Joe Biden Sure Sounds Like A Guy Running For President

He says he won't announce anything until after the start of 2019, but Joe Biden is sure sounding like a guy who's running for President.

mer Vice-President Joe Biden is certainly sounding like someone who is inclined to run for President in 2020:

During a stop for his book tour in Missoula, Montana, Monday night, former Vice President Joe Biden discussed his 2020 prospects, saying he believes that he is the “most qualified person” to be president, noting a decision is coming in the next two months, and acknowledging he’s a “gaffe machine.”

“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden said to applause at the University of Montana. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life.”

“No one should run for the job unless they believe that they would be qualified doing the job. I’ve been doing this my whole adult life, and the issues that are the most consequential relating to the plight of the middle class and our foreign policy are things that I have — even my critics would acknowledge, I may not be right but I know a great deal about it,” he added.

Biden said his family must now decide as a “unit” whether or not they’re prepared for a run — setting a decision time frame of the next six weeks to two months.

“I have two young grandchildren my son left who love me and adore me and want me around. I want to be there to take care of them, so we’ve got to figure out whether or not this is something we can all do as a family,” he said. “We’re going to make that decision in the next six weeks to two months, and that’s the basis of the decision.”

The moderator, Bruce Feiler, pointed out some of the potential liabilities of a Biden campaign, saying “He’s too old. He signed, he cosponsored the crime bill. He was the chairman of the judiciary committee during the Anita Hill hearings, and he’s out of touch in the era of Me Too. $1.5 million ain’t gonna cut it anymore, you need $100 million. Who wants to wake up at 6 a.m. for the next two years and get insults from the President of the United States?…You’re a gaffe machine. I could go on. Which of these scares you the most?”

“None of them,” Biden said before moving on to defend some of those potential liabilities.

“I am a gaffe machine, but my God what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth,” he said. “I’m ready to litigate all those things, the question is what kind of nation are we becoming? What are we going to do? Who are we?”

This wouldn’t be Biden’s first try for the Presidency, of course. In addition to his failed bids for the White House in 1988 and 2008, there was much speculation that the then Vice-President would enter the race for the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination notwithstanding the fact that he had spent most of 2015 outside the race due to his son Beau Biden’s illness and death. The 2016 speculation had actually begun several years before the 2016 campaign season began, some of which Biden appeared to be stirring up himself. At the time it seemed more like Biden was keeping mum on the subject mostly because he wanted to maintain some level of influence in the Democratic Party leading up to the race for the nomination but that he didn’t necessarily intend to actually run, especially if Hillary Clinton entered the race as most observers expected she would. After Clinton entered the race and the news reports about things such as her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State and the links between companies who did business with the State Department and had also made contributions to the Clinton Foundation became more of a headache for the Democrats, that speculation returned. As a result, we spent much of the fall of 2015 waiting to see if Biden would enter the race. Ultimately, of course, the Vice-President declined to enter the race, and the rest, of course, is history. This also isn’t the first time there’s been speculation about Biden entering the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination. That very thing was being talked about openly as recently as this past May, and even though Biden said on the record at the time that he wasn’t running, he has kept up a fairly steady schedule that looks for all the world like someone who is at least considering the idea of entering the Presidential field for what would be a third run at the White House. These latest remarks only seem to make it clear that Biden is at least seriously looking at the idea of running,

As I’ve said before, a run by Biden in 2020 seems as though it would be unlikely. As noted above, he’d be 77 years old before the race even began, and 78 years old by Inauguration Day in 2020. By the end of a hypothetical first tern, he would be 82 years old and, while one hopes that Biden lives a long and healthy life it’s clear that he’s got more days behind him than ahead of him. Does he really want to spend those days on a campaign that he well knows will be grueling, exhausting, and emotional for himself and his campaign? It’s also unclear whether he’d have the energy for such a campaign, and it’s likely that his every move would be watched for signs that he might not be physically or mentally up for the task of running for President, never mind the toll that actually serving as President should he actually win. Is Biden prepared for that? That’s something only he can answer, but at the moment at least he seems to be at least thinking about it.

