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A Clear Path for a Bernie Sanders Victory Emerges Through a Biden vs. Hillary Showdown
A Biden-Clinton KO Leaves Sanders Standing as the Nominee
Hillary Clinton's Email Woes are Beginning to Paint a Victory Path for Bernie Sanders
Things just keep getting worse for embattled Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator (D-NY) has been unable to move past her email server woes, with news report after news report revealing more damage. Over the past few months, public opinion of Clinton has eroded and the candidate has been criticized for her heated and flippant responses to questions about the email controversy. Clinton seems unable to handle the media scrutiny with grace and poise. Despite entering the election cycle as the "inevitable" nominee, Clinton now appears on the verge of serious trouble.
But "serious trouble" may not be that much of a problem for a presidential candidate with nearly unlimited funding and iron-clad connections with every Democratic Party bigwig. As the wife of popular former Democratic president Bill Clinton, plus her positions as U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary is as well-connected as any politician can possibly be. As an appointee of president Obama, she has the support of the White House itself. As a female candidate, she benefits from identity politics. Through the Clinton Foundation, she enjoys access to the most well-heeled donors. If anyone could overcome a criminal investigation into inappropriate email usage, it is Hillary Clinton.
But a unique threat now seems destined to shatter Clinton's fortress of money and connections: Vice president Joe Biden. In a relative rarity in politics, Biden has not yet officially sought his party's presidential nomination. Typically, the vice president always steps into this role. In 1988, George Bush Sr. went from being Ronald Reagan's vice president to winning to Oval Office. In 2000, Al Gore went from being Bill Clinton's vice president to winning the popular vote in the presidential election (but, alas, not the White House...). In 1960 and 1968, Republican vice president Richard Nixon became the party's nominee.
Biden seemed to have sat out the 2016 race, acknowledging that Hillary Clinton was the Democratic Party's heir. Now, however, with Clinton weakening in the polls and her scandals only growing worse, Biden appears to be considering entering the race. For the past few weeks, intense debates over Biden's viability as a presidential candidate have dominated the blogosphere. Until now, critics have insisted that Biden should stay out of the race due to his low polling numbers compared to Clinton...but that has now changed. The latest Quinnipiac poll puts Biden ahead of Clinton in three key states: Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio.
Joe Biden's camp may very well seize on this news and decide that the vice president has a genuine shot at winning the nomination.
If Biden does decide to run for president, which appears increasingly probable, a clear path for victory begins to emerge...for Bernie Sanders. Sanders, the populist challenger of Clinton, has seen a staggering surge in popularity. A self-proclaimed democratic socialist, this U.S. Senator (I-VT) has thrilled millions of voters with his bold policy proposals, including universal health care, free higher education for qualified students, massive spending on new infrastructure, and comprehensive environmental protection and criminal justice reforms. Though many pundits still scoff that such a liberal candidate could ever win a major party nomination, he has sharply eroded Clinton's lead in the polls. While Clinton retains the support of the Democratic Party establishment, and wealthy donors, Sanders appears to be winning the grassroots game.
Should Joe Biden take on Hillary Clinton, he will remove enough of her lead to make Bernie Sanders the new frontrunner. As vice president, he will remove Clinton's guaranteed White House support and force president Obama to remain neutral. He will also bleed off considerable establishment support from Clinton's struggling campaign. In the end, Biden and Clinton will split the establishment vote, dividing "mainstream" Democrats between two well-connected Washington insiders.
With moderate Democrats divided between Clinton and Biden, the progressive Democrats who support Sanders will emerge as the plurality. Instead of Clinton leading Sanders 60-40 by January, Sanders will lead Clinton and Biden 40-35-25 (or so). Biden will take away Clinton's lead, but not garner enough of it himself to achieve a victory. And many of the establishment figures he lures away from the Clinton camp may, after bouncing between Biden and Clinton, defect to the Sanders camp.
Ultimately, Biden may serve to "dislodge" many supporters from Clinton...only to have them evolve toward supporting Bernie Sanders. This phenomenon would occur due to Biden's political closeness with Clinton. Current Clinton supporters who find Biden more personally palatable may, once they become "free agents" following a Biden entry into the race, rethink their political wish list. Freed up to choose between two powerful establishment candidates, these voters may end up deciding to follow their idealism...and vote for Sanders. And even those who are unswayed by their innate idealism may opt for Sanders after weeks or months of being unable to choose between Clinton and Biden due to their similarities.
Biden deserves this opportunity to run for president, though he is unlikely to win. He has served admirably as vice president for two terms, has long desired the presidency, and is too old to run again after 2016. I encourage the man to run, for I feel that he will always regret it if he does not. There is always accomplishment in doing one's best.