Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Winners and Losers: Joe Biden's Presidential Announcement

This morning puts a period on the political career of one of the most dominant figures in American politics over the past forty years: Joe Biden.  While the period isn't quite there yet since he's still got 14 months left it's likely that 2012 was the end of the Scranton, PA native's electoral career and he will be remembered for his time in the Vice Presidency and not the office he always dreamed of achieving.  Biden's been exhibiting fairly erratic behavior over the past few days, it's worth noting, and sending incredibly mixed signals about his run (he shares this with his 2012 rival for Number One Observatory Circle Paul Ryan, whose also been pulling a Hamlet routine this week).  His not-so-subtle digs at Hillary Clinton and clear soaking up of the spotlight would have indicated that he was interested, and I suspect that he's still going to make Hillary Clinton sweat over whether he will make an endorsement (I would assume he won't go against the President, who clearly will feel obliged to pick Hillary, but know that he probably bought Obama waiting at least a month by not running).  Biden would have faced long odds for the White House, and quite frankly the way he would have had to win wouldn't have played to his strengths (Joe Biden is not a great negative campaigner in general, but against a fellow Democrat he would have been downright abysmal).  Still, his leaving the race has a clear impact on a number of contenders and below we pick the winners and losers.

The Winners

Sec. Hillary Clinton

There is no bigger winner today than Hillary Clinton.  Mrs. Clinton, the obvious frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is someone that knew that while Bernie Sanders posed a nuisance, Joe Biden posed a problem.  He had a lot of the same voters intrigued by him that were also interested in her (case in point, yours truly, who would have had a difficult decision to make in an endorsement if Biden had gotten in but now has an easy choice).  Clinton's bravura performance at the debates last week probably killed Biden's momentum, and while I'm guessing there's a lot of bitterness there, there's no chance Biden actually endorses Bernie Sanders over the woman he served aside in the Senate and the Obama administration, and now she can praise a very popular Democrat without worry about it coming back to bite her.  Plus, Biden has been polling in the mid-teens nationally, and more critically in Iowa and New Hampshire; Clinton will get the lion's share of that support and that could make the difference in the Granite State in particular.  All-in-all, Clinton's camp has to be very pleased right now.

President Barack Obama

If there's a runner-up on the list of people who are smiling today, it's President Barack Obama.  It's no secret that Obama was dreading having his VP take on his Secretary of State, particularly since the latter was more likely to win but he clearly likes the former better.  Make no mistake-Bill Clinton was out championing President Obama in 2012 with the clear guarantee that four years later Obama would be doing the same for his wife, but Obama wouldn't have been able to endorse with Biden in the race, and might have even felt a deep enough loyalty to go for Biden in the primaries considering he chose him over Hillary Clinton seven years ago to be his running mate.  With Biden out of the race, Obama is free to endorse Hillary Clinton and start campaigning hard for her without any worry about a conflict-of-interest.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

While Joe Biden would have gone after Hillary Clinton, it's clear as well that DWS would have been on the chopping block alongside her.  As anyone who has read this blog in-depth knows I am not a fan of Wasserman Schultz in the slightest, and one of the reasons for that dislike is that she makes public brawls a lot more intense and personal than they should be (see also the ridiculousness with Tulsi Gabbard and RT Rybak when clearly DWS was caught in a bad decision and didn't think it would go public).  Biden would have stated pretty clearly that DWS was trying to rig the game for Clinton with only six debates, and he would have had the rest of the field, eager to get a leg-up, band-wagoning.  When Lincoln Chafee and Martin O'Malley complain about a lack of debates, no one listens, but the Vice President talks, the press pays attention.

Gov. Jeb Bush

There is not a lot going for Jeb Bush right now, but it's hard not to see that he'd have a harder time against Joe Biden than he would against Hillary Clinton.  While other leading Republicans either gain against Biden or it makes no difference (he's older than Hillary, more gaffe-prone, a close Obama ally), Bush also has the "not another nepotism candidate" argument that he needs to negate.  Hillary does that since she's the wife of a president, but Joe Biden, who grew up from nowhere to become a US Senator and the Vice President, is a tougher sell on that issue.  Bush has a lot of problems facing him in order to win the primary, but he's still a serious enough candidate to keep considering how he'd do in the generals, and this helps his chances there.

The Losers

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is hard-to-read.  I still, like Donald Trump, don't know if he actually wants to be president or just wants someone who is president to share his ideals, but either way this hurts him.  Yes, it sets up a one-on-one against Hillary Clinton, something that in normal circumstances would help the Vermont senator, but in reality doesn't here.  Hillary Clinton is at or near 50% in most polls, and while Sanders may be gaining, so is she, and it's hard not to see that most of Biden's support in the polls won't clearly head over to the Clinton camp.  Sanders needs Hillary Clinton to decline, not rise, and her campaign's been doing splendidly for the past few weeks and this only helps.  Sanders, as the leading opponent, stays in the news until New Hampshire now, but his best shot at the presidency (Biden weakening Clinton) is now gone.

Donald Trump

You might wonder how the New York billionaire factors here, but let me explain.  Donald Trump, should he get to the point where he's actually worried about the Democrats (ie he has the nomination), will have to enter into three debates that will be incredibly tough for him.  Even if he tutors himself on foreign policy, his tendency to go after his opponents personally and enter into gaffes is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to tamper down.  If you want proof, look at Biden's propensity for giving the Onion a thousand-and-one realistic-sounding headlines.  And that's from a decades-long senator who is the sitting VP.  Trump will have a harder time with Hillary Clinton, arguably the best debater running for president right now, than Biden who is more likely to fall into the "they both say stupid things" maxim.

Prominent Female Democrats Not Named Hillary Clinton

Despite what she may say, Hillary Clinton is not seriously considering having a female vice presidential pick.  That means people like Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand are not going to be on a national ticket (Gillibrand would have been in rough shape in general, constitutionally) in 2016, and if Hillary Clinton wins, not until at least 2024 or 2028.  That's an eternity, and for Warren in particular it's probably the end-of-the-road for her presidential ambitions considering her age.  Admittedly none of these women will admit to wanting to run for president at the moment, but don't think they aren't considering it in the back of their mind, and being Joe Biden's running mate would have been one of the best chances they had.  And these three would have almost certainly been his shortlist.

Future Vice Presidents

Let's be honest here, the VP slot has always been a questionable launchpad at best.  Only two Vice Presidents have ever been directly-elected to the White House (maybe three if you want to get me angry about the 2000 elections).  Either way, the most-likely route to become president if you're the VP is morbid.  The last few Vice Presidents have not done much to distill this argument.  After all, Dan Quayle and Al Gore both ran for the presidency and lost, Dick Cheney turned down the chance to run, and now so has Joe Biden.   Make no mistake-all four of these men desperately wanted to have their faces on placemats all around the country, but they were either not able to replicate their boss's success or they simply couldn't see a way to the finish line.  If you're Josh Kasich, Rob Portman, Ben Carson, Julian Castro, or Tim Kaine, men who are likely to be considered for the Number 2 slot, you may want to rethink your strategy if you ultimately want to end up behind the Resolute Desk.

And there you have it-the end of the line for Joe Biden, and perhaps a very big chapter for Hillary Clinton.  What are your thoughts on Joe Biden's announcement?  Which winners and losers did I miss?  Share your thoughts below!

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