Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ian M. MacIsaac: Speculatron 2016: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and the silent primary from hell

  If the Democratic Party nominates Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, they will win. If they nominate Joe Biden, they will lose. Which way will they go?

  From the beginning of the 2016 “silent primary” of fundraisers, buzz, and public opinion, the vast majority of figurative money has been on Secretary Clinton over Vice President Biden. Despite repeated denials of interest in a second presidential run, she has long seemed the most obvious pick, considering how close she came to being the nominee in 2008.

  However, with the Benghazi attack in September of last year, Clinton seemed to fade somewhat from her pinnacle of popularity, both as a Secretary of State and as a once-and-possibly-future presidential contender. At the same time, Biden in the last few months has seen somewhat of a renaissance.

  The truth is that few were even seriously discussing the possibility of a Biden run in 2016 (when he would be 73) until his presence at the inaugural parade made it utterly clear that he still considers himself a contender.

  Eagerly waving to the crowd and shaking hands, literally running down the road to meet yet another group of onlookers: this was a septuagenarian who either does not feel his age or does not want the American people to think he feels his age.

  But it is widely acknowledged--even by many of Biden’s own supporters--that a Clinton presidential bid in the next election season would effectively rule out Biden’s own chances at becoming President Obama’s successor.

  Virtually every poll taken of the American public shows a higher favorability rating for Clinton than for Biden. One of the most recent, an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week, has Hillary Clinton’s personal favorability at a whopping 67 percent favorable, 26 percent unfavorable. Biden, at 48-37%, still holds a net favorable rating that nonetheless ranks a net 19 points below his nearest competitor.

  Furthermore, Biden’s aforementioned age problem becomes a bigger barrier every year. Outward displays of vigor can regain him only so much ground. He would be 74 on January 20, 2017, when he would take his inaugural oath should he be elected in 2016.

  That would make a President Biden the oldest ever to be inaugurated for a second term, five years older than the current holder of that record, Ronald Reagan, who was 69 when he began his first term in 1981.

  Hillary, by contrast, will be 69 on Inauguration Day 2017—still quite old, in historical terms, for a first-term president, but younger than Biden by half a decade.

  The biggest hurdle between Biden and a 2016 presidential election victory has less to do with physical age and more with the age of his political mindset, at least compared to Clinton’s. Despite being only four years older than Clinton, Biden has a relatively old-school mindset about how American politics works, particularly about how to run for president.

  Biden’s two presidential campaigns, in 1988 and 2008, both shaped and reflected this philosophy: lots of glad-handing and getting out among the public, in coffee shops and diners and at parades and public events.

  He was inordinately concerned with the quality of his billboards, television advertisements, and campaign mailings. Yet Biden showed very little interest in the sort of massive on-the-ground networking and campaigning that became Obama for America’s trump card when it came down to the small groups of delegates in states like Montana and South Dakota that eventually won him the nomination.

  Hillary, unlike Biden, survived long enough into the 2008 race to see the true damage Obama and his type of organization were capable of. She, of all people, would know well the opportunities and advantage inherent in modeling her campaign on that of the one that so stunningly vanquished her five years ago.

  Biden would be more likely to simply balk at the internet- and technology-heavy Obama for America campaign model. In the post-Obama political landscape, however, doing so would be electoral suicide for his campaign and the Democratic Party as a whole.

  None of this, however, is likely to persuade Biden - two years from now as the campaign season begins in early 2015 - that the party (and the country) would be better off without a 2016 campaign by him. Only a Clinton campaign can keep Biden out of the ring with any share of certainty.

  In the end, as many have said both in the papers and on TV, the 2016 Democratic Party nomination for president may come down to a quiet chat between the Vice President and the soon-to-be-former Secretary of State, sometime in 2014 or 2015.

  Biden will likely come to Clinton asking whether or not she will be running for the nomination. Her answer will influence both the outcome of the presidential election as well as the course of history.

  For the Democratic Party’s sake, hope her answer is yes. And, as Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky said, “Things are frozen in place until she makes a decision.”

  It has become clear that a campaign centered on the internet and networking is required to win a US presidential election in the 21st century. Hillary Clinton, despite her age and her husband (or, perhaps, partly because of her husband), is the most 21st-century candidate considering a run in 2016—and is, thus, the most viable candidate as well.

  About the author: Ian M. MacIsaac is a staff writer for the Capital City Free Press. He is a history major at Auburn University, and former co-editor of the AUMnibus, the official Auburn-Montgomery student newspaper.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press

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