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Joe Biden and the “good-enough” campaign that wasn’t

Joe Biden’s once front runner campaign is faltering. The Vice Presidency won’t save him.


“Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee. What would have happened in America?” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. asked a town hall in Hanover, New Hampshire in August 2019.

Joe Biden would not be running for President in the 2020 election, it seems.

Biden’s main selling points coming into the 2020 election all too frequently seemed to be his association with the former President Obama and the fact he’d been around for a long time. “He often gets some of his biggest applause at campaign events when praising Mr. Obama. And many Democratic voters, especially African-American voters, have cited his relationship with Mr. Obama and nostalgia for that administration in explaining their current support for Mr. Biden,” the New York Times wrote in a profile.

“Imagine what would have happened if … Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee. What would have happened in America?” — Joseph Biden

Leading up to the Iowa primaries, Biden’s campaign became what could be described as the “good-enough” campaign. He wasn’t change orientated like Sanders and he didn’t have the merits of other candidates like Warren, Yang or Klobuchar in the fresh diversity they could bring to the Oval Office. But he was the frontrunner, and the argument a lot of people were making in his favor was that he was electable (a much thrown-around word in the world of Democratic politics 2020). Even Donald Trump took him most seriously, launching a disinformation campaign. The argument for Biden went like this: Yes, Joe Biden may not have a slew of progressive policy proposals in his bag, but voters like him because they liked Obama. He’s the safest bet to beat Trump.

Well, in that same state he mused about the death of Barack Obama last August, Joe Biden’s campaign has found itself not “good-enough” after all. Joe Biden’s campaign has faltered.

For the better part of the lead up to the primaries, Biden was self-assured. In fact, his biggest cheerleader was often himself: In November, he told Atlanta reporters that “I am the clear front-runner in the party. Then came the Iowa caucuses, where — technical issues or not — Biden was dealt a big blow. Will over 90 percent of precincts reporting, Biden had slid into a sluggish fourth place, his 15.8% result well behind Sanders and Buttigieg’s 26.2 and 26.1%.

At first, the Biden campaign went into denial. When the Democratic party announced they where not releasing results, his campaign sent a letter demanding that the figures be hidden until “quality control issues” were resolved. Then, he began to put the loss bluntly: “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We took a gut punch in Iowa,” Biden said on Wednesday.

New Hampshire proved a similar loss to a now less-jubilant Biden campaign. With 98% of precincts reporting, Biden had moved further down the field, to fifth place with 8.4%. For many, the two results signaled the beginning of the end for Joe Biden. He remains adamant that his campaign will revive itself when the primaries move to more diverse states (Biden still polls highly among African-American voters). In a CBS interview on the 10th Feb., Biden insisted he could still win. But no democratic candidate in recent history has secured the nomination without at least a top two place finish in Iowa and New Hampshire.

More bad news has started to roll in. Wall Street financiers for Biden have started to “panic“. Some Biden donors told CNBC that they would stop backing the campaign if he continues under performing. What’s more, many have speculated that voters will catch on to the fact Biden is just not winning, slowing any momentum. “If winning is contagious, losing can be an even more infectious campaign disease,” wrote the New York Times on the 11th. Few thought Biden had really taken the chance during the last Democratic debate to resurrect himself.

“If winning is contagious, losing can be an even more infectious campaign disease.” — New York Times

While Biden’s campaign falters, progressive candidates like Sanders have pulled ahead. It seems that a campaign that made the same promise as Hillary Clinton — experience and a link to the Obama administration before them — is not more attractive than a campaign that promises radical change. There are other hurdles: the “conservative” structures of the Democratic party management that seemed inclined to favor a moderate candidate like Biden and hold back Sanders now appear tipped to throw their support behind “Mayor Pete”, who with a (contested) first place in Iowa seems to be the centrist Democrat of choice.

Before the primaries, Joseph R. Biden Jr. was doing perceivably well. He was — in his own words — the “electable candidate” and he had two terms of being Barack Obama’s former Vice President under his belt. Liberals looking back with rose tinted glasses on the Obama years would pick Biden as the person to beat Trump, surely? Yes, he wasn’t perfect, but he was “good enough” to carry Democrat’s hopes. Now, post-Iowa and New Hampshire, this is no longer the case.

Trump really is “bad enough”, and Biden is looking less and less likely to be the remedy.

Featured image: Flickr 

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