As a recent Politico feature makes clear Vice President Joe Biden is still seriously thinking about running for President in 2016. While I’m a strong supporter of primaries because I believe they give the party an chance to debate what they stand for, I fail to see what is either the policy or political case for Biden over Hillary Clinton.
The cynical political argument
On a political front Clinton has more money ready to spend on the campaign. She also clearly does better than Biden in potential general election polls. In addition, the possibility of making history by being the first woman president could potentially help Clinton drive female turnout.
Often overlooked is the fact that she also has more flexibility to position herself than Biden does. As President Obama’s former Secretary of State she can easily claim to be the heir to his legacy if his poll numbers improve in 2016, but if Obama is still unpopular she can use the four years she has been away and the fact she only worked on foreign policy to try to distance herself from his domestic problems. Vice President Biden would basically be stuck running as Obama’s third term. Distancing himself from the Obama administration is not really an option.
The lack of policy differences
Being politically weaker won’t be an insurmountable problem if there was a compelling policy case to make to the Democratic base, but I fail to see it. Can anyone name a single big Biden position that would rally volunteers behind a long shot fight against the Clinton machine? For example someone like Brian Schweitzer has single payer and opposition to the NSA.
During the 2008 primary Clinton and Biden were not far apart on most currently relevant issues and I’m struggling to think of a new big policy fight that really separates them now. The have both been fairly boring middle of the road Democrats that have backed Obama at almost every turn. Since for different reasons they haven’t been taking many personal stances recently it is still possible big differences could emerge, but it seems unlikely with Biden mostly stuck with the Obama legacy.
The only thing Biden really has is more experience. When Glenn Thrush asked about his main selling points this was Biden response:
When I ask Biden what his 2016 selling points are, he shoots back with a debatetable summation: “I think I’m qualified by the record I have demonstrated over the years, by the experience I have, by the significant knowledge I have of not only foreign policy but individual leaders in foreign countries and domestically as well.”
While technically an advantage over Clinton it is not a very compelling argument. Voters seem to more worried about being “experienced enough” than being the most experienced. Given that Clinton was a Senator and served as Secretary of State she probably meets that threshold for most voters.
If Biden wants to really run against Clinton he needs a much better answer to this basic question.
Photo courtesy Barack Obama under Creative Commons license