You know, for a guy who spent 8 years as the theoretical second most powerful person in the free world, the man who was literally one heartbeat away from being the President, Joe Biden sure seems to be having trouble handling pressure. And it disappoints me greatly.
Months ago I wrote that I expected that Biden would basically replicate the success story of Donald Trump four years earlier. In a hugely crowded field, he would take his polling dominance nationally, roll through the early states taking the lions share of the delegates, and by the time the field finally winnowed down to 3-4, it would be difficult, if not impossible for anybody to make up Biden’s delegate count lead. And instead Biden has flopped like a fish on the bottom of the boat.
There were problems almost immediately. Biden gave a rousing announcement speech, and then went almost completely radio silent. For months, he campaigned little publicly, if at all. Whether this was a strategy for some unfathomable reason chosen by his campaign, or simply their fear of placing him in situations where his legendary gaffes could take over, I don’t know. But whatever the reason, it made him seem distant and aloof, especially in early states where hands on time is required, and made it seem almost like he was taking the nominating process for granted.
Having him on the campaign trail didn’t seem much better. He seemed distracted and lifeless, and his character bright sense of humor largely disappeared. It often seemed like he was doing it because he had to, but his heart just wasn’t in it. And in politics, not only had your heart better be in it, but also your ass, your left elbow, your head, and everything else.
But it’s what Joe Biden has said in the last 5 days that really has me feeling almost like he’s playing out his hand to a dignified departure date. A day or two after Iowa, Biden told reporters and his supporters We took a real gut punch the other night. I have no problem with that, it’s entirely accurate. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting a setback. in Obama’s first midterm, he came right out and admitted that he got shellacked the night before. There’s nothing wrong with a politician being honest, in fact it’s kind of refreshing.
But it’s what Biden said on the stage at the debate last night that knocked me for a loop. He said something like, Yea, we took a gut punch in Iowa last week, and I think we might take another one here. What the fuck?!? That would be like a hockey coach losing game one of the Stanley Cup finals, and then telling the press afterwards, Yeah, we got pasted pretty good last night, and I think we’re gonna get our asses kicked again tomorrow night, but just wait until we get them back to our place, and then see what happens! This is inexcusable. Whether you’re a coach, an athlete, or a politician, no matter the outcome, you can never express anything but confidence in the future! After all, Warren and Klobuchar didn’t win last Monday night, but in their Monday night and Tuesday morning statements, it was And now on to New Hampshire, and another strong showing! How do you expect New Hampshire voters to believe you’ll bounce back if you don’t tell them that you will?
But there are two specific things that Biden has started doing that I don’t think are in his best interests going forward. First, in his kickoff speech, Biden famously said and I will speak ill of no other Democrat! That got a ton of air time, and set the expectation for his campaign going forward. But since his poor showing in Iowa, while continuing to express friendship and respect for both Buttigieg and Sanders, Biden has begun throwing very pointed little barbs at both candidates. These are not policy differences, but subtle jabs at the candidates themselves. And if he continues to do this, he runs the risk of other candidates throwing his kickoff vow back in his face.
The other one is a bit more subtle. In his speeches, especially since his fortunes faded, Biden has spoken repeatedly about his South Carolina firewall. And the implication is clear, he’s talking about his popularity with African American voters. In fact he touts it, I’ve created a broad coalition, white and black voters, north and south and midwest, I can do it again. And when you’re doing poorly with white voters, it can sound like you’re taking them for granted.
Oddly enough, I can understand how black voters feel to some extent when I hear something like that. Because I’m an Irish American who lived most of his life in Chicago. And if you were Irish in Chicago, you were politically defined by two little words. Richard J Daley. There was only one party for the Irish of Chicago, and that was the Democratic party. If an O’Toole had ever run in Chicago on the GOP ticket, he’d have to go into the witness relocation protection program afterwards. Which meant that candidate quality control was sometimes lacking, as the party elders fully expected that whichever hack they put up. And normally they did.
Now look, regardless of what happens in New Hampshire, Biden could easily still roll into Nevada and clean up, it’s a much more ethnically diverse state, with the kind iof coalition in it that he can build, and it’s a strongly union state. And with a strong showing in Nevada, he can point to that coalition build, and storm into South Carolina looking like a world champion. And if that happens, then all bets are off for Super Tuesday and beyond. But that task is going to be difficult enough to pull off as it is, and if Biden is going to keep sounding defeatist to his own supporters, the way he has this week, it may end up being damn near impossible. Maybe his staff shakeup will lead to a little attitude adjustment in the campaign. I sure hope so.
To know the future, look to the past.before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen