He’s in North Carolina when he’s in Virginia. He thinks Paul Ryan is governor of … one of the states numbered 51 through 57. He’s not even clear in which century he’s living. He’s Joe Biden, and he’s one heartbeat away from the Presidency. Or will he be for long? The week’s misadventures for Sheriff Joe have some wondering whether he’s medically qualified for the job, and speculation rising anew that the possessor of that hygienic heartbeat may want to find someone else to square off against Paul Ryan in the October debates.
Before we get to that speculation, here’s a measure of just how bad the problem has become. Jonathan Martin reports from the road that Joe Biden’s staff has begun imploring the pool reporters to edit Biden’s remarks:
His staff’s response is effectively to try to save Biden from himself. During the Virginia trip reporters were hustled out of retail campaign stops in diners and other intimate settings, aides tried to edit media pool reports for any potential landmines that could be seized on by Republicans and even hovered at close range to eavesdrop on journalists’ conversations with attendees at Biden rallies. …
What’s perhaps most striking about the Biden staff’s attempts at press management is its effort to influence what goes in the pool reports from his off-schedule stops. Because the entire press corps cannot easily jam in, say, a diner or private home, it is standard practice to have a single designated reporter take notes and share the material with colleagues from other news organizations. These reports are designed entirely for the media, but are distributed by White House staffers. In the case of Obama, as with his predecessors, the reports are simply forwarded without comment by email to a news media distribution list.
But on two occasions during Biden’s Virginia trip, his staff sought to have certain elements in the reports highlighted while reporters drafted them and discussed the contents with the reporters after the summaries had been sent but before they had before sent to the broader media.
Staffers spinning reporters to frame events the best they can is, of course, commonplace in politics. But attempting to intervene in the drafting of accounts that reporters share with one another is all but unheard of and reflects the deep concern Biden’s team has about offering any fodder to the opposition.
Jim Geraghty muses skeptically on the possibility of a Hillary-for-Biden change:
Of course, a sudden Biden departure won’t happen and can’t happen, for a couple of reasons. First, it would require President Obama to admit a mistake. Secondly, it would de facto concede that the critics who deride Biden as an ill-informed, tactless, often obnoxious, loudmouthed, bloviating rhetorical time-bomb have been right all along. Thirdly, no one would believe the “sudden health crisis” or other story put forth to explain the switch. Fourth, there’s no automatic slam-dunk replacement. Think Hillary Clinton wants to jump in two months before Election Day to help save Obama from his own bad decisions?
She might if she were asked, and it might be exactly what Obama needs. Hillary would connect with the exact voter demographic that has abandoned Obama — working-class white voters, as well as shore up his standing among women. Of course, Biden is supposed to connect with working-class white voters too, but his racial dog-whistle in Danville has probably scotched that connection for good. And that one was no gaffe.
Count John Fund among the skeptics:
The White House has to worry that for the next 82 days Joe Biden will be under tremendous scrutiny — especially given the fact that Paul Ryan has become such a media-attention magnet. Everyone is anticipating the October 11 debate between Biden and Ryan. Biden’s penchant for off-the-cuff remarks doesn’t inspire confidence that he won’t unintentionally blurt something out when facing Ryan. For example, he embarrassed the Obama administration recently by prematurely revealing he was “comfortable” with gay marriage — forcing his boss to suddenly endorse gay marriage on a timetable not of his choosing.
Biden’s erratic statements certainly should make Team Obama nervous. I’ve no doubt that some Democratic strategists would love for Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to swap jobs and bolster the Democratic ticket with a little Clinton magic. But there’s no evidence that Hillary would take that deal. If she wants to run, she is already the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination and would gain no advantage by being yoked to Obama, her old adversary, for the next three months if they lost or the next four years if they won.
The Weekly Standard says that if it happens, today might be the day. The presidential schedule has a propitious convergence:
10:15AM THE PRESIDENT and THE VICE PRESIDENT receive the Presidential Daily Briefing
10:45AM THE PRESIDENT and THE VICE PRESIDENT meet with Secretary of State Clinton
12:30PM THE PRESIDENT and THE VICE PRESIDENT meet for lunch
Private Dining Room
I don’t think a switch is in the offing, because I think that Sarah Palin all but poisoned the option this week:
Sarah Palin said Tuesday that Vice President Joe Biden’s remark that Republicans “are going to put y’all back in chains” was “disgusting” — and added that it should make the Obama campaign seriously consider kicking him off the Democratic ticket.
The former GOP vice presidential candidate told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren that Biden’s comment at a Tuesday rally in Danville, Va., should mark “the nail in the coffin” for the vice president.
“There weren’t enough groans and boos when he said such a disgusting comment, really, especially to a demographic there that includes 48 percent of the community being black Americans,” Palin said Tuesday night. “Greta, if that’s not the nail of the coffin. Really the strategists there in the Obama campaign have got to look at a diplomatic way of replacing Joe Biden on the ticket with Hillary.
“And I don’t want to throw out that suggestion and have them actually accept the suggestion because then an Obama/Clinton ticket would have a darn good chance of winning. But really Joe Biden really drags down that ticket,” Palin added.
After that well-publicized challenge, Obama wouldn’t dare take her advice and dump Biden from the ticket. Even a medical reason would look like a panicked, defensive move at this point, especially after this week’s nonstop series of VP bungling on the campaign trail. We’re more likely to see a Biden apology than a withdrawal, and I don’t think that’s likely at all. The last convention purge of an incumbent VP from a ticket came in 1944, and only because Henry Wallace had become an open admirer of Joseph Stalin — and thankfully, we ended up with a President Truman rather than a President Wallace.
Obama’s stuck with Biden. That’s actually bad news for everyone, but fortunately American voters can keep Biden from being one heartbeat away from the presidency in November.