Even taking all that into account, it’s fairly easy to see why Democrats might be willing to turn to Biden as the antidote to Trumpism in 2020. As I’ve noted before, there have been many Democratic insiders and political pundits who have opined that the party’s fortunes might have been different had Biden decided to challenge Clinton for the nomination and become the party’s nominee instead of her. Clinton lost in no small part because of her failure to connect with white working-class voters in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, many of whom had voted for the Obama/Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012. This is a constituency that Biden has always fared very well with, and it’s possible that he could have garnered their support in a way that Clinton failed to do. As I’ve noted before, Clinton lost the election largely because of what ended up being a very narrow loss in those upper midwest states. In fact, she would have won the election outright but for just 77,741 votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Biden at the top of the ticket instead of Clinton could have pushed enough of those votes into the Democratic column to give them a narrow Electoral College victory instead of the narrow loss that they suffered.

On a final note, while one can make the argument that many of the potential candidates for the Democratic nomination have rather thin resumes that raise the question of whether or not they would be prepared to be President in January 2021, you cannot make the same claim about Joe Biden. In addition to eight years as a fairly active Vice-President who was closely involved in policy decisions at the domestic and foreign policy levels, Biden has a long resume as Senator that spans more than three decades and includes time as both a member and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, perhaps two of the most important committees in the Senate. As such, his claim to be “the most qualified person in the country to be president” isn’t mere boasting.

None of this means that Biden is actually running, of course, and it certainly doesn’t mean that he could win the nomination. He certainly does seem to be entertaining the possibility, though, and the fact that he’s fast becoming the most vocal spokesman the party has against Trump and Trumpism seems like a deliberate effort on his part to put himself at the front of the pack of potential challengers. Even if he doesn’t ultimately run, he’s likely to have a big influence on who does run and on the message that the Democrats formulate in response to Trump between now and 2020. For that reason alone, Joe Biden will be someone worth paying attention to.

 

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Joe Biden, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    Even taking all that into account, it’s fairly easy to see why Democrats might be willing to turn to Biden as the antidote to Trumpism in 2020.

    Authoritarianism can’t be an antidote to authoritarianism.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    I like Biden. I really like him. But he’s of the past and we need a candidate of the future. This cannot be a restoration, it needs to be a step forward.

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  3. Moosebreath says:

    No. Just no.

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  4. Kathy says:

    The big, big, big, big, huge concern is his age.

    He may live to be 120 and be lucid and competent until the last minute, or he may descend into senility halfway through his first term. There’s no way to tell, and I don’t think there’s much of a way to quantify the risk (past knowing what percentage of the elderly get dementia and at what age range, but that’s too general).

    Also given his age, he may run as a lame duck, knowing or explicitly stating he’ll serve only one term. There are some advantages to that, of course. Such as not worrying about spending political capital that could be used in the next election. But there are disadvantages also, such as even his party leaving him and not supporting him.

    He is qualified, no question. And not in a “better than Trump” sense, which is a bar set so low it’s ten feet underground.

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  5. John Peabody says:

    He could run with a younger, energetic, charismatic person with the un-spoken assumption that the VP would be involved totally in the office, ready to take over Joe Biden decides to step down “due to age”. It’s a win-win…he can run on his record and experience, and be linked to a ready-made attractive partner ready to slip in when needed.

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  6. Kylopod says:

    I like Biden, but I’ve long felt his political talents are overrated. Even if he were much younger I’d have my doubts about his strengths as a candidate. Indeed, I’m rather perplexed by the Dem blogosphere love for Biden, given that (a) his previous presidential runs were unimpressive (b) his record is far from ideal from a progressive perspective.

    One of the more curious talking points among his defenders is the idea that this former Senator from Delaware would prove formidable among blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt. I’ll believe it when I see it.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    JOE…NO!!!

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  8. Joe says:

    No one from either party over 55, just no. We need to move on.

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  9. Tutus Greenweeo says:

    I sure hope the Democrats are STUPID enough to run “Creepy Joe” BiteMe for president! This Gay is a hoot and will provide numerous gaffes and laughs during the election cycle. He’ll bring that “three letter word” to light, JOBS…JOBS…JOBS. Go “Creepy Joe.”

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  10. Kylopod says:

    @Tutus Greenweeo:

    I sure hope the Democrats are STUPID enough to run “Creepy Joe” BiteMe for president!

    Speaking as a Dem, I have some sincere advice for you that many of us learned the hard way: Be careful what you wish for.

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  11. al Ameda says:

    Jeez … Trump, Clinton, Warren, Bernie, Joe …. all, by 2020, well into their 70s.
    Please, all of you, go … away …

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  12. Franklin says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Seconded.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Is anyone else noticing that we are attracting new trolls who. . . well, put it this way: English does not appear to be their first language?

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  14. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    Indeed, I’m rather perplexed by the Dem blogosphere love for Biden

    Probably the “what if” factor.

