Ben Sasse: Let's face it, Joe Biden would have beaten Trump in a landslide

Gotta hand it to Sasse. The man knows how to troll.

Do you think that [partisan] infighting creates a situation in which everyday Americans write off all politicians as cheaters and liars? It might explain how Donald Trump won, because it didn’t make any difference to anybody that he seemed immoral — they thought of him as no worse than every other politician.

I would argue pretty vociferously that it’s also because of who his opponent was. If Joe Biden would have run against Donald Trump, Biden would have won in a landslide.

“Landslide” is a strong word. But would Biden, a Scranton native, have done better in Pennsylvania than Hillary Clinton? Very probably, yeah. Would he, as a salt of the earth middle-class guy, have been more competitive in the Rust Belt than the cosmopolitan, filthy-rich dynastic Clintons? Seems likely. Would his short scandal rap sheet have compared favorably to Hillary’s cargo-hold of political baggage, at a minimum averting any last-minute communiques from James Comey? Obviously.

Leftists have spent the six months since the election insisting “Bernie would have won” because Sanders, a fellow populist, would have gobbled up more of Trump’s working-class support than Clinton did. True — and by Nate Cohn’s calculations, that was indeed the difference in the election. It wasn’t superior Republican turnout; it was Trump flipping just enough downscale white voters who supported Obama in 2012 into his column to pull off the big win. No doubt Sanders would have been a more effective messenger to those people than Clinton was. But Sanders also would have been a riper target for anti-“radical” GOP messaging than Biden would have been. Would that have cost him more middle-class and upper-class votes than it would have cost Biden? If so, then maybe Biden really was the optimal Democrat to run last year. Diamond Joe himself certainly seems to think so:

“I had planned on running for president and although it would have been a very difficult primary, I think I could have won,” he said. “I don’t know, maybe not. But I thought I could have won.”

“I had a lot of data and I was fairly confident that if I were the Democratic Party’s nominee, I had a better than even chance of being president,” Biden continued…

“But do I regret not being president? Yes,” Biden said. “I was the best qualified.”

One obvious problem with the “Biden landslide” scenario, though: To the extent that Trump’s victory was driven by Americans wanting a sharp break with business as usual in D.C., it’s hard to see a strong hypothetical preference instead for a guy who spent 30 years in the Senate and then the last eight as VP. That’s a core Sanders advantage over Biden — last year of all years, being branded a “radical” in the general election wouldn’t have been all downside for Bernie. Trump was certainly the more radical candidate in the general election against Clinton and that worked out okay for him. For all his “folksy” charm or whatever, Biden was every inch an avatar of the status quo, albeit without the nepotistic atmosphere that surrounded Clinton. It’s hard for a party to win three terms in a row and, with Biden, they would have been trying to do it with a sitting VP. Right, right, Bush 41 did it in 1988, but it’s highly unusual post-FDR. It’s not crazy to think that Democrats would have stood a better chance with an anti-establishment candidate like Sanders who didn’t waltz straight out of the White House and onto the campaign trail as Biden would have.

Uh, by the way: Is Biden thinking about it in 2020? The odds have to be below 10 percent, I figure, just because of his age (he’ll be nearly 78 on election day four years from now). But never say never!