Joe Biden is Hillary Clinton’s Big Fear

by James Resnick, a second year International Relations student studying abroad at Sciences Po Paris. He interns at the Hudson Institute and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. 

Joe Biden

Should Joe Biden run for the Democratic Party’s nomination, it would seriously hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances.

In spite of her first place position in a recent Bloomberg Politics National poll, Hillary Clinton has had to stave off numerous ongoing challenges. The ongoing email scandal has led to continued protestations that she lacks transparency, genuineness and that she can’t be trusted. A recent Washington Post poll underscores this continuing trust deficit, with a mere 39% of voters finding Clinton to be both honest and trustworthy. Populism within the Democratic Party is alive, from a disgruntled wing who happen to be disappointed by the apparent centrism of President Obama and is clearly evident through the huge crowds of thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters, appreciating authenticity, while advocating that the United States shift towards a Scandinavian-style socialism. Critically important to the list of Clinton concerns, however, is the somewhat inevitable announcement of Joe Biden’s candidacy.

Even without declaring his candidacy, Biden attracted 25% of the vote in the Bloomberg poll which asked interviewees ‘Which of the following Democrats would be your first choice for president?’ Biden even does better than Sanders, whose rallies have been attracting tens of thousands of supporters, though this result is partially due to the fact that a significant minority either still haven’t formed an opinion of Sanders or don’t even know him. Biden trumps Clinton on favourability, according to latest poll numbers from the Washington Post. 80% of voters responded that they have a favourable view of Biden, with 14% holding an unfavourable opinion. In comparison, Clinton clocked in at a more meagre 70% with a quarter responding unfavourably.

What will define a Biden run will be the recent tragic losses he has had to endure, most notably the recent death of his son Beau. David Brooks highlights that Biden’s electability could be found after his heartfelt interview with Stephen Colbert, ‘Every presidential candidate needs a narrative to explain how his or her character was formed. They need a story line that begins outside of politics with some experience or life-defining crucible moment that then defines the nature of their public service.’ Brooks adds, ‘With Colbert, one saw the kernel of a Biden formation story that could connect not only with Democratic voters but with other voters as well.’

Beyond the formation story, the Washington Post poll also notes that a plurality of voters too also stated that they’d want Biden to enter the race. This is telling. It is telling because up until now the focus has been dedicated between the more centrist Clinton, and the socialist Sanders. One can appreciate Sanders for the fact that he has pushed the Clinton rhetoric much further to the left, which can only be a good thing. But many Democrats are still unsatisfied with a Clinton who timidly shifts further to the left to limply cater to the progressive wing of the party.

Clinton’s inability to provide personality to her campaign is particularly hurting her chances with white working class voters with accusations that she doesn’t go much beyond the teleprompter. In contrast, Biden has the Trump-like mannerism of espousing what he thinks, though far more rationally. That has been to his detriment at times, but Biden’s authenticity will be greatly appreciated by an electorate who have grown weary of overly-prepared politicians. Despite Clinton’s middle class upbringing, Biden is far superior at championing his story, his roots. Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist who recently joined the Draft Biden 2016 super PAC notes, “If you look at the way Democrats have struggled with working class white voters primarily. I think Joe Biden is a guy that has come from that world. He was a middle class guy growing up, and he has never lost his roots. He gives us a chance to talk to some voters that we have struggled with in the last few cycles.” Bernie Sanders’ meteoric rise has shaken the Clinton campaign, but what appears to distinguish Biden from Sanders, is that Biden can be similarly populist and authentic, while also take credit for the Obama administration’s achievements; Clinton too can similarly take advantage of such achievements, though GOP criticism of the president is focussed on foreign relations, where much blame has resided on Clinton.

His already established superior approval ratings, his formation story, his genuineness, and his influential role within the Obama administration. These are the lines that distinguish Biden from Clinton.

Clinton’s struggles will more likely than not persist into next year, and nothing would be as impactful, than if Biden enters the race. A Joe Biden candidacy would significantly shake up the primaries and would detrimentally impact the Clinton campaign. This can only be something worth encouraging.

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