Splashy new Biden 2020 ad narrated by ... Barack Obama

The “narration” wasn’t recorded for the ad, it’s just the audio from the ceremony in which Obama awarded Biden the Medal of Freedom a few days before they left office in 2017. But watching this shows you why Uncle Joe can act so nonchalant about not seeking O’s endorsement: He already has that endorsement, basically. Obama chose him as VP in 2008, praised him repeatedly during their eight years together, then capped it with the Medal of Freedom. There must be several hours all told of Obama audio lavishing compliments on him. It’s like Prince’s archives — enough material in the vault to keep putting out records for years after the artist has ceased production.

I assume Biden sought Obama’s permission to use old A/V of him, not because he had to but as a courtesy since doing so would have the effect of inserting Obama into the primary seemingly on behalf of a particular candidate. Given that Joe momentarily seems like the only person who can stop Bernie Sanders from steering the party away from Obama-style center-leftism, O may not have needed much convincing to give that permission. Plus, it mustn’t be lost on Obama how rare it is for an ex-president to be celebrated unreservedly in his party’s first presidential primaries after leaving office. Gore had to be careful not to hug Clinton too tightly in 2000 given Clinton’s impeachment baggage; Republicans in 2008 had to contend with a disastrous second term for Dubya; Hillary’s 2016 campaign was less about four more years of Obamaism than about her own historic candidacy and the urgent need to block Trump. Now here’s Biden essentially packaging himself as Obama 2.0. How could O say no?

As for what Biden gets out of this, well:

Bernie would need to beat him handily among whites to offset an advantage like that among nonwhites. Biden’s going to play up his Obama credentials early and often, not just to gain an advantage on Sanders but to try to consolidate black voters before Kamala Harris and potentially Stacey Abrams have a chance to gain traction among them. And Biden may have another secret weapon against them:

It’s weird to conclude from 2016 that a woman can’t win, or at least can’t defeat Trump, given that (a) Hillary got more votes than he did, (b) the margins in Trump’s favor in decisive swing states were freakishly small, and (c) the points most often made to explain her defeat — Comey’s last-minute Emailgate letter and her own decision to take the Rust Belt for granted — have nothing to do with her gender. But if, a la Michael Avenatti, traumatized Democrats have concluded that the only safe play against Trump in 2020 is someone who’s white or male and ideally both then Biden’s frontrunner status is a lot firmer than we all think. Even fellow white guy Pete Buttigieg might be a nonstarter on the theory that, while he might have the two electorally “safe” attributes, his sexual orientation introduces an unnecessary political risk. Realistically Democrats may be looking at Biden, Bernie, and the underwhelming Beto O’Rourke as their three choices once anti-Trump liberals begin to sort candidates aggressively for perceived “electability.” And given Sanders’s ideological bent, his own electability will be a recurring issue in the primaries.

Here’s Paul Begala making the electability case pretty, ah, vividly.