Bye, Biden

The former VP won’t win the presidential election

Stephan Kaputska, Staff Writer

Joe Biden is still running for president, as easy as it might be to forget by now. After leading the Democratic primary field for all of 2019, the former vice president’s standing in national polls has cratered.

In the Real Clear Politics national polling average, he now trails Senator Bernie Sanders by over 10 points. It is now increasingly apparent that the former Vice President will not be the nominee, and for his own sake should get out of the race. Why?

This isn’t the first time a run for president has gone haywire for Biden. During his first run in 1988, he was derailed by a plagiarism scandal. In 2008, he was crowded out of the field by then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both times, he failed to win a single state. Biden once again considered running in 2016 but decided against it, reportedly because of his son Beau’s then-recent death from cancer and the prospect of not doing well. As Obama’s advisor David Plouffe told him: “Mr. Vice President, you’ve had a great career, you’ve been such an asset to this administration, and we love you … Do you really want it to end in a hotel room in Des Moines, coming in third to Bernie Sanders?

Infographic by Connor Lawless

This was predictable. In 2020, Biden did not finish third in Iowa, the first voting state. He finished fourth, behind both the aforementioned Vermont socialist and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. In New Hampshire, he finished in fifth, with only 8.4% of the vote. In Nevada, he limped into second while being trounced by Sanders among essentially every demographic aside from seniors and African Americans, which he only won narrowly.

After repeated losses, the outlook on Biden seems bearish. What happened?

I predicted early in 2019 that Biden would not be the nominee, but I got the reasoning wrong. I thought what would sink Biden was his record. I thought that with candidates like Senator Kamala Harris, former Representative Beto O’Rourke and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, the primary would devolve into a “woke-off.” The Democratic Party’s shift to the left would leave him not just out of step but out of place. Among other things, his opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion, opposition to forced bussing, the Obama administration’s record of deporting illegal immigrants and his emphasis on being able to work with Republicans would damn him. And if Biden tried to change his positions, he would be punished for flip-flopping.

I misjudged what many Democrats see as their priorities. Many do wish to move to the left, but their overriding priority is to get President Donald Trump out of office by any means necessary. Biden made the requisite apologies and seemed to be coasting to the nomination on the back of the perception that he would easily win the general election. Sure, he made some errors, like when he had the temerity to say Vice President Mike Pence was a “decent guy” and then immediately apologized. But Uncle Joe’s gaffes, if anything, just seemed to make him more relatable.

But no, what sunk Joe Biden was something more basic. His candidacy has no rationale at all, aside from the fact he thinks he could beat Trump. Once Trump is beaten, this line of thinking goes, everything will be great and back to normal. But let’s be honest, every single Democrat running thinks they can beat Trump, or else they presumably wouldn’t be running. The question that must be asked is, once Trump is beaten, then what? Contrast this with Sanders, who calls for a “political revolution” to change what he sees as fundamentally broken systems in America. To Sanders, Trump is a symptom of something wrong in the country and removing him won’t so much as fix the underlying problem, but just put a Band-Aid on it. Although I am politically closer to Biden than then I am to Sanders as a conservative, the latter is correct on this.

So, when the candidate whose premise is everything on being able to win an election starts to lose elections, how can that not fatally undermine him? Sanders has his own electability argument to be sure, but he also has a durable message which helped him cultivate a durable base that will stick with him through thick and thin. Biden’s more transaction-based candidacy collapses at the first sign that he is not inevitable.

On a human level it is difficult not to feel sympathy for the former vice president’s position. He clearly sees himself as presidential material, and he has come about as close to it as is possible. Even from the other side of the aisle, I can’t help but find Biden’s recounting of his childhood struggle with stuttering to be inspiring. His life has undoubtedly not been easy, after suffering one personal tragedy after another. Even considering the cynical political caucus that Biden was probably right, that he was Trump’s strong general election foe, it’s hard to take any joy from it.

But this presidential run is ill-advised, ill-conceived and does not appear to be going anywhere. For his own sake, Biden needs to drop out now. He says Bernie Sanders would have a difficult time beating Trump, but Biden is demonstrably not the person who can beat Sanders. Dragging this out any further is a sad exercise in futility. Disagree as we might, the former vice president deserves better, and he should not subject himself to this embarrassment any longer.