If Biden Runs, It’s Bad News for Clinton

Dan Scotto

Dan Scotto lives and works in New Jersey. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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31 Responses

  1. SaulDegraw says:

    You are probably right but I still think that this is speculation and wishful thinking for the media looking to justify their paychecks.

    Still Biden is a solid candidate and Trump’s rise is starting to freak me out.

    I still kinda want Sanders v. Trump for the battle of the accents. Hope Brooklyn wins.

    Actually I don’t want Trump to get the GOP nod because I am a worrier and what if he wins? I want both parties to put their most competent candidate forward.Report

  2. Michael Drew says:

    Suffice to say, I disagree with a lot of this.

    I think the perception of weakness on the part of Hillary’s campaign is fueling speculation about a Biden run, and probably is a factor pushing him more toward running than otherwise, I’ll grant that. But I don’t think there was any decision made in the spring that’s now being revisited. I think under any circumstances, Biden was going to play the waiting game, which is what he’s done. He has 90+% name recognition, and didn’t need to get his name out there early like others. There was always going to be speculation about a possible Biden run, which he could play up or play down as his needs warranted. But at the same time, he’s the vice president, which means that any campaign he’d run was always going to a more restrained affairs than the Clinton juggernaut. He’d aways have been campaigning in her shadow, so there wasn’t really much reason to try to get out ahead of her. Plus, I think there has always been deep ambivalence about another run, both within himself, and certainly in his family.

    So I think it just always made sense to wait and see before committing himself, not that there would have been a Biden campaign since spring if only he’d seen a way to get around Hillary. And then throw in Beau. I’m not sure what his health status was early in the year, but according to wikipedia, he was admitted to the hospital on May 20th with a recurrence and died ten days later. Certainly the shock of just the dignosis and so forth probably put into question whether Biden wanted to run, as I say, leading to aninlination to wait. the cancer was thought to be in remission apparently up until May 20th, so I suppose one could say we might have expected a decision before that date. But for the sitting vice president, especially one we now know was quite content to just wait and see, i don’t know why we’d expect. But then certainly after Beau’s death I don’t think it makes any sense to think that a decision was going to be made quickly, or that a decision against running that had been made would be quickly reassessed. At that point it seems like an approach of simply biding time was almost unavoidable. The emotional resources simply weren’t there to address the question with the focus necessary.

    But now it is getting late, and as you say, this is his last chance. And now there’s no Beau to carry forth any legacy; it could be speak now or hold your piece for the Biden name in politics. That alone seems, from a personal perspective, like a strong reason to take a hard look at running. Plus, as you say, he’s always wanted it. It’s now or never.

    The point of all this being, there’s so much reason why it would have gotten to this point before a decision was made, other than that in the spring Biden simply looked at the polls and the campaign advantages of Clinton and decided not to run. Before May 20th, he really didn;t need to have made decision to run, and afterward, he could’t give it enough attention (until now – maybe). Which means that the fact of this public ruminating, and even a decision to run, need’t be the indication of serious weakness in the Hillary campaign you say it must be. It’s probably the case, as I say, that those perceptions facilitate a run somewhat. But it may be more fundamentally the case that now is when Biden has first been able to really give the question the thought it needs, with the full finality of the decision not to run perhaps now bearing down on him for the first time. And he may be finding that he has strong reasons to run, both of a personal nature as above, and of a civic nature (specifically as relates the role he could play in his party in this race).

    I definitely highly discount the likelihood that any inside knowledge of the extent of Hillary’s email problems are driving his thinking at all. Even more generally, my hope is that questions of a viable path round Hillary aren’t and haven’t ever really been a major condition on his thoughts of running. (They probably are more than I’d like, but I think it’s far less than widely estimated.) I hope his considerations are more about the personal and family-legacy reasons he may have to run, and especially the contribution a run could make to his party and to the country (facilitating a more wide-ranging policy discussion in the Democratic primary and offering the perspective of an eight-year Obama administration insider), balanced agains the cost of a run and strain on his family.

