Former Vice President Joe Biden is having the time of his life teasing us with his apparent willingness to go toe-to-toe with President Trump in 2020.
The prospect of a Biden presidential run has been an idea fed by lot of big-name Democrats who are absolutely convinced Biden is the only one who can beat Trump.
Talk of another Biden presidential run started during the 2016 campaign. The target then wasn’t Trump, but Hillary Clinton. A lot of Democrats simply didn’t like Clinton and didn’t believe she could beat Trump. More than a handful of nervous Democrats back then relentlessly implored Biden to jump into the Democratic presidential primary race. But Biden said nothing, and for good reason. By then, it was way too late in the game for him to jump in. Clinton was going to be the Democratic nominee, no matter what.
Clinton had months to build a strong support base among Democratic Party leaders. She corralled endorsements from labor and education unions, and won the support of a slew of top Democratic members, as well as local and state elected officials around the country. She secured a massive campaign war chest and locked down support among many black, Hispanic, LGBT and women’s groups and leaders.
Now fast forward to 2020. It’s true that much of Clinton’s Democratic Party base would rally around a Biden candidacy. Anyone who publicly boasts that he’d beat the hell out of Trump, as Biden quipped in March 2018, would find support among Democrats, many independents and legions of Trump loathers. Though he later apologized for getting in the street with Trump, Biden said it, and many would give him high marks for that.
Yet, beating Trump in a head-to-head matchup is another matter. Though some polls show Biden as the Democrat’s favorite, the former vice president has more than a little questionable baggage.
First, he is too strongly identified with former President Barack Obama. Trump would Obama-bait him to death. Another thing is he would also be competing for the same voters in the four or five must-win states that put Trump over the top — white, blue collar and rural males without a college education.
There’s also a lot of collective amnesia about Biden’s past forays into the presidential arena, which were utter disasters. His earthy appeal did not translate into any substantial support in either 1988 or 2008.
In 1988 he was dogged by accusations of plagiarism and fabrication in his speeches, as well as self-aggrandizing references to his past. He soon dropped out of the race.
In 2008, Biden did even worse, failing to get a single percentage point in votes in the Democratic presidential Iowa caucus balloting. Again, he quickly dropped out of the race.
Another question relates to his age. Biden will turn 78 two weeks after Election Day 2020. This would make him the oldest incoming president in US history.
Then there’s Anita Hill. During his recent book tour, Biden himself made mention of how much of a minefield that could be for him. During the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, there were times it seemed Biden was as much on the spot as Kavanaugh for pillorying Hill when he sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991.
There’s little evidence that Biden, if he chooses to run, could deflect assaults from the GOP over his gaffes, his close relationship with Obama, and his abysmal failures to mount any kind of credible campaign during the times he was an actual candidate.
And finally, Biden would not be jumping into the presidential race to rescue the party from a supposed pack of languid, uninspiring and flawed contenders. There’s Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, three or four Democratic senators, and Clinton. They all have name recognition, a lot of party cheerleaders and, in a few cases, fresh faces.
Biden would just add another name to the list — one that will carry its own set of baggage that could wear him down and maybe even out in a head-to-head battle with Trump.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is the author of “Who Can Beat Trump?” (Amazon ebook), a frequent MSNBC contributor and an associate editor with New America Media. He is also a weekly co-host of “The AlSharpton Show” on Radio One, and host of the weekly “Hutchinson Report” on KPFK, 90.7 FM, Los Angeles, and the Pacifica Network.