Everyone knows why former Vice President Joe Biden remains in the race for the Democratic nomination.
It isn’t his enthusiastic voter base of committed supporters who are growing more eager to vote for Biden by the day. Which is good because no one in the Democratic Party is much excited about the Joe Biden candidacy, and they never have been.
Considering that Biden has never finished at the top of any state primary, in any of the presidential races into which he has thrown his cap- ever- it is difficult to see a sudden, overwhelming surge in the Democratic Party to support Joe Biden.
Joe Biden isn’t still in this race because of his robust fundraising; or because his campaign has plenty of money, or plenty of donors. Biden is short on all three, and has been for just about every moment of this race. Biden’s best showing was right out of the gate, when party insiders likely still believed they had the Joe Biden of 2008 or even 2012.
But after a few speeches- and a few well-publicized incidents of Biden’s world-famous gaffes- certainly after a few of his more bizarre dust-ups on the campaign trail with everyone from journalists to primary voters, donors to the Biden campaign started hedging their financial bets.
Many Biden donors stopped contributing to the Biden campaign early-on. There is an old saying about throwing good money after bad, after all.
In spite of the lack of an enthusiastic base, or enthusiasm from anyone really, Biden persisted in this race. As his donors abandoned him for other candidates, and as fewer and fewer high-profile party endorsements came his way, Biden persisted.
Even when it became clear- as surely it has become clear by now- that questions about Hunter Biden’s dealings in the Ukraine were irrecoverably linked to the journalistic cat-nip that was Trump’s impeachment hearings, and weren’t going away.
There must have been some attempts behind-the-scenes in the Biden camp to craft a satisfactory statement from Joe Biden on why his son Hunter was collecting over $50,000 a month as a board member for a Ukrainian energy interest while his father was the Obama administration anti-corruption point-man in Ukraine.
That we have heard no satisfactory statement from the Biden campaign can mean only one thing; there just isn’t one.
There is isn’t anything Joe Biden or his campaign could say about Hunter Biden’s work that can excuse it or they would have said it by now. That the younger Biden wasn’t technically breaking any laws- at least, not any U.S. laws- doesn’t make it okay. On the contrary, it makes Hunter Biden’s lucrative sweetheart deal exactly the type of political malfeasance 63 million voters thought deserving of the tender mercies of Donald Trump.
If there was any way to make the Hunter Biden/Burisma situation into a positive or even a neutral for Joe Biden, his campaign would have found it.
Nothing has broken Joe Biden’s way since the moment he- accidentally- revealed his run for the Democratic nomination in a gaffe. Biden’s ground-game is so antiquated he chose to call his Iowa tour “No-Malarky”.
His staff is such that no one could successfully talk Biden out of this.
And if there were any remaining doubts about Joe Biden’s potential to go the distance, cinch the Democratic nomination and beat Donald Trump “like a drum”- as Biden likes to say- they were fully and completely justified when the debates started.
Biden’s debate performances have ranged from the unspectacular to the downright unintelligible. At no point during the debates did Biden prove he has what it takes to wrest the country back from Donald Trump.
In spite of being the “front-runner” Biden drew very little fire from his fellow Democrats during the debates. They all seemed to consider it unsporting to attack Biden.
Why would they feel that way? That is not the way you feel about someone you feel is a legitimate threat.
Everyone in the Democratic Party, from Sen. Cory Booker to Van Jones to James Carville to Barack Obama to Michael Bloomberg, knew that Joe Biden was never going to make it to become the nominee, let alone president.
And they know it now.
So why has Joe Biden remained in this race, even as every last shred of hope seemed to be draining out of his campaign?
Two reasons; both imaginary.
For one thing, polls have propped up the Biden campaign from every side: Polls showing Biden trouncing his fellow Democrats, polls showing Biden beating Trump by the widest margins.
Polls that show whomever pays for the survey exactly what they want to see. Polls that measure a sampling of the population that is not representative of general election voters.
Polls are nothing if not imaginary.
People who vote in primaries aren’t the same thing as people who vote in elections, let alone people who vote in presidential elections.
A great many people vote in elections who never cast a single primary ballot or answer a single poll. Of the people who are polled for primary season, they deviate in all sorts of important ways from the general population.
Polls are inherently flawed and they always have been. Polls represent a sampling of people willing to be polled, not everyone. People with strong opinions are more likely to answer in polls, people who can be reached by landline are also more likely to be polled and to respond in polls.
Those are just two of the variables that make polls so unreliable, and more unreliable than ever considering technology has made landlines almost obsolete.
The second imaginary friend Joe Biden has in this race is his so-called African-American firewall.
It is certainly true that Biden has been resting on former President Barack Obama’s laurels in the Black community for quite some time now. It is also true that Obama still enjoys immense popularity with African-American voters and community leaders.
But primary voters in South Carolina, Nevada and other upcoming primary states have seen the exact same Joe Biden as the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. Democratic voters in the Black and Latino communities have seen the exact same poor debate performances; they’ve crunched precisely the same dismal fundraising numbers.
Democrats in South Carolina and Nevada- whatever their other demographic qualifiers might be- have read the same unenthusiastic news articles about the Biden campaign. They’ve watched the same on-line clips of Biden’s increasingly erratic and strange public outbursts.
The fact that the Biden campaign continues to act as if Black and Latino Democrats will hold Joe Biden to a much-lower standard than their white Democratic counterparts should shake any confidence anyone has left in the Biden 2020 campaign.
Perhaps the Biden campaign believes that Black Democratic voting communities in South Carolina in particular will be so blinded by love for Barack Obama, they will overlook Joe Biden’s many shortcomings.
Joe Biden is not Barack Obama.
Does the Biden campaign honestly believe African-American primary voters in South Carolina won’t have noticed the fact that Biden failed to get Obama’s endorsement? If so, they are wrong. Black voters will not fail to see the implications of Obama’s decision not to extend his endorsement to Biden.
The Biden campaign may pay dearly for these assumptions. Joe Biden is going to have to do better than his constant refrain of “Barack and me” if he wants Democrats in South Carolina and Nevada to vote for him.
The Democratic Party should take heed; while Democratic Party leadership is busy underestimating minority voters and taking the African-American and Latino votes for granted, Donald Trump is working around the clock to attract and entice any demographic groups that have done well financially under the Trump administration.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)