And now, many Democrats may have to come to terms with the fact that Joe Biden will not run exactly the campaign they want or win in the way they would like. But his brand of not-particularly-inspiring politics might have within it the formula for success. As Ronald Brownstein argues, Biden’s path to victory could lie with a group of voters that not only isn’t sexy, but is often ignored as Democrats wonder whether they can inspire young people, mobilize Latinos or win over blue-collar white men:
The former vice president's surprising strength among older voters in polls could offer him an unexpected opportunity to broaden the electoral map, even if he struggles to mobilize large numbers of new voters.People older than 45 composed a larger share of voters than the national average in 2016 in all six states that both sides consider the most likely to pick the next president, especially Arizona, Michigan and, above all, Florida, according to census figures. Improving on the Democratic performance among those seniors offers Biden an alternative route to tipping the six key swing states — which also include North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — than by exciting more young people to vote, which could prove a difficult challenge for him.
Older voters, especially those over 65, aren’t fun and exciting. You don’t reach them with innovative new campaign techniques. They are uninterested in your memes. But they vote. And as Brownstein points out, the last Democrat to win voters over 65 was Al Gore in 2000; President Trump beat Hillary Clinton among them by 7 points.
Biden, a guy who can reminisce about the days when you’d go down to the soda fountain with your buddy Pickles and grab a chocolate malted, may have an appeal to older voters that could make him hard to beat.
Of course, there isn’t just one group of voters that holds the key to the entire election. It still matters a great deal whether young people, African Americans and Latinos turn out, and whether suburban swing voters are still repelled by Trump. But it’s a good reminder that just as your favorite candidate may not be your party’s nominee, the campaign he runs and the coalition he assembles may not be exactly what you fantasized about either.
And for many liberals, their fantasy coalition is one that alters the electorate and brings the future closer. At least since John Judis and Ruy Teixeira published “The Emerging Democratic Majority” in 2004, liberals have been waiting for the future in which young people, minorities and voters in and around vibrant metropolitan areas come together to create a bulletproof majority while Republican constituencies shrink into irrelevance.
But it remains in the future. A key reason many cautious Democrats thought Biden was electable was that they didn’t quite believe that coalition could be enough, and Biden promised to assemble a more traditional majority. Even if he can do it, amid the joy at ousting Trump, there will be a tinge of regret among many liberals that this is what it took.
That’s in part because there’s something else they want, if they were being honest: another Barack Obama. They want a candidate who’s charismatic and inspiring, whose political instincts and skills are unrivaled, who gets young people motivated, who wins in red and blue states, who’s so good he just strolls up to the three-point line with no warm-up and drains the shot. Obama both embodied that coalition of the future and convinced them it could become a reality, not just eventually but right then.
Biden is not that, not by a long shot. And he’s extremely vulnerable, a weak campaigner with a propensity for screwing up and plenty of material for the Trump campaign to use in its inevitable attempt to demobilize the Democratic electorate.
But precisely because of the things that make some Democrats accept him only grudgingly — his age, his centrist impulses, his desire to find an unthreatening version of liberalism — he could be well positioned to win in November. And the Democratic coalition of the future may just have to wait.