    El Cheeto Dennison is, without a doubt, the worst ever candidate to ever run for president, as far as qualifications go. But Clinton turned out to be a pretty bad candidate as far as the mechanics of the race go, and there was a deep reservoir of antipathy towards her in GOP circles (though IMO she was among the best qualified person to be president who ever ran since Bush the elder).

    So, “What if someone like Biden had been the candidate instead of Hillary? Surely they’d have trounced Trump.”

    Maybe. I’ve fallen into thinking that way myself, notwithstanding the absolute certainty many of us had that Clinton couldn’t possibly lose.

    Of course we don’t know, and very likely can’t know. But there is reason to doubt. After all El Cheeto did defeat a bunch of GOP candidates in the primaries. Granted the way votes are valued is different, but it hints at something. Absent an alternate universe or a time machine, we can’t test this counterfactual (like most counterfactuals)

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  15. MikeyParks says:

    Let’s just see if there are enough stupid Americans to elect “Groper Joe.” It’s probably an even bet.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MikeyParks:
    Given that 46% of American voters elected a creepy, corrupt, treasonous scumbag, it’s never a good idea to underestimate the stupidity of voters, but Biden is a serious, capable, informed, decent guy so voting for him does not require stupidity.

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  17. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: whoever Mikey is voting for will require it.

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  18. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    Of course we don’t know, and very likely can’t know. But there is reason to doubt. After all El Cheeto did defeat a bunch of GOP candidates in the primaries.

    He was playing to a different audience than in the general election, and the dynamics were different. Hillary was historically unpopular, and she did not become that way due to anything Trump did. If you look at the trajectory of her favorability ratings, they had pretty much collapsed by late 2015, when Trump was virtually ignoring her and spending most of his time duking it out with his Republican rivals. After he emerged from the primaries in spring 2016 and began focusing on attacking her, her ratings actually improved slightly. Contrary to popular belief, there’s very little evidence that his screaming about “Crooked Hillary!” had any negative impact on her public image. That image can be added to the list of things Trump stamped his name on without actually creating.

    It seems intuitive that Biden would have done better than Hillary, mostly because it seems intuitive that just about any Dem would have. But keep in mind that Hillary did not start out as toxically unpopular as she became. Indeed, at this point in the 2016 cycle (late 2014), Hillary was far more popular than Biden. What did her in was not the Republican smear campaign (which had existed for decades), but, I believe, the Russian-backed disinformation campaign on social media, which for the first time in her public life spread beyond the confines of the GOP bubble. There’s no other way to explain why email-gate made her into a monster in the public eye, in a way that Whitewater and even Benghazi never did.

    It’s possible she was uniquely vulnerable to this smear campaign in a way that a different candidate, such as Biden, would have been resistant to. As you said, we’ll never know. But I’m sure Biden would have been depicted by the slime machine as a laughable, clueless, doddering old fool, and it would have cut through whatever charms he may have had. I think the image some Dems have of Biden as a scrappy tough guy is flawed, but more fundamentally, I think the whole notion that Dems need a macho candidate who can “take the fight to” Trump is a grave misconception that, from what I’ve seen, is loaded with misogyny.

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  19. Moosebreath says:

    @MikeyParks:

    “Let’s just see if there are enough stupid Americans to elect “Groper Joe.” It’s probably an even bet.”

    Well, there were enough to elect Grab ’em by the Pussy Don.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    People who call him a gaffe machine have it all wrong. He’s not a machine, he’s an artist. He has turned the gaffe into a finely honed random outburst.

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  21. Gustopher says:

    I don’t think the Democrats are really looking for a 70 year old man this time out, no matter his experience. That’s going to be a big uphill climb. He’s not just old, he is old school. He’s been running for president longer than a lot of voters have been alive.

    One way I see it working is if he does something unprecedented and new — name a VP candidate before the primaries even start, and campaign with them. One of the promising stars with a light resume. Beto O’Rourke is the obvious name that comes to mind, but there are others.

    But even there… Biden is just so Vice Presidential, can’t we just flip the ticket?

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  22. Blue Galangal says:

    How about Biden runs with – hear me out – Obama as his VP?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. 😀

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  23. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: Considering that the last statistic I saw on this was something over 80% of elderly over 85 for all forms of senility/dementia, “to general” may not be the problem.

    ” she was among the best qualified person to be president who ever ran since Bush the elder.”

    Considering the recent comments on GHWB’s passing, this strikes me as a breathtakingly low bar, even though I do agree.

