingly difficult to take him seriously, let alone defend him – might that not have a minor negative effect on their morale?

    You care about the elite media’s morale?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. SilentCal says:

    The only reason that Obama picked Biden in the first place was that he was the only “qualified” Democrat even dumber than Barry himself. Since that’s a pretty low bar to crawl under there’s no way BO Narcissus wil dump him. Certainly not in favor of Hillary who may be scary, but certainly ain’t dumb.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 23

  16. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Political silly season continues, unabated.

    That said, however, I’m completely amazed that they didn’t jettison Biden years ago, when they had the chance. It’s not a secret about the aneurysms. All they had to do was to have him step down “for health reasons,” and nobody of consequence would have batted an eyelash. They could have gone with Ken Salazar and really made life difficult for the GOP.

    Now they’re stuck with this guy. And if you think telling a black audience in reference to Romney’s intentions, “Y’all going to be put back in chains,” is a colossal gaffe then just wait until the election season in September and October really kicks into gear and the pressure builds up. Biden is capable of saying anything. Seriously. He’s capable of melting down at the debate with Ryan like your crazy uncle in the attic. Shit, I haven’t watched a political debate in years, but for Biden-Ryan you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be in front of the tube. There’s no telling what Biden might do. The prospective train wreck component alone will be worth the time spent tuning in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  17. elizajane says:

    Biden is the only person on either ticket right now who is genuinely from an ordinary, middle-class background. He didn’t make himself rich in Washington, either, and that speaks in his favor. He is also the only person on either ticket with decades of legislative and foreign policy experience. In many ways Hilary would be wonderful but she isn’t “ordinary’ in the way Biden is, and against Romney and Ryan, a little ordinary isn’t a bad thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  18. Moderate Mom says:

    No, there is no way that Biden will be dropped, because would paint a picture of desperation within the campaign.

    Most of Biden’s gaffes are pretty funny. My favorite was when he told the guy in the wheelchair to stand up. That one was classic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  19. Lynda says:

    I was composing a post about gaffes being in the eye of the beholder and how much of an impact they make often depends on what type of gaffe it is eg tongue twists, brain freezes (bipartisan wince for Rick Perry) or one revealing an opinion or character you are trying to hide. However, I had far more fun looking at these
    http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/joebiden/a/bidenisms.htm
    http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blbushisms.htm
    http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/sarahpalin/a/palinisms.htm

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. al-Ameda says:

    @SilentCal:

    The only reason that Obama picked Biden in the first place was that he was the only “qualified” Democrat even dumber than Barry himself. Since that’s a pretty low bar to crawl under there’s no way BO Narcissus wil dump him. Certainly not in favor of Hillary who may be scary, but certainly ain’t dumb.

    And yet, by your dumbed down Republican standard, both Obama and Biden each are geniuses compared to the the GOP fare that was served up during this Republican “”debate” season.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  21. Septimius says:

    “They gonna put y’all back in chaaaains, muthafucka.”

    Ok, maybe I just imagined that last part, but there’s no way they dump Biden. He’s too gangsta.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  22. MM says:

    @Wayne: yeah. Those things you mention have never been covered. Except they have, which is why you know about them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’ll admit to having a big soft spot for Biden. He really is a political version of everyone’s favorite regular at the neighborhood bar – not the brightest guy in the room, but smart enough, and certainly the one that’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot to sh!t with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  24. MM says:

    @grumpy realist: Yep, all the concern trolls saying that Obama needs to dump Biden would pivot in 10 seconds to talk about how dumping Biden proves how horrible Obama’s campaign and/or presidency and/or personality is.

    Personally, I think that the GOP has a ton of opposition research on the Clintons and they really just want an excuse to use it. That’s why the “Hillary is inevitable” storyline morphed to “Hillary will create a brokered convention” which morphed to “Hillary will be VP”. One way or another it will morph into “Hillary will run in 2016″ as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. KariQ says:

    It’s worth considering that the only people who think Biden should be replaced are Romney supporters. That alone should tell you that Biden is more of an asset than a liability to Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. Mr. Replica says:

    @KariQ:

    It’s worth considering that the only people who think Biden should be replaced are Romney supporters. That alone should tell you that Biden is more of an asset than a liability to Obama.

    this.

    Considering the two largest names adding their opinion that Biden should be replaced, are Palin and Rudy, I can’t see how what is quoted above isn’t obvious to everyone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Of course, most of them will continue to try to aid the Obama campaign in subtle and not-so-subtle ways…

    I just have to mention the hypocrisy of how Biden and the Democrats’ gaffes are treated compare to Republicans’ gaffes.

    Luckily for Obama the media is mostly in his pocket-especially when it comes to who wins the election…

    No matter who is on either presidential ticket, it’s so good to know that conservative victimhood will never stop…it’s a wonder that Republicans win any elections at all, considering all the “help” that the “Democrat” Party gets…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. David M says:

    You mean Rudy “A noun, a verb and 9/11” Giuliani doesn’t like the guy that came up with the phrase? I’m shocked I tell you, shocked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. spindle789 says:

    Shorter Doug: This is is ridiculous that I am going to write 5 paragraphs about how silly it is, adding to the noise and speculation on this topic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @David M: Yes, that phrase definitely drew blood. Rudy wouldn’t be screaming so much had not Biden defined him for eternity in the political realm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0