Is there life after Joe Biden for Democrats?
Short answer: No!
Biden is on his way out. He will not survive having flipped on capital punishment and gay marriage, having recruited Southern racists — albeit with civility — to join his drive to kill school busing in the 70s, coming out for and then against the Hyde Amendment, being accused of groping women, and watching his son get pilloried for using his dad’s power to make millions in Ukraine and China.
Biden is staggering. He has fallen from 43 percent to 31 percent in the past six weeks. And he will fall further.
He is coming across as too old, too past his peak, lacking in mental acuity and agility, and too handicapped by his past record of being a moderate Democrat to be able to win in today’s left-leaning Democratic primary electorate.
But if Biden falters. Who else is there?
Bernie Sanders cannot ascend to first place even if Biden continues to fall apart. Even though he has universal name identification (mostly favorable), he still has not been able to move above 20 percent of the vote. I doubt he can.
In the past six weeks, while Biden has dropped 12 points in the RealClearPolitics average, Sanders has not picked up any of his disaffected voters.
In fact, he too has lost votes. While Biden was losing 12 points, Sanders was losing 3. His voters all went to Warren or one of the other candidates or to undecided. He’ll never be the front runner.
So, who will?
After the debates, look for Elizabeth Warren’s ascendency. In the past two weeks, she has moved up by 3-4 points as Sanders has dropped by an equivalent amount. She will have the first debate stage to herself without any other candidate participating. She will likely shine. She is very bright and articulate. Her knowledge of issues is profound. (Eileen and I quote from her about bankruptcy law reform in our 2008 book “Outrage”). She is long on specifics and her proposals are well thought through.
But she can’t win. She’s committed herself to so much spending and, despite her rhetoric about tax-the-rich so many taxes that she will be eaten alive in the general. Now, she can make proposals with the abandon of a child giving Santa his wish list. But some Republicans know how to use an adding machine and she can’t explain away the total cost of her ideas.
She is also ill-suited to contentious debate. She too easily comes across as a schoolmarm, lecturing her raucous prep school boys. When she needs emphasis, she becomes shrill and even shrew-ish.
There is none of Hillary Clinton’s tank-like straight-ahead grinding advocacy or Kamala Harris’ inviting charm. She does not come across with the authority of a Nancy Pelosi.
If not Warren, who?
Kamala Harris has yet to articulate a unique selling proposition. She lacks Biden’s calm demeanor, Sanders’ ideological purity, Warren’s substance, or Buttigieg’s and Beto’s charisma.
She could make a very decent and respectable run at first place if Biden drops down, but she’d have to start from scratch. His campaign so far has never taken off. She has watched as Biden, Warren, Buttigieg and O’Rourke have blasted off (and often returned to Earth). But she has been going nowhere. Except for a brief spin at 11 percent of the vote in February and March after she first launched, the California senator has flatlined at 7-8 percent in the polls ever since.
Until she can figure out why she is running and convince other people, she won’t go anyplace. Even in her native California, she is running behind Biden, Sanders, and, most of the time, Warren. The debate could give her a new chance, but who knows?
Then there is the charismatic duo: Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke. Neither has much of a record in politics and both are buoyed up by the flimsiest of charisma. Smoke and mirrors.
At least Buttigieg can count on support from the LGBT crowd, a key constituency. But he has been unable to spin his charisma into the millennial generation, a natural part of his base.
Now, he is hobbled by a war between the cops and the minorities in his South Bend, Indiana base. It remains to be seen if he can claw his way out.
O’Rourke has typed himself as weird and his uniqueness has begun to work against him. He found, to his shock, that his narcissistic pre-occupation with his teeth cleaning did not interest us when he videotaped it. Unless he can put some substance on the board, his short burst of charisma is over.
That leaves a wide-open race. And don’t count them all out. Any of the remaining dozen or so candidates could break out in the debates (think Mike Huckabee in 2008).
Can any of them win? Likely not. But its fun to watch.
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