Team Biden wonders: Should we make Beto his running mate?

He had good luck running on a ticket with a charismatic young pol whose initials are “BO” before. Time to double down.

No, this is an age thing. Biden is older than time, O’Rourke looks even younger than his 46 years. The thinking goes that pairing Uncle Joe with a next-gen VP who’s in his prime will lend some vitality to the ticket and blunt any perception among younger voters that Biden is “old news.” I dunno, though. The addition of 44-year-old Sarah Palin to the ticket in 2008 didn’t seem to solve any age-related problems for McCain. To the contrary, some voters looked at her and worried she’d be too green to step in if President McCain died in office. Who wants to roll the dice on President Beto if 78-year-old Joe Biden doesn’t survive his term?

This must be the first time since Lincoln that a guy whose main claim to political fame is losing a Senate race has rivals scrambling with how to cope with him in the coming presidential election. If I were Biden or Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris or anyone else, I’d want to see some proof on the trail that Betomania! exists outside of cities in Texas before offering him any deals.

As he considers running for president, Joe Biden is talking with friends and longtime supporters about whether, at 76, he’s too old to seek the White House, according to several sources who have spoken with the former Democratic vice president…

Past and current advisers to Biden have held frequent conversations about options to alleviate concerns about age, including teaming him with a younger running mate. One option that has been floated, according to a source with knowledge of the talks, is outgoing Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who at 46 has become the subject of intense 2020 speculation after nearly beating GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

A Biden/O’Rourke ticket won’t be happening, and you already know why. I’m surprised Biden’s advisors are entertaining the idea even idly. If he runs and wins the nomination, this ticket is far more likely:

Not only is Biden/O’Rourke way too monochrome for a Democratic primary in the year 2020, it wouldn’t have nearly enough ideological balance to suit lefties. Biden is a liberal but not a leftist in the mold of Bernie Sanders; if anything, Sanders’s popularity in 2016 was driven by disaffection with some of Obama’s policies among progressives. To take one famous example, they didn’t want ObamaCare, they wanted single-payer and were disappointed that O didn’t fight harder for it (or at least for a public option in the insurance exchanges). If Obama’s VP is now about to follow Obama’s centrist Secretary of State as the Democratic nominee, they’ll at least want a true-blue economic populist as his number two. That ain’t Beto. He has some of the right boxes checked for them, like supporting Medicare for all, but he’s not an ideologue on redistribution the way Sanders and Warren are. And other progressive ideologues are increasingly willing to point it out. “The left blindsides Beto,” Politico notes today:

In an early test for O’Rourke in the “ideas primary” at the front end of the presidential campaign, progressives writing in Current Affairs and The Washington Post, respectively, called him “plainly uninspiring” and said he “rarely challenged concentrated power in D.C.”

A headline in the socialist Jacobin magazine went even further: “We don’t need another photogenic media star with run-of-the-mill liberal politics running for president.”

Among other criticisms, progressives have faulted O’Rourke for his 2015 vote granting then-President Barack Obama “fast track” trade promotion authority for a controversial Asia-Pacific trade agreement, and for not joining the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

I added links to the pieces mentioned in the excerpt in case you want to watch firsthand as lefties try to let the air out of the Beto balloon. They were content with Obama in 2008 because he was the more left-wing option in a two-person race and the racial breakthrough of his candidacy was capital-P Progress even if his policies weren’t the socialist apotheosis they wanted. They won’t be content with Obama 2.0 in a field where 15 people, including at least one who identifies openly as a socialist, are running. They’ve seen this movie before, liked it okay, but don’t want a sequel with Beto. Meanwhile, Biden is white, male, and a neoliberal, three terrible sins against progressivism. The left might not be able to stop him from winning but they’ll demand a major concession to their own interests in the form of the VP choice or else they’ll threaten to stay home, however much they might loathe Trump. Harris would solve Biden’s problem far more than Beto would, and obviously so. So, again, what’s the point of his advisors leaking their interest in O’Rourke as a potential running mate?

Maybe this is Team Biden’s way of floating the idea of some sort of general alliance with him. A Beto run for presidency could be advantageous to Biden, after all. Obviously not if O’Rourke catches fire and becomes an Obama-style phenomenon, but the risk of that is small. If, however, he’s competitive among younger voters, he might cannibalize enough of Harris’s and Sanders’s support to allow Biden to pile up early victories, which may make him unbeatable. According to the poll CNN released yesterday showing O’Rourke on the rise since October, it’s not Biden who’s lost votes to him. It’s Harris and Elizabeth Warren, two candidates in the progressive lane. If that trend holds, with some lefty voters being converted into Betomaniacs, it might leave the center to Biden. That’s still not enough of a reason for Biden to make him his VP, but being a stalking horse for the top centrist candidate will be worth something to Beto in a Biden administration.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022