Eyes on 2020: A Joe Biden candidacy for President

Ross O’Leary considers the likelihood and potential success of a Biden 2020 campaign.

Speculation is growing surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden and the possibility of his running for US President in 2020. If Biden announces his intention to run it will be his third time running for the office; his first effort in 1988, and second in 2008. Biden was a Senator for Delaware for 36 years before being elected as Barack Obama’s Vice President in 2008. He is polling as the current front runner in the democratic field and is arguably the best-known potential candidate in democratic politics. Biden was favored by many to run against Hillary Clinton to win the democratic nomination in 2016, however he decided against this after the death of his son, Beau. Three weeks ago, Biden stated “there’s a consensus, the most important people in my life want me to run.” He has reportedly begun hiring campaign staff, further fanning the flames of speculation. If Biden runs, however, he will undoubtedly face a number of obstacles.

“As the left-wing of the party is increasingly galvanized, Biden’s middle-of-the-road politics might not do enough to excite them”

Biden’s potential run in 2016 was touted as another four years of an Obama presidency. This was beneficial in early polls, as Obama is wildly popular within the Democratic party. Critics argue that if Biden ran in 2016, maybe the United States would have avoided the mess it is currently in and that a Biden presidency in 2020 is a second chance. However, Biden will be judged on his own politics in a potential 2020 run. He will no longer play the Obama mascot role and his own merits, words and policy ideas will play a crucial role in influencing potential voters. Biden’s stance on most policy issues is quite moderate, which may allow him to win over many conservatives and Trump voters, but is considered out of step with the Democratic base itself. Liberals in the Democratic Party are looking towards candidates that support Medicare for All, tackling global warming and reducing income inequality; such as Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. As the far left-wing of the party is increasingly galvanized, Biden’s middle-of-the-road politics might not do enough to excite them, but is sure to gather the support of more moderate democrats and some moderate conservatives.

Biden’s long and decorated history of gaffes may haunt his potential presidential campaign. From claiming that in Delaware, “you cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent”, or asking a wheelchair bound congressman to stand up, Biden has a tendency to speak before thinking. This tendency has been majorly overstated in the media as a disqualifying trait. Up against the presumptive Republican nominee and gaffer-in-chief, President Donald Trump, Biden may get away with a few slip ups. His choice of words may play a more prominent role in the criticism that might emanate from President Trump. Biden has a well-documented history of plagiarism. During his run for President in 1988, he apologised for plagiarizing a paper written in his first year of law school. Biden extensively plagiarized the words of US Senator Hubert Humphrey, British MP Neil Kinnock and Bobby Kennedy throughout his 1988 campaign. Biden also made the fatal mistake of plagiarizing from President John F. Kennedy’s incredibly famous inauguration speech (which contained the fabled line; “ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country”). These hiccups derailed his campaign and will likely act as political fodder for President Trump and Fox News.

“Trump has shown he is unwilling to conduct himself with dignity and hold back from personal attacks on the families of his rivals.”

President Trump and Joe Biden have already come head-to-head a number of times. In March of last year, Biden claimed “if [he and Trump] were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him”. Trump replied “crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way.” This type of tit-for-tat behavior has become commonplace throughout the Trump presidency and it is a likely indicator of how Trump might carry out attacks on Biden. This has reportedly weighed heavily on Biden’s mind when deciding to run, as Trump has shown he is unwilling to conduct himself with dignity and hold back from personal attacks on the families of his rivals. Biden’s families have faced some tragedies, such as the death of Biden’s wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, which his sons Beau and Hunter both survived. Beau passed away from brain cancer in 2015. Having been through this much, there is a concern from the Biden camp that they should not have to go through attacks from the President or even the tumult of a Presidential campaign. These concerns were settled last week, after Biden’s announcement of their support.

Biden’s stature as an establishment figure may both help and hurt his potential candidacy. His experience is practically unparalleled among Democratic candidates, but his stance on certain issues may cause him harm. The biggest argument from Biden supporters is that he is the only candidate that can defeat Trump. The Democratic party must ask themselves if that is the case. His age will come under question, as he will be 77 years old on election day, with Bernie Sanders being 79 and Donald Trump being 72. Trump is the oldest President ever elected, but Sanders and Biden are the first and second oldest candidates for President in United States history, respectively.

The conversation does not surround Biden’s or Sanders’ capability to run the country at their age, but their place in the party. Candidates like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand are exciting the Democratic base as they are fresh blood to the party. Sanders’ outsider position allows him some leeway with the base, but Biden’s moderate views may bring with them a Hillary effect, a failure to unite Democrats behind shared issues and a common identity. Aside from this concern, the former Vice President is currently leading all major polls among Democrats and enjoys a reasonably high favorability rating among most Americans. His polling in key battleground states is also promising. This polling may change if he enters the battlefield of the Democratic Primary, as he will become a target of not only Trump and the conservative media, but the Democrats that he will be running against.