    Granted, it’s a lot to ask of a guy to run for president if there’s no way he can win (though… people do it all the time), so it’s reasonable that he’s also attentive to his chances. Moreover, if you’re going to ask people for money to finance a run for president, if you;re doing it knowing you have no chance to win, that’s avery a different kind of conversation than if you’re doing it because you really believe you can. But at the same time, I do wish we could look at this from a perspective that sees that Biden’s (and really, anyone’s) ideas about running for president don’t exclusively rise and fall with his prospects for winning. People run for all sorts of reasons, and in my view right now has more reason to run than most, regardless of his prospects. He may just now be getting around to feeling that way himself. Or, he may just be getting around to finally concluding that they’re just not quite great enough to justify the costs. Either way, I think it’s a mistake to see either decision as a major indicator about the shape that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is in.Report

  3. zic says:

    Don Zeko: I’ll go on record now that nobody not currently running will successfully enter the race at this point. No Mitt, no Biden.

    That’s Don Zeko, on the divining thread; and it seems to be conventional wisdom as it pertains to the GOP; nobody outside the race already will be the nominee. Do you agree with that? I don’t; I think the GOP is much more likely to nominate someone not in the race now then the Dems; where Clinton not only leads in the polls, but in endorsements.

    Which is the weakness of the argument here.

    Clinton will always have a scandal, real or not, because that’s how the GOP and Fox play ball. Always. At some point, it reaches a level of burnout, the boy who cried wolf too many times, and people stop listening; and I think we’ve already reached that saturation point. Given status quo progress — R’s keep screeching ‘scandal, scandal, scandal,’ and no new information that paints Hillary as a nefarious traitor surfaces (the pattern of all the other scandals,) than it’s just so much distraction. Every second spent talking about Clinton scandals on the air is a second not filled with lack of a sound health care, energy, climate, or education policy.

    Have you gone and looked at the GOP candidate websites? Looked at their policies? What, exactly, are the clowns in the crowded car proposing?

    Jonathan Bernstein referred to Biden as an understudy; maybe. I’m not convinced; but I think Hillary’s resilient, and that’s a good quality. I think it’s too late for Biden to enter the race (see endorsements above), unlike the Republican side. There are close like 40 declared candidates, nobody will notice if a few more slip into the party.Report

  4. North says:

    I think your analysis is good and I am inclined to agree that if Biden jumps in it’s a bad sign and bad news for Hillary.

    I would, however, contend that it would be good news for the Party; a non-Bernie backup candidate would probably make the party bigwigs (and me) sleep easier. If, as I am hoping/suspecting, the email-gate stuff produces no substantive charges against her then it’ll be a non-issue by the time the primaries roll around. If, however, there’s something seriously bad and it cripples her than a backup who isn’t Bernie lowers my blood pressure even if he’s as old as Methuselah.

    Also, I’d note that a couple primary opponents could be good for Hillary. Our Hill-dog has turned in her best performances only after quite a bit of revving up. So I’m 100% down with having some sparring partners on hand for her to get the engine going with so that she’s ready and willing to wood-chipper what ever stumbles out of the GOP primary clown car wreck.Report

  5. zic says:

    I would, however, contend that it would be good news for the Party; a non-Bernie backup candidate would probably make the party bigwigs (and me) sleep easier. If, as I am hoping/suspecting, the email-gate stuff produces no substantive charges against her then it’ll be a non-issue by the time the primaries roll around. If, however, there’s something seriously bad and it cripples her than a backup who isn’t Bernie lowers my blood pressure even if he’s as old as Methuselah.

    It’s mostly the optics of having a responsible backup plan that matters here; understudy is a good term for it. Or Green Lantern. If you prefer heraldry, heir to the thrown of the nomination.

    Or so it seems to me.

    I think it much more likely we’ll see an outsider who’s not running now nominated by the GOP than the Dems.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to zic says:

      Bernie is a responsible backup plan. In terms of policies, he’s the best candidate out there. The centrist institutionalist leaders of the Democrats are just terrified of having someone out there who’s actually running from the leftward side of the party, and who’s making a genuine case for progressive policies.Report

      • zic in reply to KatherineMW says:

        For some time, I’ve feared Bernie might be another Jimmy Carter; and it sort of makes me shudder because people seem to hate Jimmy Carter as president. He’s been my favorite, in my lifetime; he’s Jiminy Cricket; the conscience. If we’d listened to Jimmy, we’d be so much better off today than we actually are, or so it seems to me.

