Glancing at the headline, you would think this was a dynamite poll for good ol’ Uncle Joe.
Is it? A twice-elected VP famous for his alleged common touch should be doing better than a generic Democratic candidate, you would think. And yet.
What this poll tells you is (a) Biden has no serious baggage (yet) that makes him appreciably worse off than a random Democrat, quite in contrast to certain other recent Democratic nominees who shall remain nameless, and (b) Trump is in the toilet. Thirty-four percent for a sitting president against a generic opponent is ominous; 34 percent for a sitting president against a generic opponent while the Dow is at an all-time high and the economy is chugging along is really ominous. YouGov is out with a new poll today that also coincidentally pegs his job approval at 34 percent, a new low. He’s lost nearly four points in approval since late September in the RCP poll average too. Passing tax reform would help with that by proving that a Trump-led GOP can in fact get things done. But if tax reform collapses and more Republican voters start to feel disaffected, who knows where this ends.
Back to Biden, though, as his potential candidacy is interesting for various reasons. One is that he clearly wants to do it, openly regretting that he doesn’t hold the top job today. He may be the closest thing Democrats still have to a blue-collar politician with a national profile. He’s woke enough for the left and, at least in theory, down-to-earth enough for the Rust Belt. But he’s reeeeeally old. He’ll be almost 78 on Election Day 2020. All along I’ve been thinking that that in itself would be disqualifying in a primary, but increasingly I wonder. There are multiple senators older than that who are still on the job. Longevity expectations increase every year. Above all, by the time 2020 arrives, I think Democrats will be so frantic to unseat Trump that they’ll tolerate almost any potential flaw in a nominee *if* they’re convinced he or she would stand the best chance of winning the general election. They won’t care if President Biden serves a month before having to retire due to the strains of old age. Just pick a VP who’s ready to step in on day one and win, baby, win. That’ll be their mentality.
As I say, they’ll tolerate almost any flaw in a nominee — but maybe not quite every one. The reason I said Biden doesn’t have any serious baggage “yet” is because his busy-hands problem around women has started to gain some more attention on the left recently, just as Bill Clinton’s harassment and alleged rape problem has. Is the Weinstein scandal and its fallout also going to engulf Uncle Joe’s already slim presidential chances? Here’s Erin Gloria Ryan at the Daily Beast:
While Joe Biden has been jokingly depicted as a kooky uncle or Obama’s wacky sidekick or Leslie Knope’s grin-flashing celebrity crush, he’s also got a troubling history of acting weird in public around women who don’t seem entirely on board. This isn’t just based on whispers or rumors; there are so many photos and clips of Biden looming over, or massaging, or gently nuzzling, or whispering to, or kissing women and girls who don’t seem all that into it that for awhile, a few years ago, it was a bit of a meme…
Joe Biden’s off-putting caresses and whispers are by no means the same thing as what Bill Clinton allegedly did to Juanita Broaderick, or what the Clinton camp did to Monica Lewinsky. But the #MeToo moment, the post-Weinstein moment, whatever you want to call it– isn’t about only sexual assault; it’s about women standing up and saying that when men do things to them non-consensually, women don’t like it. It hurts us. It should stop. As long as Democrats want to be taken seriously when they take a stand against Republicans who commit sexual misconduct, they have to demonstrate that they are equally uncomfortable or outraged when Democrats do it.
A Biden candidacy would be a fascinating test of Democrats’ newfound commitment to punishing bad behavior towards women by prominent Democratic men. In the end, I think they’ll arrive where Ryan does: His handsiness is creepy and problematic but in the end it’s a venial sin compared to what Clinton or Harvey Weinstein is accused of. It’s not even clear that he does it from a lecherous impulse, as I’ve noted before. But this isn’t the only sexual harassment issue that Biden would face: He’ll also be grilled by Democrats on why he didn’t support Anita Hill more aggressively when she testified before his Judiciary Committee against Clarence Thomas. Biden has already begun apologizing for that episode, knowing how it might haunt him. His saving grace if he runs will of course be Trump, though. Any Democrat bothered by his behavior towards women can always rationalize it on lesser-of-two-evils grounds by comparing it with what Trump has been accused of. It won’t hurt him.
Here he is a few days ago talking about gun control after the massacre at the Sutherland Springs church. This clip is circulating as evidence that Biden said the man who helped stop the shooter, Devin Kelley, by firing at him with his own rifle as Kelley left the church shouldn’t have been allowed to have a gun himself. That’s not how it sounds to me. Biden is *asked* whether that man, Stephen Willeford, should have had a gun but his answer seems to address whether *Kelley*, the murderer, should have been allowed to. Notice how he starts talking about crazy people buying weapons. That’s Kelley, not Willeford. Whether he misunderstood the question or deliberately didn’t answer it, judge for yourself.
Joe Biden says that the man who stopped the Texas church shooter should not have been armed. pic.twitter.com/pY3hBHPHuX
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 14, 2017