Biden: Democrats’ best bet to beat Trump?
“Joe Biden’s limitations as a presidential candidate are so obvious that they’re almost a litany,” said David Ignatius in The Washington Post. The former vice president, who last week officially declared his candidacy, “is too old, too white, too male, too touchy-feely,” and generally too out of touch with the progressive base of the party he seeks to lead in 2020. But Biden has “one huge plus” over the “dizzying array” of other Democrats: He may have the best chance of beating Donald Trump. Polls show Biden leading Trump by 8 points in a theoretical matchup, and his blue-collar bona fides could help Democrats win back the Rust Belt states that so narrowly went for Trump in 2016. Biden came out of the gate making a direct pitch for those votes, said Jennifer Agiesta in CNN.com. Calling himself “a union man” at a rally in Pittsburgh, Biden said the country had been “built by the great American middle class” that has been forsaken by Washington. So far, donors and voters like what they hear. Biden raised $6.3 million in his first 24 hours, more than any other Democrat, and surged to 39 percent in a new CNN poll of Democratic voters—“head and shoulders” above the 19 other declared candidates, including his chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sank to only 15 percent.
Let’s hope Biden enjoyed his launch, said Joan Walsh in TheNation.com, because “it could be his best week on the trail.” Deciding to “center his campaign on blue-collar white men” might be a plausible strategy in a general election, but it will hurt him in a wide, diverse primary field of younger, fresher candidates. The progressives who vote in Democratic primaries aren’t looking for a “white male savior” to rescue them from Trumpism, said Virginia Heffernan in the Los Angeles Times. And they haven’t forgotten that Biden took part in “the unconscionable bullying” of Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991. It’s time for a woman or person of color to lead.
Biden may not be “woke” enough for Democratic primary voters, said the National Review in an editorial, but no one should “be fooled into thinking he is a moderate.” In his 35 years in Washington, Biden has supported “every left-wing cause from higher taxes to hate-crimes laws to liberal judicial activism.” The biggest threat to Biden’s viability is not his politics, but “Biden himself,” said Frank Rich in NYMag.com. The 76-year-old has a long history of gaffes and florid, even embarrassing, rhetoric. He simply may not be “culturally limber enough” to survive the perpetual meat grinder of the modern news cycle. And how will his folksy bromides hold up in debates with the formidable Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg?
Biden just needs to be himself, said Ana Navarro in CNN.com. No, he’s never going to “set hearts racing.” But he’s an indisputably decent human being who has survived the tragic loss of his first wife, a daughter, and a son. Deeply empathetic, he “inspires a feeling of trust and confidence,” and is thus Trump’s exact opposite. “Incandescent progressives” may prefer someone younger and further left, said George Will in The Washington Post, but “candidate congestion” could split the progressive primary vote among Sanders, Warren, Harris, and the rest. That gives Biden a clear path down the moderate lane. In a nation both “embarrassed and exhausted” by years of Trump, the familiar, unexciting Joe Biden might be “the restful candidate voters devoutly desire.” ■