The myth of Joe Biden’s electability
Joe Biden has been running for president for more than 33 years, and has never won a single primary.
Biden has clearly wanted to be president for most of his adult life. In fairness, virtually every elected official in America secretly harbors a desire to sit in the big chair in the big oval room, so he is hardly alone in that ambition. Still, he seems to want it, perhaps more than his peers do.
At 77 years of age, this campaign marks his third attempt at the presidency.
In 1987, his campaign for president was ultimately derailed by a never-ending parade of gaffes, culminating in an accusation of plagiarism by Michael Dukakis, when Biden was caught on tape cribbing from a speech by Neil Kinnock, the leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, without attribution. Additional allegations of plagiarism in law school buried Biden, and he ended up dropping out before the primaries even began.
His campaign in 2008 didn’t go anywhere, as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards dominated attention. He was, of course, once again plagued by gaffes, at one point saying that “you can’t go to 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” His campaign fizzled out, and he quit the race after failing miserably in Iowa.
Biden lucked out, though, as he had endorsed the right horse — Barack Obama — after his withdrawal. That horse, being a relatively young man lacking in experience, needed to try to balance his ticket with an older career politician who had been in Washington for decades and knew where all the bodies were buried. Biden fit the bill, and he rode the Obama wave into the vice presidency.
He knew it would be pointless to run in 2016, as he perceived that Hillary Clinton was “owed” a chance to be the nominee after losing to Obama, so he sat quietly and waited.
When she lost, we all knew that Biden would take a third crack at it. He feigned an internal struggle, of course, but he ended up doing what we all expected him to do, and threw his hat in the ring.
Pundits the world over immediately began referring to Biden as the supposed “front-runner” in the campaign. Why? Well, he had been the vice president, and clearly that means he will be attractive to voters. Plus, we all know his name. And of course, he is the most “moderate” candidate, and the one best positioned to beat Donald Trump.
Biden was never going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, and anyone who had an ounce of understanding of politics knew that two years ago.
Sure, he polled well nationally. But he also had universal name identification, and people like Pete Buttigieg — who is your current delegate leader after Iowa and New Hampshire — did not. Early polls are meaningless, especially if they are national surveys. The road to the White House is littered with the metaphorical dead bodies of people who were the early leaders in party primaries.
More importantly, though, Biden inspired passion in no one. Most Democrats like the guy, and they think he means well. But no one is crawling over broken glass to vote for him the way they are for Bernie Sanders. No one is excited about him the way people are Buttigieg.
He has no constituency. He has no base. The Democratic Party is now increasingly controlled by extreme left-wing socialists and progressives who are activists and ideologues, and Biden is of no interest to any of those people.
Is it any surprise he came in fourth in Iowa, and fifth in New Hampshire?
Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.