Will Democrats really get behind a do-over in 2020? Many have speculated that a late substitution of Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton might have saved the White House for Democrats in 2016, and at the very least it’s tough to argue that they could have done worse. Biden, for instance, would have known to campaign in the blue-wall states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and would have been better positioned to connect with working-class Americans outside the urban-coastal progressive bubbles.
The Democratic Party, however, wants to double down on those progressive bubbles in the future, so Politico reports that Biden’s aides are working on an unusual primary pitch. How about one term of Joe Biden as a “reset” president, in which he adds a young progressive to the ticket for 2024?
Between stops on his book tour and in the ramp-up for what will be a heavy midterms campaign schedule, a tight circle of aides has been brainstorming a range of tear-up-the-playbook ideas for a White House run, according to people who’ve been part of the discussions or told about them.
On the list: announcing his candidacy either really early or really late in the primary process so that he’d define the field around him or let it define itself before scrambling the field; skipping Iowa and New Hampshire and going straight to South Carolina, where he has always had a strong base of support; announcing a running mate right out of the gate and possibly picking one from outside of politics; and making a pitch that he can be a bridge not just to disaffected Democrats, but to Republicans revolting against President Donald Trump.
They’ve also discussed an idea some donors and supporters have been pitching Biden on directly for months: kick off by announcing that he’d only run for one term. One person who’s pitched the idea said Biden would try to sell voters on “a reset presidency.” The former vice president would pick a younger Democratic running mate and argue that he’d be the elder statesman to get the country and government back in order post-Trump and be the bridge to the next generation.
Well, that might be more of a recognition of reality than a self-sacrificing offer. Biden is 75 years old now and would turn 78 less than three weeks after the election in 2020. That would make him by far the oldest man to win a first term as president, and he’d be 82 for any re-election possibilities. Put that together with the fact that Biden has been in Washington perhaps as long as millennials’ parents have been alive, and that’s not exactly an attractive look for an eight-year commitment.
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin is sold on the idea of a one-term Biden administration, and believes Biden’s serious about the campaign:
The objections to his candidacy are familiar. He’s old. He’s a little goofy. He’s a tad too “handsy” in the #MeToo era. But seriously, is there a single Democrat who could, in a large field, immediately command a big plurality, if not a majority, of the vote? He surely has the staff, the fundraising ability and, it seems, the energy and drive to run for at least one term. And if he is up against President Trump — who is only 4 years younger and looks much less fit than Biden — age, goofiness and his treatment of women will be much more problematic for the incumbent president than they will for the challenger.
Whatever you think of Biden’s politics, he does have the presence to stand up to Trump and to throw a punch or two of his own. Although there is a serious downside in running as a one-term candidate, Biden might embrace that option, present himself as being there to perform triage and get American democracy back on its feet before handing it off to the next generation. To the last point, he could distinguish himself upfront by selecting a younger running mate, most likely a woman and/or a minority. Could he persuade, say, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to be his running mate — with the obvious opportunity to run for president on her own in 2024?
Critics will say it is a sad commentary on the Democratic Party that it must rely on a septuagenarian to bring it back from the wilderness. Perhaps, but that is essentially what 69-year-old Ronald Reagan did in 1980 when he rode to victory for the Republican Party. Yes, Biden is no Reagan, but he could provide a bridge between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton factions, and between one generation of Democrats and another.
Old and handsy in the age of #MeToo? Sign us up! Truly nothing will say Democrats are “with it” like Uncle Joe creeping on young women at campaign events. That’s a strange choice to make for a campaign that will undoubtedly take aim at Donald Trump for allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. Wouldn’t that be the political equivalent of putting the author of Romneycare on the ticket to run against the author of ObamaCare, regardless of all the other virtues that might carry with it? And not to beat a dead horse here, but Reagan didn’t spend 50 years in Washington before running for president, either.
The activity around Biden does show a level of seriousness about the effort, and Republicans should not sell the possibility short. It’s easy to make fun of Biden’s gaffes and point out his swamp credentials, but he does a much better job making those emotional connections outside the progressive bubbles than nearly every other Democrat with national standing at this point. His biggest competitors come from deep-blue states and have not shown any kind of resonance outside deep-blue areas. However, if Democrats were smart, they wouldn’t be looking at a rerun of Biden but someone like Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, who has proven his ability to win in redder areas of the country. He’s only a year younger than Biden, so he’s not the most practical choice, but he’s a good model of the kind of candidate Democrats should be recruiting rather than trying a recycling project like Biden.