        But people are reconsidering Jimmy Carter now. Finally. So maybe that shouldn’t be such a discomforting thing.Report

  6. Kolohe says:

    The conspiracy theorist in me says it’s useful to Hillary if Joe toys around with running for a few months, filling up the doldrums of the news cycle on the Dem side, and allowing Hillary to continue to work through the shadow primaries in relative peace and quiet.Report

    • North in reply to Kolohe says:

      Her speech on the email issue makes me inclined to think you’re right. I wouldn’t expect that she’d go on the record if she thought there was something seriously bad coming down the pipe on the email issue.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to North says:

        I think if there was a ‘there’ in the email, the specifics would have leaked. The House Committee is, of course, GOP run and they’re not exactly shy about leaking whatever they feel like.

        As someone who has handled classified information, sensitive information, and proprietary information (sometimes all at once!) over a career, I can tell you this: Lots of stuff get slapped with those labels that would make the Average Joe say “WTF? Why would you even care?”.

        Especially “classified”. But the Average Joe hears “classified” without details and thinks “nuclear secrets” and “spy names” and “cloak and dagger” and their imagination comes up with things that SHOULD be classified.

        So take a trio of emails: One, to Hillary, from a staffer reporting some off-the-record statements made by a German counterpart at a meeting in Brussels. Another, Hillary informing Bill they’re running late, so she won’t be back in the US until the next day. Another, an aide sends a quick email that the morning briefing confirmed the suspicions aired about Iran last week.

        All of there would automatically be “classified”, as I understand State Department rules. But if you leaked the contents to the public, they’d laugh and ask “So what?”.

        If there was something nasty in the email, the specifics would leak because it’d do solid, concrete, irrefutable damage. Lacking something nasty, what gets leak is.. “there was classified information” because that will cause damage when the specifics won’t.Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    He wants the Precious. Oh how he wants it.

    Biden has an ego. He can suborn it to do job, but he has attempted runs before, in 1988 and 2008. Both times he attracted lots of attention especially from the press and his wonky buddies, but not quite enough support to get momentum.

    His friends, Precious. They tell him he can take it. They tells him he should have the Precious!

    VP for eight years is not living the dream: it’s close enough that he knows what it tastes like; he’s been at the Challenger desk for test drives while 44 is on vacation. If he didn’t like it, he’d have made that clear by now.

    He wants to find a reason to reach out and take the Precious, he does. He may see a reason, a chance, an opportunity, where truly there is none.

    But O how he wants the Precious.Report

    • This seems… really ungenerous. Not sure why this is necessary.Report

      • Not every joke scores a hit, I suppose.Report

        • Okay. As is clear, I’m sympathetic to the guy. There he is, right there. He has to contemplate just accepting being unceremoniously and sometimes contemptuously (but always condescendingly) ushered out by his party when anyone else in his position would have been joyously welcomed in(to the race, not necessarily handed the nomination). Which would be the end of of his political career. I just feel he’s earned better than that.

          And oh by the way, he just lost his oldest surviving son and apple of his political eye to brain cancer.

          That’s just where I’m at with the guy, and the party, right now.Report

          • I’ll rephrase in the form of a sober comment, then:

            Biden is surrounded by people who tell him that he can run, that he has a window of opportunity because Clinton is vulnerable, and that he would be a good President. Combine that with the inferred fact that he’s wanted to be President, in a serious enough way to actually do the work necessary to run, for nearly thirty years. He may see a reason, a chance, an opportunity, where truly there is none, and act based on an appealing perception rather than reality.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    Biden entering the race is a lagging, not leading, indicator.

    If Biden enters the race, it demonstrates exactly how much bad news Clinton has received.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:


      [Steam blows out of ears.]

