While the Republican primaries have been nothing short of an absolute circus, with the record-breaking amount of candidates (currently at 17), the insane amount of money raised and Donald Trump’s unexpected and bizarre campaign, the Democratic campaign has been lackluster in comparison.
The Democratic race only has five candidates, but former Secretary of State and First Lady, Hillary Clinton, has been the commanding front-runner in the race, while only Bernie Sanders’ growing grassroots campaign has shown promise to contend with Clinton. The other candidates, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and former U.S. Senator and Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee, have been polling at or below 1% and show very little promise in making any major waves.
However, the Democratic primary race could be shaken up as current Vice President, Joe Biden, is potentially looking at entering the race, with word that his advisers have been meeting with donors and leaders in the Democratic party. It is also been rumored that the death of his son, Beau Biden, as a result of brain cancer, also has motivated Biden to consider a run for the White House. New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, reported that on his death bed, Beau “tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”
Sitting Vice Presidents have a strong tradition of running and doing well in Presidential elections following serving their two terms in office. In the 1796, 1808, 1836, 1866, 1908, 1948, 1952, 1960, 1968, 1988, and 2000 Presidential elections, the sitting Vice President ran for President after the sitting Vice President served the traditional two terms (or four in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s case). In the most recent examples, in 1988, Ronald Reagan’s VP, Republican George H.W. Bush ran and defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis, and in 2000, when Democrat Al Gore (Bill Clinton’s VP) ran against Republican George W. Bush and lost the general election, controversially by the electoral college, despite winning the popular vote. Only in 1824, 1928, and recently in 2008 with Republican VP Dick Cheney, did the sitting “Veep” decide not to enter the race for President.
Biden’s charisma and “goofy” attitude resonate well with the public and contrast against Hillary’s persona, or lack there of. A recent poll showed that 57% of voters view Clinton as “dishonest” or “untrustworthy,” while 58% said that Biden was “honest” and “trustworthy.” To both Democrats and Republicans, Biden is generally viewed as a fun, likeable character.
However, these good public perceptions may not necessarily convert to successes against Hillary. While his many gaffes may be acceptable for being the “fun uncle” Vice President, they may not be seen as professional for being the leader of the free world.
Biden also doesn’t have the best record for his previous campaigns in which he has run for President, in 1988 and 2008.
In 1988, despite strong initial campaign efforts, his campaign was marred by scandals after he plagiarized one of his speeches from a British Labour MP and reports of academic dishonesty while he was in law school. In 2008, he struggled to compete with the powerhouse campaigns of Obama and Hillary and eventually dropped out after receiving less than 1% of the delegates in the Iowa Caucus.
Biden also will have to play catch up to the rest of the candidates, who have already been fundraising and campaigning for several months. Hillary has raised over $60 million thus far and has raked in numerous endorsements, Sanders has been drawing in record crowds and Martin O’Malley hasn’t fallen off the face of the Earth yet. But out of any potential candidate, the sitting VP has the best chance to make up any ground loss. He can virtually tap into his White House staff for campaign staff, reach out to major figures in the Democratic Party for support and connect with some of the major donors of both successful Obama campaigns for fundraising.
He’s in solid standing poll-wise, as well, currently sitting in third at around 12.4% nationally. That number would be expected to boost post-announcement.
The biggest question, if Biden were to run, would be policy-wise. Likely, as most VP’s do, he’ll argue the “stay the course” approach. He’ll support Obamacare, tout the improvement of the economy as successes of the Obama administration, support measures to protect same-sex marriage, protect Social Security, propose modest criminal justice reform and possibly make vague populist statements regarding income inequality. What he won’t do is attempt to break up banks on Wall Street or create a single-payer healthcare system.
A Biden candidacy might be the best thing for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Biden could potentially split the Democratic establishment and cause friction in the Clinton camp. If more scandals emerge about Hillary along with Biden providing his signature gaffes, Bernie could get the much needed edge.
There is still uncertainty on whether or not Biden will actually enter the field. Many experts have noted that he provides very little to the mix besides being an alternate for the Democratic establishment if Hillary tanks due to scandals. But with that said, Biden is still a pretty big deal.
Photo Credit to Politico Magazine, Bryan Woolston, Reuters, Getty Images and Daniel Schwen