Before Joe Biden jumped into the 2020 race, this very columnist wrote a piece headlined: “Biden will run and Biden will win.”
The premise of the brilliant piece was that while all the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination moved hard left — offering socialist programs like free health care and free college and pushing trillion-dollar projects and 70% tax rates — Mr. Biden would waltz in, play the sane moderate, be embraced by the mainstream media, and sweep to victory.
It all may still happen, but he’s certainly not running away with the race (one recent poll showed him statistically tied with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren).
There have been three big developments in recent weeks that have left Mr. Biden treading water.
First, he has proved to be a pretty awful candidate, not at all the self-assured — even slick — politician he once was. At 76, Mr. Biden is prone to gaffes and misspeaks often, sometimes multiple times in a week.
His mistakes are covered widely, even by outlets predisposed to support him — and the stumbles just keep coming.
At the latest Democratic Party debate, Mr. Biden at one point blurted out “go to Joe 3-0-3-3-0.” Apparently, he meant to tell viewers they should text “Joe” to 30330, but he looked out of it with the blunder. There are plenty more: In New Hampshire, he said he loved it there … in Vermont. Then he said, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” Then he … Oh, you get the point.
His string of on-camera flubs has generated headlines like this one from Vanity Fair: “Biden advisors worry the gaffes are becoming a problem.”
And that’s becoming a problem.
The second big twist involves Mr. Biden’s old boss. The former vice president casts his candidacy as, essentially, the third term of Barack Obama. But Mr. Obama quietly urged him not to run and, as it turns out, isn’t much of a friend.
“The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms,” The New York Times wrote in a piece headlined “Obama’s and Biden’s Relationship Looks Rosy. It Wasn’t Always That Simple.”
“‘You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,’ Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.”
Mr. Obama has still not endorsed his former White House partner, saying he wants to stay out of the fray and allow Democrats to pick their candidate. That forced Mr. Biden to make the embarrassing claim that “I asked President Obama not to endorse, and he doesn’t want to. Listen, we should — whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.”
Behind the scenes, Obama aides and supporters say the former president is worried that Mr. Biden will actually tarnish his legacy rather than build on it. Sure, if Mr. Biden wins the nomination, Mr. Obama will no doubt endorse him then, but it’s still beyond bizarre that the guy Mr. Biden supported for eight years isn’t there for him now. The message it sends to Democrats is deafening.
And the third big development came just last week and quickly got swept under the rug. Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill, said her husband might not be the best candidate, but hey, she told voters, “maybe you have to swallow a little bit” and vote for him anyway.
“Your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care, than Joe is,” Jill Biden said on MSNBC, “but you’ve got to look at who’s going to win this election, and maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, ‘OK, I personally like so-and-so better,’ but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.”
During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, she said: “I know that not all of you are committed to my husband, and I respect that. But I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability, and who’s going to win this race. So I think if your goal — I know my goal — is to beat Donald Trump, we have to have someone who can beat him,” she said.
Mr. Biden has been painted as the inevitable candidate since before he even entered the race. That inevitability is long gone. And as the list of gaffes keeps growing, his fundraising is falling off — the biggest danger in what will be the most expensive campaign in history.
The fact that Mr. Obama tried to dissuade Mr. Biden from running and won’t endorse him hurts — a lot.
But when you’re not wowing your own wife with your incredible campaign speeches, you’ve got a problem. And when you’re wife goes out there and tells Democrats that they just have to hold their noses when they vote for her husband, you’ve got a really big problem.
⦁ Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter