Written by Mary Buffett
There is an old political warning: never let the national pundits become bored in summer months. It’s the one season when the minds of political writers tend to wander before the real reporting begins from the campaign trail. In fact, the one upside of Donald Trump’s campaign is that each outburst is worth thousands of pages of commentary online and elsewhere. He is the Full Employment Act for political journalists everywhere. However, there has been a great deal of speculation about Joe Biden’s intentions as the leaves begin to turn. Will he run for the White House a third time or will he ride out on a high note, perhaps to be the next Secretary of State should a Democrat win in 2016?
Why is this? First, politics hates a vacuum. The upsurge in Biden has a great deal to do with the news coverage of Hillary Clinton and her “scandals,” which have been ginned up from those who oppose her campaign. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has been sucking the oxygen from the candidates on the Republican side of the fence. Each day, The Donald seems to be in a food fight from everybody from Univision to the makers of Oreo cookies. Some might simply refer this as the “silly season” of the primary and caucus process but in reality, the current narrative with the Democratic candidates has become a bit boring. Clinton is the inevitable front-runner, Sanders is the lefty, and sadly both Linc Chafee and Martin O’Malley have fallen behind the pack.
That brings us to Joe Biden. Biden’s biography is both compelling and heartfelt. By now, it is story that is well known. Elected Senator at the age of 30 after a horrible tragedy that left him widowed, he rebuilt his life with the embrace of a close family and a new wife. By all accounts the multi-generation Biden clan was Kennedy-esque without the glaring dysfunctions. It was something that caught the eye of Obama’s VP selection committee back in 2008. It was real. His public persona was easily made into endearing comedic fodder on Saturday Night Live or The Onion, which created a fictional “Diamond Joe” Biden persona. However, there was always an essential warmth and humanity about the guy that always seemed to shine through. By far, the best example of this was a touching speech on love and loss that he made before the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar in 2012, which was heartfelt and heartbreaking. Biden waded into emotional territory that few political figures dared and back then nobody knew that his son was waging a battle against terminal brain cancer.
There is a greater appreciation for Joe Biden today. He has been a loyal Vice President. Obama sent him into the middle of the tough political disputes and he took personal charge of a number of tough international issues.
However, running for the White House is more than just introducing a candidate and hoping for the best. It’s like creating a startup out of thin air. You have to build a staff and unlike the Kennedys in 1968, there is not a raft of lawyers willing to put their careers on hold for a long shot bid for the White House. You have to create a fundraising base that will sustain until the convention. Also, a Biden campaign will have to build ground forces in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. That takes time, something that Joe Biden does not have at the moment.
Some in the past have tried to parachute into the top tier of presidential contenders, only to find they got more than they bargained for in the process. Former US Senator and actor Fred Thompson walked away from his role as the District Attorney on NBC’s “Law and Order” and ran for the White House in 2008. He entered with great expectations and quickly fell back to Earth. The same could be said of Governor Rick Perry during the 2012 cycle. He stumbled terribly during a debate and even with a new pair of glasses in 2016, he is all but broke. In 2004, retired General Wesley Clark presented himself as the “Man on a White Horse,” based on success in the Balkans during the Clinton years. He had an opening splash but found that running in a presidential campaign was far more difficult than any military or peacekeeping effort.
So there lies Joe Biden’s dilemma. As each day passes, Joe Biden will find it much harder to raise the funds and build the organization he needs to win the nomination. You cannot build a campaign infrastructure overnight. Critical campaign players have already chosen sides. Even though Hillary is having her troubles, she knows how to take a punch and then get back off of the ground to fight on.
Moreover, Joe Biden is no longer the youngest guy in the room. Even though he has Obama’s “blessing” to run, he will be 72 and two terms will take him to the edge of 80, making him the oldest American president. The unspeakable grief that comes with the loss of a child should not be underestimated. He might need time to heal emotionally and there are grandchildren to help raise. Even with the leak of the secret meeting with Senator Elizabeth Warren, political opposition will be able to pick apart four decades of political decisions Biden has made over his political career.
My guess is that he will want to run but will quickly realize that it’s too late. Perhaps if the Clinton campaign completely collapses, he will emerge on a white horse, but that is highly unlikely.
So Joe Biden has to make a choice. Until then, let’s enjoy The Indian Summer of Joe Biden.