ABC’s Jon Karl calls this a “possible bombshell” in the 2016 sweepstakes, but it would have been little more than a footnote had it not been for the epic failure of Hillary Clinton as a candidate. The polling woes of Hillary have lured a previously recalcitrant Joe Biden into the 2016 Democratic primary fight, ABC News reported yesterday. Biden is “90% in,” which would be a punch line for an August news story in any other context (via Daniel Halper):
“This morning, the strongest signs yet that Joe Biden might be ready to run. The vice president’s advisers telling ABC News, his political team has been ramping up in recent days, entering what they call a more active phase,” ABC reports.
“In camp Biden, there are discussions about fundraising and launching a political action committee, while the vice president himself hasn’t authorized any of these moves, one adviser tells ABC News he believes Biden is 90 percent in.”
The problem with that formulation is that the last time one could be “90% in” on August 2nd of the off year was probably 1999. Presidential campaigns take much more planning and networking now, as the time is spread much farther out. The race to lock up donors, bundlers, and especially campaign staffers started months ago, if it started at all. Hillary Clinton has spent the last two years locking up all of these, through her foundation and through her book publishing efforts as well as through the popular conception that she was the inevitable nominee.
It would take an extraordinary candidate to break out under these conditions, but Biden isn’t that candidate. He’s already run for the presidency twice, flaming out in 1987 from a plagiarism scandal and fizzling out in 2007, far from the leaders. He has campaigning skills, but also a penchant for embarrassing himself and a reputation that hardly situates him as a serious leader. At 72, it’ll be difficult to overcome all of those shortcomings without the resources that Hillary has monopolized.
The prospect of a Biden challenge doesn’t worry Team Hillary as much as it annoys her campaign, according to the New York Times’ Amy Chozick:
The scenario of a Clinton-Biden matchup brought mixed emotions inside Mrs. Clinton’s Brooklyn campaign headquarters. Many of Mrs. Clinton’s senior staff members previously worked for Mr. Biden and hold him in the highest regard, especially after his son, Beau Biden, died in May at the age of 46 after a long battle with brain cancer.
But Mrs. Clinton’s allies do not hide their annoyance at the implication by Mr. Biden’s advisers and supporters that she is vulnerable, and ripe for a challenge from the vice president.
“She has the most money and she is beating every Republican in most of the polls,” Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for the campaign, told CNN on Sunday. “So you can’t really ask for much more than that.”
Politico’s Anni Karni reports that they’re also skeptical about Biden’s ability to find the resources for a campaign at this late stage:
But many top Democrats remain doubtful that he will actually take the plunge.
While there are real vulnerabilities, like Clinton’s exposure on the left, an enthusiasm gap for her candidacy and some weakness in her latest poll numbers, Democrats raise questions about Biden’s ability to deal with the practical matter of building an organization of donors, operatives and other constituencies necessary to win. And few expect Biden to run as a spoiler, or just because it would be his last chance to mount a bid.
Biden has also made few moves to show that he’s serious about a bid. His chief of staff has been kept in the loop on debate planning by the Democratic National Committee as a courtesy, sources said, but the Biden team has not engaged or attended any meetings or raised any questions to show it is interested or plans to participate.
The Biden boomlet is more of a media measure of just how poorly Hillary has fared so far in the early going than a serious potential challenge to her position. Biden entering in the next few weeks would be akin to the Fred Thompson gambit in 2011. He’d generate some significant interest, but would come in too late to have enough resources to compete effectively or to even pull together a proficient campaign. He might make a debate or two interesting, but that would be it. In the end, the idea of Biden would quickly give way to all of the realities of Biden, which is why Biden never got close to the nomination on his own when he had a much better chance of doing so.