I have a questionable track record when it comes to big “Decisions”.
Back in 2004 I told my undergraduate students that there was no way the lanky guy bi-racial guy from Chicago who gave the big speech at the Democratic convention would decide to run for president in four years.
In 2013 I was positive Lance Armstrong would never decide to admit he was doping all along.
In 2014 I swore to all of my Cleveland friends and sports journalist friends LeBron would never reverse his “Decision” and come back to Cleveland.
This Spring I said there was no chance “BridgeGate” Chris Christie would decide to run for president.
I thought passing at the 1-yard line was actually smart play.
But despite the fact that no one would be smart to gamble on my predictive powers, I have always definitively and confidently said Joe Biden was NOT running for president. And now finally we can put an end to the most ridiculous presidential speculation since Colin Powell in 2000, and Palin in 2012.
Joe Biden announced this afternoon that he will not run for president because he determined that his family was still in mourning, and the window for making that decision was just closed — Information that just about everyone with any sense of heart, or political acumen knew three months ago.
The loss of Biden’s son Beau to brain cancer this past summer was a tremendous blow to a man who had already lost a wife and family to tragedy decades ago. No one can blame Vice President Biden for delaying a decision while he was caring for his sick son, and no one can blame Joe Biden for taking more time to think and consider his family once his son had passed.
But practically and demographically speaking, Joe Biden was going to have a tough race on his hands to win the Democratic nomination, let alone the presidency even under the best of circumstances.
Let’s imagine for a second that Joe Biden had announced that he was definitively running for president in the summer of 2015, later than most of the Democrats but with enough time put together a decent team in the early primary and caucus states.
By most accounts he is a good campaigner, a popular candidate and warmer than both Hillary and Bernie. But even in the wonderful, whimsical world of “Not-yet-running-Biden”, he never polled above Hillary Clinton and at best was perhaps keeping pace with Bernie Sanders.
According to Real Clear Politics polls in April of 2015, Hillary Clinton was at 62 percent, Biden at 9 percent and Sanders was at 5.6 percent. While Sanders has definitely made a leap to within 10 points of Hillary in some national polls, (and closer in Iowa and New Hampshire) the fact remains that for all of #FeelTheBern passion out there he hasn’t caught Hillary, and Biden likely couldn’t have either.
In most fall polling Joe Biden’s support came almost equal parts from Sanders and Clinton, and he was consistently polling in third place. The “Joe Biden” supporter was hard to distinguish from either of the other front runners even if his style was unique and effective.
Hillary has women in the primary, African Americans on lock, Latinos and establishment Democrats who she’s fostered relationships with for years. Bernie Sanders has young voters, first time voters and the far left wing of the party. Where was Joe gonna go? He certainly could’ve made a play for African American voters, but Biden’s appeal to the black vote wouldn’t extend up to the establishment like the dozens of black mayors who have already endorsed Hillary Clinton or the members of the Congressional black caucus who lined up for her.
And let there be no mistake, plenty of people held off endorsements in 2008 to see what happened between Clinton, Obama and Edwards. For so many to come out and endorse Hillary so early, despite her struggles and with a surging Sanders and Biden hovering around the room demonstrates a confidence in her chances that didn’t exist seven years ago. A confidence that Vice President Joe Biden, for all of his Scranton charm, Onion memes and affability, just couldn’t shake.
So the former Senator and Vice President will walk off into the political sunset in January of 2017, and all but a few die-hard supporters will admit in the next 24 hours that they knew all along that he wasn’t going to do it.
And then there’s a few of us who knew this was a pipe dream all along, born of an aging politico fantasizing about his last ride, running up against the cold reality of a two time ‘inevitable candidate’. This time I guessed right, and while that doesn’t make up for picking Scott Walker as the GOP nominee, or predicting a Seahawks / Patriots re-match next February (there’s still time!) at least my political instincts rang true.
The Democrats will have to wait until next November to see if their instincts for Hillary are similarly well founded.