With the calendar turning to August, it’s officially the silly season in American politics. On the Republican side, a loudmouthed, self-promoting, angry anti-politician is leading in the polls, and 10 of 17 declared presidential candidates will crowd onto the stage to have a “debate” on Thursday. And on the Democratic side, politicos and pundits are talking seriously about drafting Joe Biden to throw his hat in the ring.
Wait a second . . . Joe Biden? 72-year-old, two-time also-ran, vice president Joe Biden?
Evidently so. There’s apparently concern in some Democratic quarters about Hillary Clinton being damaged goods. Her trustworthiness numbers aren’t good — whether it is because of her State Department email server fiasco, or because everything she does and says seems so carefully scripted and calibrated, or for some other reason — and she hasn’t exactly been lighting it up on the campaign trail. In fact, there seems to be a lot more excitement about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist who has been drawing big crowds in the early decision states. So while Hillary has raised tons of money and signed up legions of heavyweight staffers and fundraisers, people are beginning to wonder whether her nomination is as inevitable and certain as, say, Ed Muskie in 1972.
But if you think Hillary Clinton may not be the best candidate to carry the Democratic banner, where do you turn? America isn’t likely to elect a 70-something socialist, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley doesn’t exactly have people buzzing. Most of the leading Democratic politicians on the national scene don’t seem especially keen to take on the Clinton political machine. That leaves good old Joe. He’s been on the national Democratic scene forever, he’s a known commodity, and although he’s been a gaffe machine in his prior races he’s one of those pols who seems to love being on the campaign trail — whereas Hillary Clinton seems to consider it to be a painful hassle.
I have no idea whether Joe Biden will end up running — he’s just lost his son to cancer, but once the presidential bug bites it’s hard to shake the obsessive lure of the Oval Office. What’s more interesting to me is that the national Democratic bench seems so shallow — and, with the exception of O’Malley, so long in the tooth. Why aren’t the party bigwigs talking about Democratic governors (other than California’s Jerry Brown, who is 77), or Senators like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown? Why aren’t more up-and-coming Ds willing to risk a long-shot run, like Bill Clinton did in 1992?