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  24. Mister Bluster says:

    @Blue Galangal:..How about Biden runs with – hear me out – Obama as his VP?

    The RePudlican Party beat you to it 38 years ago.

    Reagan and Ford Considered a Co-Presidency in 198o

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @Blue Galangal: VP must be eligible to serve as P, and Obama cannot due to term limits.

    Unless you meant Michelle Obama…

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  26. Kylopod says:

    @Mister Bluster: Having served only about a half a term, Ford was still eligible to run for president or vp again. Obama is not.

    From what I understand, Ford as vp in 1980 came pretty close to actually happening. It was his insistence on the co-presidency idea that killed it.

    It would provide an intriguing alternate history if it had happened. It would probably have left Reagan with no clear successor, because by 1988 Ford would have been 75 and constitutionally limited to just one more presidential term.

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  27. Mister Bluster says:

    There is no such thing as a Co-President in any of the Articles of Our Great Charter. One of them would have to be on the ballot as President and the other as Vice-President.
    Only one of them could assume the authority stated in Article II, Section 2.
    The whole idea was foolish.

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  28. Kylopod says:

    @Mister Bluster: My understanding is that it would be something of an informal agreement on the part of Reagan to cede some of his powers. But I don’t think there was any way to enforce it, or to stop Reagan from first agreeing to the deal then backing away from it as soon as he became president.

    In the end, it was basically just hubris on Ford’s part. If he’d been more modest in his ambitions, he may have actually made his way onto the ticket.

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  29. Kathy says:

    Rule by two or more people was quite common at some places at some times in the past. The most recent, at least involving a major country, may have been the Directory in France, composed of five members. That one wound up toppled and replaced by Emperor Napoleon I.

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  30. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    But I’m sure Biden would have been depicted by the slime machine as a laughable, clueless, doddering old fool, and it would have cut through whatever charms he may have had.

    No doubt. I figure, though, that a large portion of the GOP base, and of the regular GOP voters, would never have voted for Clinton no matter what. Worse than that, many of these people would have voted for literally anyone against Clinton, as they in fact did so for Trump.

    And once you are part of a con, you stay in.

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  31. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..Rule by two or more people

    I think I read about the Soviet verison of this in The Weekly Reader in Grade School.

    List of troikas[edit]
    On four occasions—the 2–3 year period between Vladimir Lenin’s incapacitation and Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship; the three months immediately following Stalin’s death; the interval between Nikita Khrushchev’s fall and Leonid Brezhnev’s consolidation of power; and the ailing Konstantin Chernenko’s tenure as General Secretary—a form of collective leadership known as the troika (“triumvirate”)[60] governed the Soviet Union, with no single individual holding leadership alone.[24][40][61]

    WikiP

    Then there was this utter disaster! What were they thinking?:

    The College of Coaches was an unorthodox strategy employed by the Chicago Cubs in 1961 and 1962. After the Cubs finished 60–94 in 1960, their 14th straight second-division finish, Cubs owner P. K. Wrigley announced in December 1960 that the Cubs would no longer have a manager, but would be led by an eight-man committee.
    WikiP

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  32. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    The Roman Republic featured a host of magistracies which could exert power and propose legislation, held by two or more men by law. Notably this includes the Consulship. Each magistrate had absolute veto power over his colleague(s).

    Later in the Empire, it wasn’t rare for there to be two emperors for a while. Diocletian even set up a tetrarchy, consisting of two senior emperors and two junior ones. This wasn’t done to limit power, as was the intent in the Republic, but simply because the Empire was just too large and turbulent for one emperor to handle. Still, the tetrarchy didn’t last long past Diocletian’s retirement.

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  33. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    I figure, though, that a large portion of the GOP base, and of the regular GOP voters, would never have voted for Clinton no matter what.

    I don’t think GOP voters are the issue. They’re going to vote overwhelmingly for their own party no matter what the candidate (which is also true of Dems, of course). Sure, it’s possible a different candidate might have attracted a few more Republicans, and that could have made a difference around the margins. And I’m sure Hillary’s status as practically the GOP’s anti-Christ was a motivating force for GOP voters.

    But the fact is that this was only part of the story, and not the most important part. More crucial was the attitude of swing voters and liberals who ended up either voting third party or staying home. A great deal of the Russian attack on social media was aimed at the latter group–the disaffected lefties.

    Biden isn’t in any way the toxic, polarizing figure Hillary became–but I’m far from convinced the propaganda machine couldn’t have turned him into one, and couldn’t do so in the future.

