Biden Is Preparing for 2020. Can He Overcome the Hill-Thomas Hearings?
Greg Kinnear does a great Biden in Confirmation, but anyway his handling of the Hill hearings will in itself be pretty much disqualifying, given the effects the Kavanaugh fight will have on the party (whether it’s remembered as a victory of whether Justice Bart O’Kavanaugh becomes the symbol that mobilizes opposition against what will be the most reactionary Court since FDR’s first term.) But there’s many other problems: he’s a white guy who would be 78 when he was inaugurated, his record on financial industry issues make Cory Booker look like David Graeber, he was a major architect of Clinton’s crime bill, his two previous primary runs were gaffe-ridden disasters, etc. etc.
Of course, there’s always one of my least favorite bad punditry games, Fun With Cherry-Picked Small N Samples. We’ll be seeing this technique used for plenty of columns asserting that Trump will be nearly impossible to beat in 2020, but the vice president-as-candidate version is THE LAST 2 OUT OF 2 RECENT DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTS TO SEEK THE NOMINATION GOT IT — BIDEN IS THE FRONTRUNNER! This is really silly:
- With respect to presidential incumbency, arguments of the x of the last y form always leave out the two incumbents who were eligible to run but didn’t and were overwhelmingly likely to lose if they did, Truman and LBJ. Once you include them — which you should! — the patterns become a lot less impressive. It’s the same thing here; if the thesis is that being the vice president is an immense asset the vice presidents who don’t become remotely credible candidates are highly relevant.
- Given the small n, you actually have to look at individual cases and see if they’re relevant to 2020. The answer is very clearly that they’re not. Mondale very narrowly winning a no-hope nomination against a small field and barely squeaking by Hart despite being a big favorite tells us nothing of any value for 2020.
- Same thing about Gore and 2000. This was a classic “party decides” primary, with elites lining behind Gore and most potential rivals in what was a thin pool anyway sitting it out. Vice President is one, although certainly not the only, job a candidate can leverage until building up a big ex ante advantage. To state the obvious, this has less than no relevance to 2020. Biden is not going to scare or muscle or starve Warren or Bernie or Harris etc. etc. out of the race and there’s zero reason to think being the vice president per se is a major advantage in a seriously contested primary.
Democrats can do much better than Biden in 2020, but fortunately the problem will take care of itself either way.