Joe Biden: President Obama’s Ace in the Hole

Could ‘Amtrak Joe’ Swing the 2012 Election? 

There have been some pretty terrible Vice Presidential nominees in America’s history.  Andrew Johnson, for example, likely chosen by Abraham Lincoln because he added geographic diversity to the ticket, reportedly showed up drunk to Lincoln’s second inauguration, insulting several politicians in his speech.  Richard Nixon, on the other hand, was accused during Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign of maintaining an illegal slush fund.  Vice President Dan Quayle is perhaps best known for two campaign trail gaffes: his debate shakedown at the hands of Lloyd Bentsen (“You’re no Jack Kennedy!”) and the infamous potato-gate scandal (or rather, potatoe-gate).

Indeed, Bob Dole’s poor debate performances in 1976 undoubtedly helped Jimmy Carter eke out a narrow victory while Geraldine Ferraro, whose 1984 candidacy was historic, nonetheless distracted from this with a financial flap that engulfed the campaign for weeks.  And who can forget Sarah Palin, whose unmarried teenage daughter and claims concerning views of Russia from her kitchen window were widely reported in 2008?  Arguably the worst Vice Presidential nominee of all time, however, was George McGovern’s 1972 pick, Senator Tom Eagleton.  After reports were released that showed that Eagleton had been hospitalized for “nervous exhaustion” and had received electroshock therapy, he was dropped from the ticket.  Nevertheless, Eagleton’s predicament was catastrophic for the McGovern campaign.

With the memory of some of these disastrous nominees fresh on the minds of politicos and major Party leaders, it increasingly appears that among President Obama’s greatest assets going into 2012 will be the decidedly steady Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden, who recently filed President Obama’s campaign paper work to run in New Hampshire, has emerged as the administration biggest and most exuberant spokesman.  Biden is a prominent behind-the-scenes player, often negotiating with Congressional leaders on fiscal issues.  He is also a fierce campaigner, a well-known Washington entity and a boon to the President’s chances with deep-pocketed contributors.

Additionally, Biden has strong ties to blue-collars voters as well as Catholics and Jews, three groups whose approval of the President has been lukewarm as of late. Biden too has good relationships with unions, essential organizations for the reelection of any Democrat.  In an interview with the Associated Press, New York Rep. Steve Israel called Biden a “game-changer.”

Moreover, Biden has been thoroughly vetted and is a well-known entity to the press.  It is highly unlikely that any surprises about the VP — good or bad — will emerge.  The same, of course, cannot be said for many of Biden’s potential Republican counterparts.

Budding GOP running mates include Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Minnesota Governor and Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, South Dakota Senator John Thune, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno.

Although all of these names (and the dozens of others that appear on various speculative lists) are familiar to the press, none of them has been investigated to the extent of a major party Vice Presidential nominee.  And in politics, as Eagleton, Ferraro and Palin demonstrate the best, that can be potentially ruinous.

Republicans, however, are excited about their VP prospects.  According to Politico’s Alex Burns, “Between 2006 and 2008, Republicans elected only three new senators and five new governors, including Palin.  In 2010 alone, voters put 14 new GOP senators and 15 new Republican governors into office, giving the party a class of new leaders who could fill out a ticket in 2012 — or lead one in 2016.”

Nonetheless, many of these “new leaders” are new enough that they still have potential skeletons in the closet.  Herman Cain, whose surprising campaign success catapulted him to the top of several VP lists, has recently faced controversy for charges of sexual harassment in the 1990s.  Sen. Marco Rubio, on the other hand, spent weeks this fall batting down charges that he exaggerated (or even lied) about his parents’ immigration from Cuba.

Indeed, whomever the Republicans ultimately choose as their Vice Presidential nominee will have the potential to commit any number of gaffes or be embroiled in any number of scandals.  Biden, on the other hand, who served in office for 36 years before his ascendency to VP, in highly unlikely to be caught with his pants down or his hand in the cookie jar.


Published by Eric Stern

Eric Stern, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is Editor-in-Chief of The Politic.

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