      You know what, F it. Whatever. I bow the the C-dub. It’s wrong, but I bow nevertheless.Report

      • …Though I will say, this Joan Walsh piece is almost inhumane.

        the time has passed for him to declare himself a serious 2016 candidate – barring a genuine, not media-confected, stumble by Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. I acknowledge that Biden’s capacity for planning a run had to be shattered by his son Beau’s cancer diagnosis in 2013 and death earlier this year. Still, even until that point, while he kept his options open, he took no steps — in terms of fundraising, organizing or staffing — to telegraph he was seriously interested in 2016.

        I find his late maneuvers disturbing, even allowing for the possibility that Beau Biden’s illness and death kept him from making an earlier move. Now his exploration of a run is being read as a show of no-confidence in Clinton’s campaign, and try as I do to resist simplistic Beltway readings of complicated political matters, I can’t see it any other way myself.

        If he should join the race, he’d be doing so because he thinks she can’t win.

        She knows that Beau’s death threw a monkey wrench in any planning process that could have taken place. She knows that there’s absolutely no reason a sitting vice president must (or should) make moves toward a run by May of the year before, especially a run that could only likely be more a valedictory career capstone and advertisement for the outgoing administration than a serious challenge to a dominant favorite. She knows Biden deserves for her to actually allow that tragic situation to let him make the decision when he needs to make it, and treat it like she would have done had the family tragedy not intervened.

        But now she just doesn’t care because Hillary screwed up the response to a non-scandal (not a fake scandal, it’s a real question, it’s just not much of a scandal at all), so it doesn’t look quite right for Biden to get in now (even though it’s in fact in no way too late for him to do so, though it’s getting there).

        All her other arguments against a run are belied by the fact that she says she’d have been supportive if he’d just happened to show interest in April.

        If anything, it appears to me that Clinton’s stumbles have made getting in harder for Biden, since it’s made party actors much more concerned about how it reflects on Clinton. If not for the email problem, I suspect Biden would be on his way to a low-key entry to a largely symbolic run in an empty primary. Or: not, because he doesn’t have the emotional reserves for it (which is what it’s sounding more and more like to me).

        Also, ask yourself this question: if Hillary were not weakened (or perceived to be) by the email, do you think Walsh would then be welcoming Biden not the race? No, she’d be saying Hillary’s got it wrapped up, so whats the point? The upshot being, apparently it had to be done pre-Beau’s death (which no one knew was coming) or never for Biden. Which is both unnecessary and unrealistic for a sitting VP considering a run that at the time very likely had no path to the nomination (and still most likely doesn’t).

        It’s a totally unfair position to take, and the pretense of giving fair consideration to the effect of the guy’s loss of his son at the most inopportune time (from Joan’s perspective) while in fact completely failing to give him that consideration, actually borders on inhumane.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I’m not criticizing him! I’m just saying that timing is everything.

        We can create hypotheticals all day long about what might have been had Biden had no reason to (rightly!) spend more time with his family over the last year than with his staff getting stuff prepared for 2016. Maybe he’d have done all sorts of things.

        As it is, though, what happened happened. Would that it hadn’t.

        And if Hillary was going through the opposition like a chainsaw, we wouldn’t be having this conversation about anybody else throwing his or her hat in the ring.

        But she ain’t.

        And here we are.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

          No, I don’t take it as criticism.

          My point is I just think it’s mistaken to think that a decision by him really strongly reflects the level of damage done to Hillary. Because I think there are good reasons to think he was going to wait to decide, and certainly sought to wait after Beau died. So now he’s looking at it, andI thnk there is also reason to think he was inclined to run all along. It’s just largely a matter of his emotional resources and his family.

          So if he gets in, it’s not really such an indicator of the shape of Hillary’s campaign. If she gets in worse trouble, it might become almost irresistible, to the point where clearly if she just implies, then that will profoundly affect the status of a Biden run unavoidably. But she remains basically strong. And Biden might get in anyway. If it stays that way I think it would a mistake to read Biden’s decision as a strong indicator that he thinks she’s in trouble. It’s an indication he decided he wanted to run after all.

