“I ain’t a socialist. I ain’t a plutocrat.” — Joe Biden
“You really don’t have to do this, Joe.”
According to reports, this less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of his former vice president’s plan to run for president in 2020 was all Biden ever received from Barack Obama.
If Joe Biden is to be believed, the beloved former president offered his endorsement to Biden, which the latter refused.
The lack of any ringing praise from his former boss and the man Joe Biden always calls “my friend Barack” on the campaign trail, for obvious reasons, has been hurting the Biden campaign from the beginning. Former President Bill Clinton endorsed his vice president’s run after all; even after Al Gore famously kept his distance during Clinton’s impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky drama.
Had Obama come out swinging for Biden from the very beginning, the Democratic Party now might be looking at a much different picture than the ever-darkening one they are currently contemplating as socialist and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders looks to be running away with the nomination.
Much to the chagrin of party elites and establishment Democrats everywhere, who have made no secret of their distress over the matter and distaste for Sanders, the cantankerous Sanders is steadily cruising towards an unstoppable delegate lead after his recent win in Nevada.
Now, the establishment is getting desperate, even predicting that the Democratic House Majority will be endangered if the party runs a polarizing figure like Sanders.
Can anyone stop him?
Most of the Democratic candidates remaining in the presidential race consider themselves the anti-Sanders.
Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg certainly considers himself the party’s best option for stopping Sanders. More than a few party elites are starting to warm to Bloomberg, including those working at the New York Times- if soft-ball stories about Bloomberg are any indication of preference.
But after Bloomberg’s disastrous performance in last week’s debate, coupled with his continuous missteps in the days since trying to mitigate the fallout, Democratic Party leaders seem to have lost some confidence in him.
For his part, Bloomberg has moved on from over-confidently, even arrogantly, insisting other Democrats still in the race drop-out in order to give himself a better chance of beating Sanders to the all-important delegate count which will- presumably- decide the nomination.
His most recent decision to bow to pressure put on him by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and her insistence during the last debate that Bloomberg release anyone he has forced to sign non-disclosure agreements as part of legal settlements of sexual harassment claims, makes him look decidedly less likely to be able to take on Sanders.
This is to say nothing of Donald Trump. Taking out giant billboards that say “Donald Trump cheats at golf,” and “Donald Trump eats his steak well-done,” are all very pithy of course. But snarky billboards, and billions, do not a successful presidential campaign make.
Sen. Warren, in spite of her spirited performance in the last debate and vicious take-downs of Bloomberg, failed to parlay that strong showing into any positive movement in Nevada. Her disappointing finish means the race is nearly finished for her, not that she ever tried to fill the role of anti-Sanders. Sanders-lite, perhaps.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, too, had a disappointing night in Nevada. Unless something drastic happens to take her campaign in an upward trajectory- and soon- her race is nearly run as well.
Former South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg didn’t exactly have a terrible night in Nevada; but he didn’t have a great one either. Buttigieg is a young, fearsome competitor with all the makings of a great statesman- save one. But it’s a big one.
Buttigieg is very popular with white liberals in the Democratic Party. But he has thus far managed to gain very little ground with African-American or Latino voters.
The Buttigieg campaign’s efforts along those lines have been unimpressive, to say the least. From getting caught misrepresenting his level of support from Black community leaders, to leaking internal polling suggesting African-American voters just don’t like him because he is openly gay, to simply not making much of an outreach effort at all in the Latino community, Buttigieg’s many missteps down this road have cost him.
Who does that leave?
Former vice president Joe Biden, while he hasn’t exactly been a standout performer during the debates, hasn’t done anything to diminish his support during the debates either.
Other than the classic Biden gaffes, which have become almost synonymous with the Biden campaign and seem increasingly innocuous in the Trump era, Biden has distinguished himself well by allowing his competitors to take each other- and sometimes themselves- out of the race without any help from him.
Sen. Kamala Harris came after Biden over busing; she is no longer in the race. Sen. Cory Booker might have siphoned off some of Biden’s strong support in the Black community; he is no longer in the race.
Beto O’Rourke looked like he might be making a play for Biden’s moderate ground; the “F” word didn’t save his campaign and he’s gone, too.
What Biden must now do, what each of the remaining candidates must now do, is take aim at the real front-runner in this race: Bernie Sanders.
During the last debate, Democrats onstage each took turns against newcomer Mike Bloomberg and barely laid a glove on Sanders in the process. It is hard to blame them; Bloomberg is very low-hanging fruit in today’s Democratic Party.
A billionaire who is cutting to the front of the line, eschewing traditional campaigning in favor of stacks of cold-hard cash whilst telling his fellow competitors- some of whom are better-qualified women who have worked longer and harder than Bloomberg has in this race- to drop out?
Talk about throwing down the gauntlet. Elizabeth Warren looked angry enough to physically attack Mike Bloomberg onstage during the last debate when they went head-to-head.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is not low-hanging fruit. Sanders will not be easy to assail. He is a seasoned campaigner, a Washington insider, a savvy career politician; this isn’t his first race for president. It isn’t even his first very contentious race for president.
If Biden wants the nomination, and it is difficult to see why he would remain in this race if he didn’t, Biden needs to stop Bernie Sanders.
The remaining Democratic candidates will soon face-off against each other once again in debates. Joe Biden needs to illustrate, in no uncertain terms, that Bernie Sanders will lose against Donald Trump if Democrats run him in the general.
Sanders’ history of statements about the strengths of socialism and communist systems; his open embrace of the label of “socialist” will offer Trump’s campaign machine- and its endless supply of cash- no shortage of ammunition with which it will destroy any chance Bernie Sanders- or anyone else who dares call themselves socialist in 2020- has at becoming president.
If Joe Biden can demonstrate the kind of political dexterity his was once well-known for during the next debate, he may be able to parlay that momentum into a serious run once the voters from South Carolina- where Biden is heavily favored- have a chance to weigh-in.
This is Biden’s moment and, if he can capitalize on it, might propel him to the point where a savvy choice in running mates- perhaps even Sen. Kamala Harris or Sen. Cory Booker- could push him the rest of the way.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)