Perhaps the question to ask concerning why Joe Biden would feel the need to dabble with campaign gimmicks like announcing a Vice President on the same day he launches a campaign is to ask what he’s truly worried about? Does his internal polling and strategy sessions reveal vulnerabilities based on his 40 years in politics?
Candidates often toy with naming their preferred Vice Presidential pick early on in the process as a way of insulating themselves or buying themselves some support among certain voting blocs.
Consider John McCain picking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for example. McCain had zero credibility with conservatives so he needed a very out-of-the-box stunt to gain media attention and secure the Republican Party base. Palin delivered on both fronts, for the most part, but it didn’t change the outcome against Barack Obama.
Last week we reported that Biden had met with Stacey Abrams, of Georgia, at Biden’s request. Turns out the speculation was correct in that Biden has been actively considering launching his campaign next month and naming a Vice President at the same time. Abrams is, reportedly, on that short list.
Axios reports on the Biden-Abrams powwow:
Close advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.
Why it matters: The popular Georgia Democrat, who at age 45 is 31 years younger than Biden, would bring diversity and excitement to the ticket — showing voters, in the words of a close source, that Biden “isn’t just another old white guy.”
But the decision poses considerable risk, and some advisers are flatly opposed. Some have pointed out that in a Democratic debate, he could be asked why no one on the stage would be a worthy running mate.
Advisers also know that the move would be perceived as a gimmick.
Biden’s position on the issue couldn’t be learned — we were just told about the advisers’ debate.
Biden has discussed selecting a running mate early, a move that one senior Democrat said could hurt him by feeding “an air of inevitability,” CNN reported.
Not only would it be perceived as a gimmick, but it would also be perceived as Biden admitting a lot of weakness even before the 2020 campaign truly begins. If he can’t stand on his own, as a candidate in a crowded field, then how does he expect to compete all the way to the end?
Furthermore, Abrams is well-liked among progressives, but she’s completely untested on the national stage. That’s a big risk, but sometimes the biggest risks reap the biggest rewards.
One Term Pledge
In addition to or instead of naming a VP the day he announces a campaign, Biden is also reportedly considering a pledge to only serve 1 term of the presidency. Thereby ensuring that whoever wins his VP slot would be set up to run in 2024, as NBC News reports:
The late John McCain, another senate lion who loved grand gestures, considered a one-term pledge before rejecting it amid concerns his lame duck status would make him less effective and it might draw even more attention to his age.
“I think that we have to be careful about doing cute things in campaigns,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., a vocal Biden fan, told NBC News last week. “For as long as you can, you ought to travel the traditional route and hope that you can get to where you need to be. I think it would be a mistake for Joe Biden to come out — or any other candidate — and announce a running mate right out of the gate.”
But if he commits to only four years, Biden would pitch himself as a brief Obama restoration before the next generation decides a clearer post-Donald Trump direction.
There is almost zero upside in pledging to serve a single term since it implies that, as a candidate, you don’t think you can serve eight years based on age, or that you’re not really in it for the long haul when it comes to pushing a deeper agenda.
In fact, if voters are worried about age, what better way to stoke their fears than practically admit to them that you yourself don’t believe you could be successful for two full terms?
Polls give Biden sizable numbers in each of the early primary states, yet his approach to a 2020 campaign seems cautious and demonstrates a lack of confidence in his qualities as a candidate.
Perhaps he is being advised that his shortcomings can be overcome with the proper maneuvering, but this would appear to put him in the box of a conventional politician. So far, as we witnessed in 2016, conventional politicians did not weather well against Donald Trump’s very unconventional approach to campaigning.
If Biden’s going to jump in the 2020 campaign, he should go full Biden and cast aside the need for publicity stunts.
Then again, as the NBC story points out, maybe Biden’s one-term pledge could give progressives what they want while vanquishing their greatest political foe:
Rather than try to refashion himself as a politician reborn who can lead the “new left,” as he derisively put it in a speech last week, Biden could just tell voters what they might be thinking already: Choose old reliable Biden, and I’ll put an end to the Trump presidency, and then someone else, preferably younger, a woman and a person of color can take it from there.
Vote for me and I’ll take down Trump and then ride off into the sunset of the Democratic Party establishment while handing over the reins to the progressive wing. Maybe Biden actually could ride this unconventional route to the White House after all. Maybe.