          That’s what I was saying there. Not that I think you’re criticizing him for it being an indication about Hillary. Just that you’re WRONG.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Yeah, well, Hillary’s current display of prowess ain’t making the decision on Biden’s part any more difficult.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

              Yes. That is exactly my position.Report

              • …Or it might be making it much more difficult, if I am wrong, and he was in fact almost decided not to run, and would only be getting in because he now senses unexpected weakness, like everyone else seems to (uncharitably) assume. (I actually wouldn’t as strongly support such a run, because in my view his heart wouldn’t be in the right place, according the valid reasons I see for a run by him. Though I’d be okay with it because he deserves to run.)Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Michael Drew says:

            If she gets in worse trouble, it might become almost irresistible,

            So, his interest in running is correlated with Hillary’s troubles?

            Isn’t that exactly what Jaybird is saying?Report

            • If the party truly gets in real trouble and needs him, then his entry (if it hadn’t happened by then) would be …yes, *tightly* correlated. (This is, by the way, another reason he should be in the race way before then… like, now’s good.)

              But until that point, the argument goes the other way – that if he gets in in the interim (before the Hillary train is clearly off the rails) it’s not that the party needs him, but that he “sees an opening” – i.e., he’s only in then because he then thinks he can beat her, and absolutely wouldn’t be if he didn’t. Which would indicate that he and other party actors deem her quite damaged.

              I’m saying *that’s* wrong. I don’t think that’s the determining factor in Biden’s decision process right now. I think it’s about whether he determines he has the fuel left. But that’s just what I think; obvious I can’t prove it.

              The other problem, though, is that some party actors (like Joan Walsh) don’t care what’s true about the relationship between Clinton’s campaign condition and Biden’s decision. They care about how a decision to run by him in this environment for any reason affects the perception of Hillary’s campaign as weak. Which is another reason for him to get in now, even from their perspective. His being on the outside creates inevitable speculation about getting in, which creates this dynamic about what the potential decision would mean bout Hillary’s campaign. If he were to get in, the decision would be made and that dynamic would quickly pass. The mere fact of his being in the race would turn out to indicate very little in particular about Hillary’s campaign.

              But that part wasn’t what Jaybird was speaking to. He was speaking to what Biden’s decision making process itself indicates about perceptions of Hillary’s campaign being weakened among those able to contribute to the decision (a select group of party actors, but of course mainly Biden himself). I’m telling you it doesn;t indicate as much as the CW says it does. I could be wrong.Report

              • North in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Well personally I’d welcome Biden’s entrance into the race for any reason. He’s a good pol and he certainly is entitled to a shot at it for his years of service and his solid performance as Veep.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to North says:

                Music to my ears.

                I feel like I force fed you that line at this point, in fact. Not a great feeling, tbh.Report

              • North in reply to Michael Drew says:

                No forcing on your part MD, I’m fond of Clinton but my top desire is to see a Democratic Candidate in the White House for as long as the GOP remains utterly loony tunes.
                Unless it degenerates into an utterly historic mudfest (not likely) there’s really no angle where a Biden entry is bad news. If Hilldog is foundering then he’ll be an alternative; if she’s fine then he’ll be a sparring partner.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to North says:

                I just have a hard time seeing Biden wanting to go out as the guy who tried to hatchet Hillary Clinton. I just don’t think there’s any reason to think he would, or that he couldn’t grasp the value of the kind of campaign I envision for him that simply argues for the Obama legacy and highlights his experience.

                But if she’s ever so damaged that it actually gives him a true chance, she’ll probably go down on her own at that point; he won’t have to do any chopping. Actually the business at hand at that point would be dealing with Bernie.

                And as to the less attractive parts of Biden’s record that people say his running could dredge up and tarnish his legacy: they’re part of his legacy anyway! I don’t see how going out offering his final apologies (whether in the classical or modern sense) for those actions could really worsen maters all that much. And it could help.

                Moreover, especially on the crime bill, that really is stuff the party should wrestle with, and I don’t think it’s something that Hillary really wants to cover if she doesn’t have to. Biden being there might force the issue (though I actually am not convinced of that). If so, and if he doesn’t choose to follow her down the path of mea culpa, then that’s an opportunity for her to get in some good lines about that stuff.

                Which is to say, right you are.Report