Take a trip with me back to 2008. John McCain, after a long primary against a crowded field, finally emerged victorious and became the Republican nominee for President. But many on the right were already writing him off. He was not an exciting candidate. He didn’t bring any new ideas or policies to the table. He wasn’t the most eloquent speaker. And he didn’t have any great charm or charisma. Even worse, he had a long-established history of bolting from conservative orthodoxy to side with big government Democrats. The conservative voters in flyover country were not impressed and were prepared to sit this one out.
Making this uphill battle for McCain even worse was his opponent. He was squaring off against a relative political newcomer who was charming and charismatic and could deliver a great speech. This newcomer had electrified the Democratic base in a way no one else in living memory had. This newcomer was Barack Obama.
McCain was in a tight spot and if he was going to have any hope in this campaign, he would have to do something unexpected. That something unexpected came in the form of another relative political newcomer; Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska who John McCain picked as his running mate.
She was new. She was unorthodox. Some called her unsophisticated and not ready for prime time. All of that may have been true or it may not have been. But it was missing the point. The point is, and was, she rallied the conservative base around John McCain in a way he would have never been able to do on his own.
She came out of the north chanting “Drill Baby, Drill!” and the conservative voters chanted with her. The voters in flyover country started saying they were voting for Palin, acting as though McCain was a non-entity on the ticket. Right leaning commentators were going out of their way to support the ticket that they once considered a sure bet to lose. Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter even started a website called “Get Drunk and Vote for McCain.” All of this to say that Sarah Palin was the only thing that gave any life to the McCain candidacy in 2008.
Now, let’s return to the present. The Democratic primary has concluded and former Vice-President Joe Biden has emerged from the crowded field as the party’s nominee. He is not an exciting candidate. He’s not a great public speaker (in fact, he can’t seem to speak more than two sentences at a time regardless of the circumstances). He has no particular charm or charisma (in fact, he’s kind of creepy). He isn’t bringing any new ideas or policies to the table. Many of the liberals on the coast view him as not being liberal enough.
Like McCain’s campaign, there is no enthusiasm or energy in the Biden campaign. Yes, I know there are polls out there that show Biden winning in November. But polls this far out are almost useless. Similar polls like this were wrong in 2016. And these polls are the result of Trump making endless unforced errors while Biden hides in his basement.
The fact is, Biden does not excite voters. His lack in this area is palpable and will be exacerbated as November draws closer and voters see how terrible a candidate he is. He needs to do something.
Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who’s work dates back to the Clinton administration, thinks that something needs to be nominating Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as his running mate.
He argues that Biden is now lagging behind where Hillary Clinton was in 2016 in one vital area. That area is support for the Democratic nominee among Bernie Sanders voters. According to Mr. Greenberg, a full 20% of Bernie backers are not on board with Biden. This number was only 15% for Hillary in 2016. He argues that if these voters had showed up for her, she would have won the election. He goes on to argue that winning these voters over this time will secure the win for Biden.
His reasoning then proceeds to the idea that the best way to secure these votes is for Joe Biden to find a running mate who is sufficiently liberal. The one to best fit that bill is Elizabeth Warren. Indeed, she is one of the few that matched Bernie in pushing for free college, free medical care, and free fill-in-the-blank. She has a strong history of speaking out against large corporations and billionaires.
Her addition to the ticket will do for the left what Palin’s addition did for the right twelve years ago. Like Palin came on the scene preaching energy independence and strong military and lower taxes, Warren will come on the scene preaching a message the left wants to hear (i.e. free stuff).
Mr. Greenberg had urged Clinton to make Warren the VP nominee four years ago as part of a similar strategy. He is convinced that she would have brought wayward Bernie backers into the fold and thus won the day for Clinton. Maybe he’s right in this regard.
However, I find his arguments this time unconvincing. There are several problems I have.
First, the two candidates are far different than the candidates four years ago. Biden is a terrible candidate who can’t speak, can’t fund raise, and has a nasty habit of verbally abusing voters when he emerges from his basement. I’ve said this in previous articles and I will keep saying it, Biden cannot win. The reason he’s hiding in his basement is not out of fear of the virus. He is hiding because his campaign staff is terrified of him opening his mouth. Look at last weekend where he told the African American community of this country that he was entitled to their vote based on their skin color. That should have killed his campaign. Fortunately, President Trump ran cover for him through his own case of foot-in-the-mouth disease. But Biden can’t count on that carrying him till November. Biden will have to get out of his basement and campaign. When that happens, he will begin to hemorrhage voters like nobody’s business.
Additionally, Trump 2020 is different from Trump 2016. He has been President for 4 years and while there are many policy issues to disagree with him on, his Presidency has not been the world ending blunder that Hillary predicted it would be four years ago. He has a track record of keeping America out of war like he said he would. He had a good economic record until the current virus. As Far as the virus goes, the Democrats will try to pin it on Trump as well as the economic down turn, they already are. But he has a ready defense for that line of attack in that much of the decision making was done by state governors. He can point out that the virus hit worse is states with Democrats in charge and the economy took the sharpest nosedive in those states as well.
Second, Elizabeth Warren is not Sarah Palin. She has a long-established political career. This translates to a record open for criticism and attack. That record will be one of higher taxes, bigger government, more red tape for business, and a trail of lies that encompasses all but 1/1024th of her DNA. Additionally, the presence of an extreme liberal like Warren would likely galvanize the right behind Trump as much as it would the left behind Biden. Whereas Sarah Palin came across as folksy and down to Earth, Warren’s personality is quite abrasive. When she speaks, she sounds condescending and people tune out. These factors failed to win her many votes in the recent Democratic Primary, even in her home state of Massachusetts.
Let’s return once more to 2008. I’m sure you’ll remember just as well as I what the outcome of that election was. McCain went down. And it wasn’t even close. As much as Palin added energy and enthusiasm to his campaign, at the end of the day it was the name at the top of the ticket that people went with and overwhelmingly they went for Obama over McCain. He just wasn’t a good candidate. Neither is Biden.
While there is justifiably a lot of speculation around who he will pick, come November people will not be saying “who do I want to be the next Vice-President?” They will be saying “who do I want to be President?” He might indeed pick Warren, but doing so will not be the deciding factor in the 2020 election as Mr. Greenberg thinks.