The year was 1972. Neil Armstrong had taken his first steps on the moon three years earlier. Richard Nixon was president. “The Godfather" was atop the box office charts. A gallon of gas cost 34 cents. And Joe Biden was elected to the Senate.
Nearly half a century later, Biden is kicking the tires on a White House run. It would be his third try, following failed efforts in 1988 and 2008. He nearly took the plunge in 2016, before opting out and joining the rest of the Democratic establishment in supporting Hillary Clinton.
Biden’s prior White House bids went off the rails in dramatic fashion. In 1988, he withdrew amid a withering plagiarism scandal – a mere three and a half months after getting in the race and long before any votes were cast. He didn’t fare much better in 2008, placing fifth in the Iowa caucus with less one percent of the vote before slinking back to the Senate.
In a political sense, President Trump is correct about former President Obama rescuing Biden from the “trash heap.” Before he won the Obama veepstakes, Biden’s ambitions appeared destined to end in the U.S. Senate.
Now, more than 10 years later, some believe he is the Democrats’ best hope to wresting control of the White House back. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Biden has a 10 point lead.
The case for Biden goes something like this: he’s the best candidate to stand up to Trump on a debate stage. He’s the vessel to rekindle the magic of the Obama years. With his lunch pail image, he can win back the working-class voters that deserted the Democrats in droves in 2016.
Much like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Biden’s path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was easier to envision last time around. By the time Biden took a pass last time, Clinton was besieged by scandals and not the powerhouse candidate many had assumed would carry on the Obama legacy.
Biden didn’t come of political age in the era of democratic socialism. He voted for the Iraq War, a border fence and the 1994 crime bill, to name a few sticky wickets.
This time, the waters are murkier. Even Obama, the man he governed the country with for eight years, recently called for “new blood” in politics. The comment came on the heels of Obama’s meeting with Beto O’Rourke, the left’s new flavor of the week. It was not exactly a ringing endorsement for a 76-year-old white man, and one that reportedly stung the ex-vice president.
Biden’s foot-in-mouth disease is part of who he is, and often dismissed by his allies as relatable and “Joe being Joe.” In this era of social media, off-color comments take on new meaning. With the advent of smartphones, everyone can capture video and broadcast it to the world – where it lives on in infamy.
Biden has gotten into hot water over the years for remarks such as telling an African-American audience that Republicans wanted to “put y’all back in chains.” Or the time he declared that “you cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Or the time he reminded people that Delaware was a “slave state” when asked how he would compete in the south.
We live in an age of hypersensitive political correctness, especially with liberals on issues of race and gender. Even if Democrats can overlook “Joe being Joe” comments, they will be less forgiving with his voting record. Being in the Senate for 36 years means Biden has taken a stance on every issue under the sun.
Biden didn’t come of political age in the era of democratic socialism. He voted for the Iraq War, a border fence and the 1994 crime bill, to name a few sticky wickets. Liberals view Biden’s rhetoric on abortion and the financial services industry with suspicion.
Any of these issues on their own – let alone all of them combined – are enough to trip up a candidate running in a party consumed with ideological purity over political electability.
No one can dispute that Joe Biden has a compelling life story. It’s possible he would be the strongest general election candidate head-to-head with Trump. But the odds are good the world will never know. Joe Biden’s time has come and gone. He is too old, too white and too status quo for a party craving youth, diversity and change.