I thought the first day of Joe Biden’s campaign would be his best. I was wrong.
Look at the history. For the Democratic party, frontrunners have not been treated kindly. Hillary Clinton won the nomination in 2016, but was nearly edged out by Bernie Sanders and went on to lose the general election.
In 2008, Barack Obama trailed Clinton by nearly 20 points with two months to go until the Iowa caucuses, but came back to win the nomination and the presidency.
In 1992, Bill Clinton became the comeback kid when he entered late and overcame two losses in Iowa and New Hampshire to win 37 states, the nomination and the presidency.
And then, of course, there’s Jimmy Carter in 1976, emerging from Georgia and surprising anyone and everyone by surging to the Oval Office. In 1980, when he was challenged by Ted Kennedy — who was surprisingly considered as a front runner for much of the campaign — he won anyway.
All this goes to show that in the Democratic primary, voters have a pension for chewing up and spitting out who is perceived as being the leading candidate. Success has been found for underdogs and young unknowns.
That’s why, when Biden announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination on April 25, I believed it would be the best day of his campaign. I believed it would only be downhill from that point forward. And through December, I still believed that, and thought that a moment of collapse would come that would wound Biden’s campaign permanently.
But that day never came. Sure, there were many fragile moments. When Kamala Harris attacked Biden over his record on busing in the first Democratic debates in late June, Harris surged to 17 percent and Biden dropped more than 10 percent. It looked like it could be the moment it all came crashing down… and then it didn’t. Two weeks later, Biden was back in the low 30s.
In late September, it looked again like Biden could collapse. Elizabeth Warren was shown to be two points ahead of Biden in Iowa in a Des Moines Register poll, and two points ahead in New Hampshire in a Monmouth University poll. Then realism grew about Warren’s healthcare plan, while Biden remained at the top of the heap.
Now, more than ever, it is a four-way race to the finish line in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond between Biden, Warren, Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. And with candidates like Julian Castro and Cory Booker dropping out, anything can happen in the final days of this campaign before voting begins. That collapse could come in the next three weeks, and could mark the end for Biden.
But as things stand now, it looks like no one is better positioned to win the Democratic nomination than Biden. Another stroke of luck recently gave him even higher odds, when news broke that Sanders told Warren in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidency. The fighting between the left faction of the Democratic party has without a doubt benefited the centrists in this race, Biden and Buttigieg.
That’s not to say that if Biden is nominated, he won’t falter in the general election. His propensity for flubs and false association with Burisma could allow Donald Trump to repeat 2016, Benghazi and “lock her up” chants.
But when I believed that it was inevitable that Biden would collapse before the Iowa caucuses, I was wrong. Right now, he is looking more formidable than ever.
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