Can Joe Biden Win the 2016 Nomination?

By: Thomas Calbos- Inside Politics Participant

Sitting Vice President Joe Biden has been flirting with the possibility of a Presidential run for some time now. Biden’s long tenure as Delaware senator, in addition to his experience in the Vice President role, have made him one of the most qualified candidates in the race thus far. While his candidacy was speculated from the beginnings of the election cycle, it has only been recently that enthusiasm of a Biden presidency has publically emerged.

Current frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s dipping favorability seems to have contributed to the increased desire for Biden to enter the race. She has been criticized as being vulnerable to repeating the mistakes she made during her 2008 campaign. While she would make history as the first female President, she has had trouble navigating the public’s perception of her as a remnant of the past Clinton dynasty. Although name recognition is helpful in the voting booth, it did not help her in 2008, nor does not help her avoid current email scandal. Eighteen months ago, people were willing to concede the election to Clinton. But the several missteps in her campaign have left much of the public wondering if she will even win the Democratic nomination. If Biden were to enter the race, he might be able to emerge as the 2016 Democratic nominee.

Biden’s current poll success could come from being outside of the campaign spotlight.  Unlike Clinton, who has been campaigning for months now, Biden has stayed away from the public scrutiny that comes with running a presidential campaign, despite being in a high-profile position as the Vice President. Clinton meanwhile has received significant media attention and does not have a good relationship with the press. Additionally, she has not done sit-down interviews like other candidates during her campaign, causing her to seem out-of-touch. Historically, the American people select a president who is relatable and can empathize with the ‘common man’. This was on display in the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Gore was ‘too intellectual’ for the common American and came off as robotic. Bush on the other hand was confident and loose, setting him apart from his opponent and ultimately helping him win the 2000 election.

Biden seems to hold that same likeability factor that Bush had and is thought of as a relatable and human candidate. Clinton, on the other hand, is more of a Gore, with a stiff persona that comes off as elitist, which will pose a threat to her success as a candidate. With Biden in the race, the Democratic primary will most likely come down to Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Biden.  As of September 24th, Real Clear Politics has Clinton leading the polls with 40.8 percent. Sanders is in second with 27.6 percent and the undeclared Biden, in third with 20 percent.

According to Time‘s Denver Nicks, if Biden did decide to declare his candidacy for President, he would immediately be the most popular candidate.  40 percent of people see him in a favorable light while only 28 percent of Americans have a negative view of the current vice president. That +12 differential would be the greatest of all candidates from either party.  Of the other potentially dangerous Democratic candidates, Sanders has a +10 rating while Clinton has a -8 rating.  Republican candidate Donald Trump, on the other hand, has a -33 favorability differential.

Even though Biden is in third now according to the polls, he has the firepower and popularity to win the Democratic nomination and eventually the presidency. However, the president is not the only person the country is voting for. The Vice Presidential spot can be (and has been) used to win over the electorate. For example, perhaps the most influential vice presidential nomination of all time was John F. Kennedy’s selection of Lyndon B. Johnson.  Johnson’s biggest contribution to Kennedy’s campaign was than he helped him win the South.  Johnson was from Texas while Kennedy was from Massachusetts. Similarly, in order to win the presidency, Biden will need to choose a strong vice presidential to connect with the more liberal part of the party and balance out the ticket. Elizabeth Warren seems like the perfect choice, if she would agree and give up her spot in the Senate. She is likeable and battle-tested, while also appealing to the more liberal base of the party than Biden does, especially with stances on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion. As of now, with a relatively weak smattering of candidates, a ticket of Biden and Warren would complement each other and be difficult to beat.