We are still “early in the process” as orating noggins like to opine, but not quite that early anymore. Most candidates have had 4-5 months to take up temporary rotating residence in the early primary states, and we have the first round of debates under our belts, along with a couple of fund raising cycle reports. And as I like to say, tempus does fugit.”
The latest poll from NBC News/WSJ has produced some expected results, but also some surprises. For starters, while some widely expected candidates have surged to the “top tier,” surprisingly several early favorites like Booker, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, and O’Rourke have failed to be able to get their message across, or generate traction in the field. And now that the novelty has worn off, and other candidates are “stealing his thunder,” Sanders has become mired firmly in third, and in some polls fourth place. Hell, he isn’t even in the top three in fundraising, which was his proudest achievement in 2016.And my favorite one is the fact that only 12% of Democratic primary voters have “locked in” on any one candidate, meaning that nobody is safe.
But the one category that jumped out at me is the one that provides Joe Biden with his best “secret weapon.” Right now, the dominant characteristic that Democratic voters are looking for in a candidate is that dreaded and nebulous concept of electability. From day one, Biden has been the prohibitive favorite in that category. Long after the field has winnowed down to a half dozen or less, the dominant question in Democratic voters minds is going to be, “Which of these people can best fuck Trump’s shit up?” It’s hard to see how anybody topples Biden from that throne. Kamala Harris cleaned his clock on national TV in the debate, and he still doubles up on her in the polls in electability.
The real problem for the other candidates is Biden himself. Joe Biden is to Democratic politics what that sweater, and those slippers were to Mr Rogers. He is a warm, fuzzy sense of comfortable familiarity. Bernie Sanders has been around in congress almost as long as Biden has, but until he started bellowing about free college, and Medicare for all in 2016, most voters outside of New England couldn’t have picked Bernie Sanders out of a police lineup. But everybody knows “Joe”, and from long before he became Barack Obama’s wing man.
Biden comes by his electability edge the old fashioned way, he’s battle tested in the national eye. In 2008, in a wonderfully gaffe free performance, Biden carefully and respectfully put Caribou Barbie in the corner with a dunce cap on her head in front of a national television audience in the Vice Presidential debate. And in 2012, he laughingly “malarkey!”ed fellow Irishman Paul Ryan out of town on a rail. Biden is a well known entity on a high pressure national debate stage.
So, what is Biden’s secret sauce in his electability edge? The comparison between Trump himself. Biden is everything that Trump is not, He’s open, engaging, friendly, smiles often, he’s knowledgeable, and most of all, he’s authentic. He comes across as being confident, qualified, and capable, and does it without seeming to be arrogant or haughty. And the thought of sharing a stage with Biden has Trump’s manhood shriveling up like a toothpick and a couple of split peas every time he thinks about it.
That is the problem for all of the other top tier candidates, how do they make themselves appear to be more electable than Biden. None of them have the national exposure, the gravitas, or the reputation of Biden, and no realistic way to craft one in the time available. Their biggest path to salvation is Biden’s biggest road to ruin. Biden himself.
Biden tanked the first debate, and tanked it horribly. For Gods sake, even metaphysical bookstore owner and spiritual Richard Simmons, Marianne Williamson, looked more natural and comfortable on stage than Biden. Biden cannot afford a repeat performance of that debacle if he is to survive.
Because by no later than October, the field is going to shrink to a half a dozen candidates or less,and all on the same debate stage. And if Biden continues to lose debates, especially if the same person dominates him time and time again, his electability edge is going to disappear. And without that, Joe Biden has nothing to sell. This should be interesting.