How do you Solve a Problem like Joe Biden?
Any Democratic presidential candidate who hasn’t launched a frontal assault on frontrunner Joe Biden and his record is only auditioning to be Joe’s running mate. So far, that includes all but two of them.
There was little taste for challenging Biden following the metaphoric beating Kamala Harris gave Joe in an early debate, probably because Harris’s polling numbers cratered immediately thereafter. But, then, in the third debate, Julian Castro only implied Biden’s senescence and removed himself from Joe’s veep-stakes. No one else mentioned Biden’s solecisms.
But, why would they? Vice President is a great gig – big title, free housing, personal staff, lots of favorable press (for Democrats, anyway), carbon-spewing luxury travel in Air Force 2, Secret Service escorts, little work involved, limited fallout from the inevitable White House blunders – so easy, even Joe Biden could do it.
Ahhh…but there’s the rub…
Biden is clearly limited. Never a world-class intellect, having run for federal office from a tiny state and ridden to the vice-presidency on Barack Obama’s coattails, Biden has never run a serious national campaign. This year, it shows. Joe has taken an unusual amount of down time, a necessary indulgence for a somnolent, gaffe-prone septuagenarian.
Biden’s age, health, his congressional and family baggage all suggest that, despite his party establishment’s hopeful appraisal of his prospects, Joe is not a “safe choice.” Indeed, Biden may be unelectable. If true, and Joe is nominated, any current opponent who runs with Biden has as little chance of living at the Naval Observatory as they now do the White House.
Their odds at either might improve, albeit marginally, by taking Biden out in the primaries. But, therein lies another conundrum: How?
The only way anyone else in the field can eliminate the frontrunner is to convince primary voters that Biden will implode during a tough general election campaign, and that they are younger, healthier, more capable, electable – the best option to defeat President Donald Trump.
In order to do that, someone who actually is younger and better-equipped must challenge Biden, but, as Harris and Castro learned, doing so involves risk. A significant number of Democrats dislike negative campaigning, at least among Democrats. They do not want their primary candidates to exchange attacks on policy and records, especially when policies lack essential details and records cannot withstand close scrutiny.
Ironically, Biden cannot be defeated on policy differences, because, pandering to the party’s fringe elements, the entire Democratic field is delivering essentially the same message: Smear Donald Trump (and his voters), raising taxes on the wealthy and big business/finance, government-administered health care, abortion on demand, open borders, confiscating firearms, and radical, expensive, economy-killing measures to address “climate change,” among other highly-divisive political, racial and cultural nostrums.
In order to beat Biden, someone must do what President Trump will do – mercilessly spotlight Biden’s record, his age, his idiosyncrasies and Joe’s alleged physical/psychological frailties.
Any of Biden’s opponents who fear mere accusations of “ageism” and/or elder abuse may be too timid to be president – or VP.