Will US Vice President Joe Biden challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination? According to media reports, he is mulling a presidential run – and many are speculating about his chances. Gero Schliess reports.
Joe Biden exhibits many personality traits that Hillary Clinton does not: He’s cheerful, popular, emanates warmth, expresses emotion and is less polarizing. Polls show that his popularity is growing. But can the vice president make a successful bid against the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination?
“It’s a little late now,” says Michael Werz, an authority on the Democratic Party with the Center for American Progress, a public policy research organization in Washington. Biden has been off the radar for at least half a year, he said. Also, the vice president has not yet been seen in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire, while Clinton has made many appearances there in past weeks.
Constanze Stelzenmüller of the Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s oldest think tanks, reveals yet another weakness: A serious presidential nominee in the United States requires an extensive network of donors and supporters, which is clearly not the case with Biden.
“That is an argument against a credible candidacy,” said Stelzenmüller. Biden is probably banking on the summer news slump to increase publicity, she said, but right now she doesn’t think he has a great chance of success.
Representative of the establishment
Biden may seem more likable and less polarizing because he is tiptoeing into the arena, while Clinton is in the midst of her election campaign. The former secretary of state, who has a solid lead among Democrats, does not necessarily have to view Biden’s candidacy as bad news. A strong competitor could minimize the impression that Clinton has already made it, and that she is the inevitable nominee – an impression that blemished her first candidacy in 2008.
“It’s not good for the Democratic Party if it looks like Hillary is just coasting,” Werz told DW. “She has particularly strong policies when it comes to young people, minorities and the future of immigration and the environment.” He added that Clinton’s views can be well distinguished from the platforms of her competitors, like Biden.
In Washington, Biden is seen as a representative of the political establishment, someone who belongs to the old guard of the Democratic Party and has worked in Washington for many years as a congressman and senator.
However, he has already made two unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination. And Biden’s disadvantages are obvious, according to Stelzenmüller: “His age, two failed candidacies and no convincing political profile.”
Biden does have one advantage, however: He has not been involved in any political scandals, unlike Clinton.
Clinton’s opponents are joyously using her recent email scandal as ammunition against her campaign. She has been accused of illegally using a private email account while working as secretary of state to avoid political accountability. Critics say she risked inadvertently leaking state secrets.
According to the “New York Times,” two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Clinton’s email practices. But surveys show that this hasn’t yet affected her popularity.
Werz thinks the matter should not be blown out of proportion. He pointed out that the situation resembles the Benghazi probe, another attempt to silence a strong candidate.
Biden and Clinton have known each other for many years, and worked together under the first Obama administration. Their relationship is marked by a longtime political rivalry, but they harbor no animosity toward each other. It’s well known that Obama respects Clinton, and that he is close friends with his vice president.
In the end, no one knows what has prompted Biden’s camp to explore the possibility of joining the race 16 months before the election. Is it simply “the plain narcissism of people who have been in politics for a long time,” as Werz suspects, or does Biden want to test his chances? Or does he want to “keep his options open,” as CNN’s senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny noted recently.
Clinton’s followers, however, are annoyed about Biden’s aspirations and the message put forward by his camp, which, according to the “New York Times,” claims that Clinton has been showing too much vulnerability and that the time is “ripe” for her to be challenged by the vice president.