He may not be the most popular politician in America. Mr. Biden’s approval rating stands at 49 percent in the latest New York Times/CBS poll; not bad, but still a shade lower than his boss’s (51 percent). Mrs. Clinton trounces him in early surveys of Democrats eyeing the prospective field for 2016. Yet Mr. Biden wins in a landslide in an unscientific snapshot of comic appreciation, cult appeal and of-the-moment awesomeness. The White House recently received a petition from citizens insisting that a new reality show be created featuring the vice president (2,482 signatures at this writing).
Here is one theory on why. In 1968, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey spoke of something he called “The Politics of Joy,” a slogan he adopted to accentuate his trademark zest and enthusiasm as he ran for president. In fact, the notion was dreadfully off-pitch given the war, assassinations and upheaval of the day, and Mr. Humphrey took some ridicule for it.
Mr. Biden, however, represents an updated standard-bearer for the politics of joy, said Joel K. Goldstein, a law professor at Saint Louis University and an expert on the United States vice presidency. (Disclosure: I quote Mr. Goldstein whenever possible, just so I can type the words “expert on the United States vice presidency,” which never fails to amuse me.) While these are not exactly joyous times either — politicians are often reviled and voters are no picnic — Mr. Biden is the one major Washington figure who consistently evokes a sense of thrill in what he is doing.