AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
- Former Vice President Joe Biden is readying a 2020 presidential run after opting not to jump in the race in 2016.
- Biden has significant advantages over the growing Democratic field, including name recognition and long and diverse record of public service.
- But Biden could also be forced to come to grips with changes in the Democratic Party, among other factors that could derail a presidential bid.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is inching closer to a 2020 run, but could face a series of hurdles if he jumps in the race.
No candidate is perfect, even if they poll very high. And every candidate has their own unique flaws that if exposed or highlighted by opponents, could derail their chances of obtaining the Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden has a lot going for him. He had eight relatively successful years in the Barack Obama administration, enjoys significant name recognition, and is already polling at the top of the field, even over many Democrats who have already jumped into the race.
But Biden has several flaws in key areas as well.
Behavior with womenAlex Wong/Getty Images
In the era of the #MeToo movement, there is a spotlight on individuals in positions of power and how they conduct themselves. For years during the Obama administration, Biden was the subject of viral images and videos showing him hugging and kissing female supporters and acquaintances.
Women have not accused Biden of any sexual improprieties or harassment, but the track record has left many progressives feeling uneasy about him.
"Biden is the wrong guy to bear the standard of any party purporting to speak for the victims of unaccountable power," wrote HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel.
Biden has also faced criticism for his handling of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991 while he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thomas was the subject of sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill, an employee of Thomas’ at the Department of Education.
"He owes all of us an apology," Hill told the Boston Globe while recounting the process. "He owes the country an apology because the affront was not just to me. It was really a disservice to every one of us — not just on behalf of sexual harassment victims but also on behalf of those people who believe in the integrity of the court and that it should be protected by the Senate, whose role is to advise on judicial nomination."
Biden has expressed regret about the process, but maintains that he understood women’s issues back then.
"The woman should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be abused again by the system," Biden told NBC News in a 2018 interview. "My biggest regret was, I didn’t know how I could shut you off because you were a senator and you were attacking Anita Hill’s character … She got victimized during the process."
Biden also noted in the interview he helped craft the Violence Against Women Act.
A long career in politics
Biden spent 36 years in the United States Senate before becoming vice president, during which he chaired powerful committees like the Judiciary and Foreign Relations panels. That creates an extensive and easily searchable archive for opponents to dig up dirt that could damage his progressive chops.
Politics and what is acceptable, particularly in the Democratic Party, have significantly changed throughout the past few decades.
With already-announced candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris already backtracking on her career as California attorney general, Biden could face similar criticisms on hot-button issues like criminal justice.
In an unearthed 1993 Senate floor speech unearthed by CNN, Biden railed against "predators" and other criminals while pushing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
"They are beyond the pale many of those people, beyond the pale," Biden said at the time. "And it’s a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society."
That kind of rhetoric, which at the time was mainstream, now draws widespread condemnation from much of the Democratic Party and could haunt him during a dogfight in a crowded primary race.
The Democratic base has moved increasingly far left in recent years
Biden has considerable experience and close ties across key areas that Democrats failed to capture in the 2016 presidential election, like parts of the Rust Belt and Midwestern United States. But Biden is a lot less liberal compared to many Democrats who have jumped into the race, as well as their core group of supporters in the party’s base.
Biden will also have to come to grips with a whole host of other issues hardcore progressives are zeroing-in on, like the proposed "Green New Deal," a transformative moonshot to combat global climate change, pledges to abolish the legislative filibuster, and significant tax increases on the wealthy and large corporations.
Another major reform Democrats are getting on board with is universal health care, which they have coined as "Medicare for All."
Biden was a central figure in advancing the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. A Medicare for All plan would scrap that entirely and replace a signature achievement of the administration in which he was a pivotal figure.
He could be overly confident
Like Hillary Clinton was in 2016, Biden is very confident about his chances of beating Donald Trump.
"I’ll be as straight with you as I can," Biden said in December. "I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president. The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life."
Biden has also made a point of noting he could easily defeat Trump, including in a literal fist fight.
"They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said ‘no.’ I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him,’" Biden said in 2018.
Trump responded by calling Biden weak, noting that he could beat up the former vice president.
"Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault," Trump wrote on Twitter. "He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!"
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