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  34. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    More crucial was the attitude of swing voters and liberals who ended up either voting third party or staying home. A great deal of the Russian attack on social media was aimed at the latter group–the disaffected lefties.

    This is something I’ve considered, and I wonder if there is a serious academic study about it. I would like to know what percentage of voters in the three big states that swung for Trump voted for 3rd party candidates.

    But I also wonder whether the Russian propaganda would have worked that well against a less polarizing figure. For some Republicans, every Democrat is Satan Incarnate. But not for all, and not for most independents. Plus Biden didn’t have a recent scandal like the much overblown email matter. Though he has plenty of older scandals and controversies.

    It’s just too hard to tell.

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  35. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    I would like to know what percentage of voters in the three big states that swung for Trump voted for 3rd party candidates.

    As I’ve mentioned before, exit polls indicate that, while more Jill Stein and Gary Johnson voters listed Clinton as their second choice than Trump, the majority of both said they otherwise wouldn’t have voted at all.

    “A quarter of Johnson voters said Clinton, 15 percent said Trump, and 55 percent said they would not have voted. Numbers were similar for Stein voters, with about a quarter saying they would have chosen Clinton, 14 percent saying Trump, and 61 percent saying they would not have voted.”

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-exit-polls-how-donald-trump-won-the-us-presidency/

    If we apply these results to the crucial states, it would appear that the third-party candidates probably did not swing the states to Trump. For example, Trump beat Clinton in Wisconsin by a margin of 0.77 points, and since Jill Stein took 1.04% of the vote, this has led some people to suggest that Stein acted as spoiler and cost Clinton the state. (The same is true of PA and MI–Stein’s share of the vote was larger than the margin separating Trump from Clinton–which has led people to say that Stein cost Clinton the election altogether.) The problem with this theory is that if the above exit polls reflected the preferences of Stein voters in WI, then (doing the math) at best Stein cost Clinton a net of 0.11% of the vote, well short of the 0.77% margin separating Trump from Clinton in the state.

    Of course there’s no way to know for sure, since there aren’t any state-level exit polls that asked this question. Perhaps in Wisconsin, Stein voters were much likelier to be composed of people who otherwise would have voted for Clinton. Or perhaps the exit polls simply weren’t accurate. I’m just trying to caution against the assumption that Stein (or Johnson) acted as spoiler. The evidence is inconclusive at best–and I would argue unlikely.

    My point in bringing up the third-party candidates wasn’t that they themselves had a pivotal impact on the race, but rather that the general dislike for Clinton drove many liberal-leaning voters to either stay home or vote third party (or even vote for Trump). The relatively large third-party vote was more a symptom than a cause of public distaste for the major-party candidates.

    But I also wonder whether the Russian propaganda would have worked that well against a less polarizing figure.

    I really don’t know. All I know is that the collapse in Hillary’s popularity was extremely rapid. In little over two years–from 2013 to 2015–she went from being astronomically popular (her Gallup favorables on Apr. 2013 were 64/31) to historically unpopular, with worse ratings than she’d ever had before in her entire 20+ years on the national stage. There had always been a contingent of Republicans who loathed her, but it was never anything close to a majority of the public. She was always polarizing, but she did not become toxically unpopular until 2015. I have never seen any plausible explanation for this, other than that the Russian assault on social media was successful in getting anti-Hillary memes to seep into the general public in a way that even the decades of GOP propaganda never managed to do.

    Plus Biden didn’t have a recent scandal like the much overblown email matter. Though he has plenty of older scandals and controversies.

    Well there was the plagiarism controversy that killed his 1988 campaign. But Biden wouldn’t necessarily be attacked in the same way Hillary was. They’d use a different narrative–my guess is they’d depict him as a clueless, aging moron. They’ll find an angle with which to attack any Democrat who comes along. That’s always been true, but it seems the Russians have discovered a way to indoctrinate voters with almost surgical precision. To think it’ll be less effective on non-Hillary candidates is the optimistic view.

    Of course there have always been politicians who seem effective at resisting smear campaigns against them–Obama is the ultimate modern example–but I have never had the sense Biden has that kind of talent.

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  36. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    I think third party candidates are a contributing factor. another factor may be that some would-be Clinton voters didn’t bother to vote because they were sure Hillary would win anyway. this is undermined by the fact she got a bigger slice of popular vote than El Cheeto did.

    Part of why it’s so hard to tell, it’s because we don’t know everything that happened in 2016.

