There’s an old expression: You shouldn't change horses in mid-stream. But in the case of Joe Biden running for president, perhaps Democrats had better throw out that convention. Although Hillary Clinton is currently the Democratic frontrunner, Biden might have a better chance.
Given the economic mess that President Obama was handed in 2008 when he took office, the administration has done a commendable job steering the economy back onto safer ground. Progress has materialized, even in the face of Congress’s best-laid plans to plunge us back into an economic mire with a draconian sequestration, skirmishes over the debt limit, a government shutdown and business-negative campaigns, such as shuttering the Export-Import Bank.
Concerns about China aside, we’ve had a six-year bull market that’s re-engaged critical parts of our economy, including a burgeoning tech sector that is the envy of the world. The nation’s small businesses have also largely recovered, reporting strong revenue growth, greater access to capital, and plans to keep on hiring. The unemployment rate has also dropped down to more normal levels.
And though there’s plenty of room to continue improving, Biden would inherit this mantel of economic recovery, much as Vice President Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000, inherited Bill Clinton’s economic juggernaut. And Biden has already been vetted extensively by the public. Polls show that voters of all stripes like him.
Although Biden polls at 18 percent compared to Hillary Clinton’s 45 percent, according to an August 27 Quinnipiac presidential poll, he beats all of the Republican frontrunners in a matchup contest with them. He beats Trump 48 percent to 40 percent, and Jeb Bush 45 percent to 39 percent; In a contest with Marco Rubio, he gets 44 percent to the Florida senator’s 40 percent.
In many respects, he offers a better alternative than Hillary Clinton, whose favorability rating has fallen in recent months, partly because the Clintons can’t ever escape the whiff of scandal that follows them wherever they go. If Biden runs, however, he might do well to emulate Clinton’s focus on small business owners, whom she sees as the economy’s best hope for long-term growth.
Much as politicians love to cast themselves as outsiders offering an alternative to Beltway career politicians, the truth is the American electorate likes safe choices. With the exceptions of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, voters have chosen candidates who currently hold political office at the time they are elected, stretching back to the Kennedy administration. (And in the years prior to assuming office, Reagan and especially Nixon had extensive experience in government.)
Trump has no political experience, and so he’s likely to turn-off the larger electorate. And as opposed to Reagan, who cast himself as a sunny, optimistic unifier, Trump is running a divisive, narcissistic and often racist campaign that assumes what’s best for him is best for the U.S.
His run-ins with Fox's Megyn Kelly and Univision's Jorge Ramos, are but two examples of his temperament. But as this profile in Vanity Fair from 1990 shows, he has a long history of self-aggrandizement, bullying, and misrepresentation, which would be extremely troubling projected onto the world stage.
Sure, many would simply say he's a businessman and nothing's personal. They also might call his shoot-from the-hip cadence refreshing, particularly as he is compared with veteran politicians who have perfected the art of spin.
And surely Biden isn't a saint either. He is known for his public snafus, including a plagiarism scandal that marred his first presidential run in 1987. But his killer performance during the 2012 vice presidential debate also showed his canniness and forceful grasp of issues. And he’s come out in clear support of matters that appeal to many business owners, like comprehensive immigration reform and strong support of educational incentives that would create a bigger pool of skilled workers. He's also keen to balance the budget and eliminate tax loopholes for companies that offshore operations.
The recent loss of his son Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware, also casts him in a sympathetic light with voters, and would give his campaign a certain sense of mission and gravitas.
Biden is far from perfect, but he’s an obvious choice who’s less polarizing than Clinton, and a more realistic choice than Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has captured the attention of the left. Even better, he can appeal to voters of both parties, including business owners who want to know someone with tested experience is at the helm.