I've spent a lot of time writing about the GOP Nomination in the last year due to the extraordinary nature of their primary. Between Trump's bombastic quotes (and hair) and Bush's having been born into a ruling aristocratic family, there are thirteen other politicians making noise. It is messy, and if their first debate was any indicator it is also a lot of fun. The Democrats are in a very different situation. Of the official candidates, Hilary Clinton is still out in front with 54% overall, based on the average poll at Real Clear Politics. However, just the rumor of Joe Biden has created a shift in the polls for the Democrats, with the latest averages showing Uncle Joe with 11% overall and Sanders with a respectable 22%. In Iowa that compresses further, with Clinton down to 50.5%. There are fewer players, that much is obvious. The biggest difference with the GOP race and the Democrat race is legitimacy. Both have about the same number of legitimate contenders, things are just more spread out in the GOP race.
Naturally, the national press has focused on the bigger and more entertaining story of the GOP Primary, and it’s hard to blame them. Most of the coverage regarding the Democrats is just the same repetition of reporting Clinton's problems and analyzing whether or not she can maintain her lead as a result. Even in the GOP primary the questions have not been whether a possible candidate can beat a Democrat, but whether or not they could specifically beat Clinton. While I understand the thought process, I think it's worth digging deeper and really asking what could happen with the Democrats. Overall, the Republican candidates may be more entertaining,but given the current voting demographics in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the Democratic nominee is still more likely to win in 2016. I'd say that makes their primary worth spending some time on.
Clinton is clearly in the lead. But, anyone that's has played Mario Kart can tell you that being in the lead early isn't always a good thing. (Blue shells! Bullets! Lightning bolts!) It means you are the main focus of a lot of attacks, and not just from your primary competition. Do you really think for one moment that the push for Clinton's email server and a deeper look into Benghazi is driven by the Bernie Sanders campaign? I'm sure Sanders would like to have his path to front-runner cleared but the attacks on Clinton were happening well before Sanders became a blip on the radar. The GOP has focused on Clinton like a laser since the results of the 2012 election cycle, and that scrutiny has only intensified as her likelihood to win has seemed more and more inevitable.
Sanders, meanwhile, has been busy building his base of support. Except for some very obvious differences in the logo, back story, and experience, the Sanders campaign walks and talks a lot like the Obama campaign from 2008. Most of his message is about education, income inequality, health care, and general societal well-being. He's not trying to out hawk Clinton, or out dove the others on defense issues, and I've yet to hear any uproar over his international platform. He's staying both domestic and populist while pulling the party and primary back to the left.
While it is true that Clinton would win in a walk if the primaries were decided today, the primaries are still many long months away (a fact the Clinton campaign is eager to remind); months filled with campaign stops, television spots, and plenty of opportunities for Clinton to lose the nomination. I don’t feel like the questions surrounding Clinton’s email server have peaked yet, and there is the question of whether Uncle Joe will enter the race. We'll get to him in a second.
The Three Amigos.
Clinton and Sanders combine for 77% of the current vote in Iowa. Compare that to the three GOP front-runner candidates, Trump, Carson, and Walker (as of August 11) combine for 42%. You would have to take the top eight GOP candidates to equal 77%. (It’s like a commercial for Total cereal, though I’m not totally sure they still make Total. You need over SIX bowls of your cereal…you get it.)That’s a huge difference in support breakdown, to say the least. After Clinton and Sanders, we are left with Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee. (Bonus points to you if you knew Lincoln Chafee was running for President! Until I decided to write this, I did not.) He also has all of 0.8% in the Iowa polls, so I'm still not sure if he really counts. Combined, these three have 6.3% of the Iowa Democratic primary support, at least in current polls. For those keeping score, that's a total of only 83.3% between Clinton, Sanders, and the amigos. So, where is that remaining support? Cue Uncle Joe’s shit eating, ear-to-ear, I know the inside joke smile; he has 9.3% in Iowa right now, and that's while we wait to see if he will even run.
Biden, His Time?
Obviously choosing to run or not run for President from the current VP position matters in any given Presidential race. Cheney didn't for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was his health. Gore won the popular vote. George H.W. Bush won from the VP seat. Recent history says the VP has a real shot at the party nomination. Yet, until recently, Biden has been vocal about not running. As most know, his son passed away just a few weeks back, which was a sad ending to the story of a very promising life and political career. Beau Biden had White House written all over him, and came across as a genuinely good person. His death, in my opinion, was a national loss of a true leader. Fast forward to the present, and we learn that Beau wanted his dad to run. Talk about a tough decision to make.
Meanwhile, the mere speculation of Biden entering the race is changing the landscape of the Democratic primary. Of the three amigos, Jim Webb is actually the most likely to wind up with a VP nod (Virginia anyone?) and Sanders is really going to be an all or nothing candidate. So we are left with what appears to be a two horse race. The inevitability and well-oiled machine of the Clinton campaign, which is about 30 years old now, and the aw-shucks I guess I'll run charisma of Biden. If I'm Clinton, I'm more concerned with him deciding to run than I am with my email server, at least for now. This is even more true after the leak that Biden is considering promising a one term “Unite the Country” campaign. People are hungry for a statesman, and Biden is just that figure.
Biden will run. He will wait a little longer, let the GOP poke more holes in Hilary, and let the choice be more of a “fine, fine, if you guys REALLY want me to” approach than a “Hey, I'm gonna do this too” situation. Biden is the encore performance at a good concert. It was probably planned the whole time, but the band knows how to shrug their shoulders and pretend it wasn't. Sometimes, it really isn't planned but the moment demands the show continue. With Biden, that may very well be the case. If Biden does run it's a real primary. He will need one month to overtake Sanders and a lot of that support will actually come FROM the Clinton supporters. I think we'll wind up with a three person race, with no one claiming more than 40%, and Jim Webb waiting for his VP nomination. Then again, Biden/Kasich (he could do it) or Biden/Warren could be pretty formidable.
In the end, I still think Clinton wins the Democratic nomination but at least with Biden it's a real race. Plenty of people will say it’s too early to write off Sanders, but I’m doing it anyway. As for the rest, I probably spent too many words talking about their chances already. Sorry to break the news to all of you hardcore Chafee supporters. Maybe 2020?
With Editing by Andrew Hooper
With Editing by Andrew Hooper