    There’s an analogy that recent history is like standing inches from a huge blackboard covered in small print. You can see it clearly, but are limited to a small portion. More distant history is like standing farther away. You can see more, but not clearly. it’s frustrating.

    I would love to see an exhaustive examination of what happened, but much of the data is ephemeral and already lost. Namely what wasn’t exit polled. Other data may still be there, the social media posts and comments, but there’s too much of it to examine it properly.

    One thing is sure: Hillary wishes she had never set up a private email server.

    And from this we can draw one lesson: follow the effing official IT rules. And if you need more, try to work it with IT.

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  37. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: In the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, unlike the 1939 movie, the characters initially visit the Wizard separately, and he takes a completely different form before each character. When Dorothy visits him, he appears to her as a giant head on a chair. She returns to her friends and tells them what she saw. Scarecrow then enters the throne room and is surprised to find himself looking not at a head but at a lovely lady. After he finishes talking with “her,” he leaves and tells his companions about it. Later, as the Tin Man is headed toward the room, the book notes, “He did not know whether he would find Oz a lovely Lady or a Head, but he hoped it would be the lovely Lady.” Instead, the Wizard appears to him as a terrible beast. When it’s the Lion’s turn, the Lion thinks to himself, “If he is a Beast when I go to see him, I shall roar my loudest, and so frighten him that he will grant all I ask. And if he is the lovely Lady, I shall pretend to spring upon her, and so compel her to do my bidding. And if he is the great Head, he will be at my mercy; for I will roll this head all about the room until he promises to give us what we desire.” He enters the room and the Wizard is simply a ball of fire.

    I remember reading this as a kid and being puzzled by the fact that it never once occurs to any of the characters that the Wizard might take a different form than any of the ones they’ve already seen. They seem incapable of conceptualizing the future except in terms of their past experiences. And you know what? That’s exactly the way people think in the real world.

    At one of the 2008 Democratic debates, Obama triumphantly declared that not only had he smoked pot, but that he inhaled–alluding to a comment that had once nearly killed Bill Clinton’s presidential prospects. But that didn’t stop Obama from later stepping in it with a stray remark about blue-collar voters clinging to their guns and their religion.

    In fact it’s kind of amazing how eager post-Clinton Democrats were to distance themselves from the first Democrat since FDR to win two presidential terms. So John Kerry in 2004 structured his convention as a celebration of his military record, and actually brought Bill Clinton on stage to apologize for having once dodged the draft. But one thing Kerry did not do at that convention was utter one word of criticism of the incumbent president he was seeking to replace. He had this old-fashioned notion of staying positive, which in modern times is the equivalent of attaching a “kick me” sign to one’s back. The next two Democratic nominees made sure not to repeat that mistake. Whatever Hillary’s problems in the 2016 campaign, she did not shrink from going on the offensive against Donald Trump. She made other errors, which presumably all future Democrats have set to memory to avoid. Whatever errors they do make will be their own.

    The problem is the lack of imagination. Biden probably would not have become mired in “scandal,” he may have appealed more to blue-collar voters in the Midwest (though I’m skeptical), and obviously he wasn’t going to be the victim of misogyny. But he’d have had other problems that Hillary never faced, and both the Russians and the GOP machine would have seized on those weaknesses to try to make him unelectable. Would it have worked? Who knows? Indeed, a lot of people overlook the fact that, for all the mistakes Hillary made and the Russians and the Comey Letter and on and on, she still very nearly won anyway. I’m not trying to make the Russians sound like an omnipotent force that guaranteed Hillary’s defeat; it still wouldn’t have happened without a significant amount of luck heading their way.

    My point is simply this: If Dems are going to think of their future strategy mostly in terms of avoiding being Hillary, they’re not going to be well-prepared for the next attacks.

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  38. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    I remember reading this as a kid and being puzzled by the fact that it never once occurs to any of the characters that the Wizard might take a different form than any of the ones they’ve already seen. They seem incapable of conceptualizing the future except in terms of their past experiences. And you know what? That’s exactly the way people think in the real world.

    I call it “Fighting the last war syndrome.” It’s what, in part, got us the war in Iraq. Democrats supported it this time, though it was a bad idea, because those who hadn’t in 91 found their prospects diminished later on.

    In fiction, one would warn “expect the unexpected.” But the unexpected by definition is not possible to expect.

    Biden could have suffered from his actions in the Clarence Thomas hearings. Enough perhaps to alienate a substantial fraction of Democratic women into not voting, or voting for Stein.

    So we agree we can’t say whether Biden would have won or not.

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