When people say that Clinton and/or the DNC “cleared the field,” I’ve never been entirely sure what this means, if it doesn’t just mean “Clinton, like everyone trying to win a presidential nomination, tried to receive endorsements and raise money, and did this very well.” One obvious problem with the narrative is that if there was another candidate who didn’t run and had a serious chance of winning, it was Joe Biden. And…how do you muscle a sitting vice president out of the race, exactly?
The answer is that nobody did:
“At the end of the day, I just couldn’t do it,” former Vice President Joe Biden said about running a campaign to be president. “So I don’t regret not running. Do I regret not being president? Yes.”
In Colgate University’s Sanford Field House, University President Brian W. Casey opened the Kerschner Family Global Leaders series lecture question-and-answer panel with Biden by asking if Biden regrets not running to be president
“On a college campus I will never, never do anything other than answer the question completely unvarnished and straightforward,” Biden said. “The answer is that I had planned on running for president. And although it would have been a very difficult primary, I think I could have won.”
Biden said he had a lot of data collected and was fairly confident that as a Democratic party’s nominee, he could have won.
Emotions grew as Biden detailed his son Beau Biden’s battle with brain cancer and Beau’s wishes that his illness remain secret. Beau, among other people close to Joe Biden, wanted the former vice president to try to become the next commander in chief.
“I didn’t run because no man or woman should announce they’re running for president of the United States unless they can look the public in the eye and promise you they can give you 100 percent,” Biden said.
I don’t know about you, but I find “I didn’t run because my son was dying” a rather more plausible explanation for why Biden didn’t run than “Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz conspired to prevent his candidacy through [unspecified mechanism.]”
The other interesting, although unanswerable, question is whether Biden would have won had tragedy not struck and he had entered the race. I do think that, given the Republican candidate and how the Electoral Map played out, that there’s a strong argument that he would have been a better candidate in the general. Do I think he would have beaten Clinton? I don’t have access to his data, but I don’t see it. The path to beating Clinton was from the left, like Sanders, but with more longstanding connections to crucial party constituencies. Biden is a dead ringer for Clinton ideologically, and if anything he’s closer to financial industry. The most crucial Democratic primary voters didn’t know that Trump would be the nominee and none knew that the election would come down to 100,000 votes in the rust belt. He also has some real weaknesses as a candidate that have manifested themselves in two primary runs that went very badly.
He wasn’t the VP in 1988 or 2008, of course, and I’m not saying it’s impossible that he would have won the nomination, but…it’s not an obvious path. And if there was anybody else out there with a more viable one, I don’t see him or her, and AFICT neither do the people strongly committed to the THE FIELD WAS CLEARED narrative.
…one additional point: I am also struck by how many people think that it is simply self-evident that the larger a primary field, the better. I would say that this is an…interesting year to be making this assumption. Particularly since the people most inclined to complain about how Clinton CLEARED THE FIELD also tend to be the most strongly committed to the proposition that the Republican candidate was so world-historically awful any other Democrat would have beaten him easily.