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Joe Biden for the White House

Joe Biden for the White House?                      Gerry O'Shea

Joe Biden ran unsuccessfully twice for the Democratic presidential nomination. Now, at age 76, he is seriously contemplating another campaign to represent his party in the 2020 White House election.

Some recent polls place him well ahead of the field at around 30% while, apart from Bernie Sanders who registers about ten points behind, none of the other presumed candidates exceed single figures in these early indications of support.

Of course, the election is almost two years away and any poll at this stage should be taken with a big grain of salt. Two years before the last presidential election Gallup had Jeb Bush close to the top in the crowded Republican race, and he is still bewildered by the collapse of his well-funded campaign when faced with Trump mockery in the early debates.

Still the Biden team will be well pleased that his possible candidacy has widespread public support.  In most previous presidential primaries the eventual nominee registered close to the top in the early polls.

President Trump's approval ratings hover a little below 40% and there is a widespread perception of chaos and instability in the White House. When the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, announced that he could no longer continue working for a president who kowtowed to autocrats while denigrating almost all America's allies, commentators bemoaned the departure of the one mature voice around the National Security table.

This widespread perception of a lack of seriousness in dealing with the many complex problems that confront every president  largely explains Mr.Trump's low ratings. The prestige of American leadership has plummeted in many world capitals. Tweeting and name-calling may resonate with Trump's core constituency, but it doesn't pass muster with the majority of people who value a sense of dignity and respect in their top leaders.

This lack of gravitas in the present incumbent heightens the need to elect a mature adult to the White House in 2020, and the early polls seem to indicate that many people recognize that Joe Biden has shown over a long career in public life that he possesses the maturity and patriotism needed for the job.

Mr. Biden's Favorability Rating, which provides a broad picture of how he is viewed by the electorate,  stands at 53% with an Unfavorability score of 33%. By comparison, Donald Trump's comparable figures come in at 40 - 56, and Bernie Sanders, his closest polling opponent in the possible Democratic field, is rated 44 - 42 in this recent poll.

Of course these are very early glimpses at how candidates are viewed by the American people. The widely-accepted wisdom of the pundits point to the likelihood of younger candidates like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren or Corey Booker emerging for the party nomination.

 However, it is noteworthy that Joe Biden was the busiest of all the possible Democratic candidates during the run-up to the mid-term elections. He highlighted his own vigor and popularity by speaking throughout the country in support of 133 party candidates in the local and national elections, and he pointed out with pride that Democrats won in 81 of those races.

The former vice president participated fully in all the big decisions of the Obama years. The fact that the political bonding between the two leaders extended to close personal and family connections will heighten his credibility, in particular in the African-American community. While President Obama is unlikely to endorse any candidate during the primary contests, he will make no bones about his strong admiration and respect for his vice-president.

 The Obama-Biden years are now viewed with heightened respect touched by early nostalgia, especially by independent voters, when they observe the incompetence and lack of principle in the current White House.

Biden's biggest challenge will be to appeal to young voters who mostly view him as a More-of-the-Same Democrat. They want a leader who will fight for radical change in healthcare and immigration laws, who plans to seriously counter global warming and, last and surely his biggest challenge, someone who promises to develop  policies that  reverse the unfair distribution of wealth in American society.

They don't want to hear about half measures, weak compromises that make little impact in the lives of ordinary people. If he reverts to careful middle-of-the- road policies, he will lose the masses of young people who cheered Bernie Sanders in 2018, but If he crafts a coherent message for substantial change, they will rally to his call as they did with Sanders two years ago.

How much would age matter if Trump faced Biden in November 2020? The president was born in June 1946 while the former vice-president arrived in November 1942. The few years difference would hardly matter with so many glaring differences in domestic and foreign policy.

Mr. Biden prides himself on his positive relationship with blue-collar workers. That was one of his major pluses during the Obama years. He is aware that their standard of living has fallen in recent times while the rich have greatly increased their share of national wealth. Can he convince these voters, especially in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Michigan, that he has meaningful plans to combat this serious economic problem? Can he offer these workers a vision of hopeful new priorities for themselves and their families?

The vote in the next presidential election will be a referendum on President Trump. Will the voters want four more years of erratic, seat-of-the-pants governance, or will they be looking for major change which it seems they were endorsing in the mid-term elections? Joe Biden, a man of honorable character and long service, can make a strong case to Democratic voters that he has the gravitas and proven experience to be their candidate.


Gerry O'Shea blogs at








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