VP Joe Biden stirred the pot with a political speech in Iowa on Sunday, confirming what every political watcher knows: He’d really, really like to be president. Unfortunately for him, he matches up poorly against the favorite Hillary Clinton.
Let’s take a look.
Age: Biden is actually 5 years older than Hillary and has been around for even longer (he entered the Senate in 1972). If the Dems are looking for a breath of fresh air, he’s not it.
Iraq: Hillary voted for the Iraq war. Biden did too. They both turned against the war. That’s not the basis for an appeal to the Democratic base.
Syria: Both Biden and Hillary publicly endorsed the president’s request for a resolution for use of force in Syria; both now, it seems, favor the phony Russian diplomacy. No contrast there.
Gay marriage: Joe Biden now brags that he was ahead of the president on this one. Hillary will argue her position in the State Department prohibited her from mixing into domestic policy. That’s not really the case, but since both now favor gay rights voters aren’t likely to punish Hillary for being a little late.
Healthcare: Both supported Obamacare and Hillary can claim she supported it before Obama did. (He ran against the individual mandate; she ran in favor of it in 2008).
That doesn’t leave Biden much unless he’s going to be daring, some would say foolish, in taking on the president and Hillary for either (or both) bad executive management or a hapless foreign policy.
On executive management, he’s got plenty to point to including the Benghazi mess and the failure to forge a Middle East policy. He’d have to present some credible evidence that he tried but his better ideas were rejected. The only place where such evidence exists presently is on Afghanistan where Biden argued for a lighter “footprint”/counter-insurgency strategy from the beginning of the administration.
Hand-in-hand with this argument would be Biden’s claim to be able to work with Republicans and get stuff done whereas Obama could not and Hillary is too divisive. There’s something to be said for this. (Biden reportedly made progress in the grand bargain negotiations.) However, working with Republicans and reaching compromises likely aren’t what liberal primary voters are looking for.
It’s hard to see where Biden would have an edge on Hillary on issues. His persona (the pugnacious Biden with an appeal to the working class) isn’t likely to do it for him. Trying to convince voters he’s been in the trenches with them on domestic fights while Hillary was racking up frequent flyer miles sounds like he’s criticizing her for doing her job.
Biden is nevertheless smart to keep his name in the mix, and not only because it’ll help turn out crowds and donors at his appearances. Hillary has run a cruddy campaign before and could do so again. Moreover, it’s not certain the president would favor her over him; maybe he’d prefer Biden to run instead and keep the exploration of his foreign policy off center stage. And it’s always possible more scandal or other factors would cause her to (gasp!) not run for president.
That Biden is in the mix tells us a lot about how thin the Democratic bench is. Like the flock of GOP potential contenders who decided not to run in 2012, there are some candidates Democrats consider promising but who just aren’t quite there yet (such as Massachusetts liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren.) In other words, after Hillary there a steep drop off in ability, talent and public recognition for other potential candidates.
Prepare, then, to see more and more of Joe Biden as the president’s lame duck status sets in.