Advantage Biden Gerry OShea
It is early times for making predictions, but still a review of all the polling data, nationwide as well as in various key states, and an assessment of the other candidates’ progress point to Joe Biden as the one with the best chance of getting the Democratic nomination.
I suggest that there are four good reasons why he is favorite and likely to be successful.
First, the Democrats are looking, above all, for a winner; they really want the current president out, and the polls show that when faced with a direct run-off against President Trump, Biden consistently fares better than any of his Democratic opponents, winning by as much as ten points nationally and also edging out or matching the president in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michican, North Carolina and Florida. The blue-collar voters who abandoned Hillary Clinton seem ready to leave Trump for the man who is known as “middle-class Joe.”
Democrats are fired up above all else about beating Trump and so more and more they are likely to rally around the person with the best chance of victory in November. Senators Warren and Sanders are also looking strong in the primary contests and both are fine campaigners. However, their unwavering attachment to a policy of medicare-for-all - with no opt-out clause for the millions of people who are happy with their present policies – seriously weakens them in a general election, and it also reduces their attraction for moderate Democratic voters. For this reason it is very hard to see either Warren or Sanders getting sufficient popular backing to win at the party selection convention in the middle of July.
Second, Mr. Biden’s close relationship with Barack Obama sets him apart from all the other aspirants for the nomination. His unalloyed loyalty to the president as well as the strong continuing friendship between the Biden and Obama families greatly enhance his credibility with many Democrats.
He has vast experience, unmatched in the Democratic field. However, his record has a few serious blemishes. Some will never forgive him for boosting the Bush/Cheney team in 2000 by supporting the Iraq War. Unlike Senator Sanders, perhaps his strongest and most impressive opponent in the Democratic line-up, he got it badly wrong in the most consequential vote of the last forty years.
If he ends up as the Democratic nominee Biden will hear often from Donald Trump about his unfortunate vote for a disastrous war. Incidentally, Mr. Trump initially supported the Iraq invasion but later said he never did and now he trumpets his supposed early opposition as proof of his political shrewdness.
Mentioning Mr. Trump, brings us to another reason why Joe Biden will likely be the one chosen to represent the party in what will be the most momentous election of recent times. The strong case for impeaching the president revolves around Trump pressuring the Ukraine president to announce an official inquiry into alleged malfeasance by Hunter Biden and his father.
Hunter should never have taken a position on the board of Burisma Holdings, a big and morally dubious natural gas company in Ukraine, while his father was vice president. Terrible judgment but not illegal and no proof that his father used his position to favor Burisma in any way.
This ongoing saga is still playing out in all the TV networks. Joe Biden has been cleared of any wrongdoing and the daily publicity can be viewed as a big bonus for the vice president.
Clearly President Trump sees him as his strongest opponent and he tried to bring him down by promulgating falsehoods. Trump is the bete noire of nearly all Democrats, so his mendacious attacks on Biden have strengthened the vice president and made it more likely that his accuser will face the Democrat he fears most in November.
The fourth reason, which is the most surprising and telling of all, centers on his crucial support in the African-American community. Joe Biden ran twice previously for his party’s nomination but got little help from black people. However, in a recent poll almost 50% of African-Americans declared him as their number one choice. The two impressive black candidates in the race at that time, Senators Booker and Harris, trailed him by a mile.
Another imponderable of this black support for the former vice president emerges in unpacking the poll results. His biggest help comes from middle-aged and older African-American women. Ironically, they recall well Biden’s role in the treatment of Anita Hill, a distinguished black law professor, during the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991.
Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was in charge of the hearings, and he did not treat Miss Hill with the respect that she clearly deserved. He did vote against confirming Thomas for the Supreme Court, but the demeaning way that some Republican senators questioned Anita Hill still rankles. Why did chairman Biden show such little compassion and understanding for the gentle lady in the hot seat?
People talked about the hearing as a circus and progressives complained bitterly about Biden’s poor leadership. Liberals still deride his behavior in dealing with Anita Hill. But the people one would expect to be most offended, mature black women, are lining up behind the former vice president with Miss Hill indicating that she would have no problem voting for him.
Mr. Biden was at his best working with President Obama and that seems to trump everything else in the Democratic party when it comes to voting preferences. If this African-American constituency stays with Joe Biden and there is no indication that his popularity in that community is waning, then the nomination will be his in July, and surely, if the polls are right and he is elected over Trump in November, Joe will show his appreciation to the hands that fed him by offering the VP job to a black woman.
Still the cautionary wisdom of my brother-in-law from County Tyrone definitely applies here: many is the slip twixt the cup and the lip.