Thursday, October 18, 2018


People who are smarter than I am have assured me that Joe Biden absolutely will not be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. I understand the arguments: He's too old; he's insufficiently progressive; he was too much of a sellout to bankers as a senator; he mismanaged the Clarence Thomas hearings; he was a terrible candidate in his previous presidential runs; and oh God, not another white man.

I know enough not to take too seriously the fact that he has a huge lead over all other contenders in the latest CNN poll of Democrats -- Joe Lieberman led the Democratic field in early 2003 polling, and Rudy Giuliani led the Republicans in 2006 and early 2007.

I get it -- Biden is polling well largely as a result of name recognition; he's likely to drop to the back of the pack once the race really gets under way.

And yet there's this:

It's not just that Biden inspires this kind of reaction in some voters -- it's that I can't think of a Democrat, at least among the younger favorites, who inspires voters the same way, even in home-state crowds. Harris, Gillibrand, Booker -- they're admired. Biden is loved.

(Bernie Sanders is also loved, but a lot of Democrats loathe him. Elizabeth Warren inspires some voters, but is she loved? And they're both quite old. And Sanders is another old white guy.)

I worry about what will happens if Democrats run someone who isn't charismatic. Running Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton didn't work out well.

I worry that a lot of Democrats regard the 2020 campaign as essentially a request for proposals. Who has the best agenda? The best platform? But a lot of voters want a person they can look up to as a larger-than-life figure. Biden wasn't one before he became Barack Obama's vice president. He is now.

I do find him lacking on policy -- but I find the younger aspirants lacking in personal magnetism. I wish we had someone who could manage both -- and no, I don't mean Beto O'Rourke, unless he wins his election this year.

I think Biden has a serious chance of pulling it off -- maybe it'll be for the wrong reasons, but there's more to politics than position papers.

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