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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Biden (and Chafee) Are out of the race

Vice President Joseph Biden’s decision not to run for the White House is a game changer. His earlier unsuccessful attempts were in 1988 and 2008.

The Democratic field had been in suspended animation even while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders built their campaign and raised money.

However, lurking behind the two front-runners was Joe Biden. He has been sucking away 15 percent plus or minus and his approval rating was very high.

Speculation that he would wait until after the Benghazi hearings to see if Clinton would be badly damaged proved idle. He had agonized after the death of his son and did not want his family to be dragged through the grueling task of a campaign.

This is not the first time a powerful contender has agonized over running. As the New York Times reminded us, “Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York left a plane bound for New Hampshire idling on a tarmac in 1991 as he fretted over whether to run for president.”

The specter of Biden created several distractions to the entire 2015-16 race to the nomination.

First, for the Democrats it delayed the decision by many powerful check writers. Their anxiety over Hillary Clinton’s email and Benghazi problems made them nervous and Biden seemed like a potential alternative. Now they can make those commitments to either Sanders or Clinton with most analysts giving the bulk of that new revenue stream to Clinton.

Second, the consolidation of voters in coming polls will strengthen the field for the Democrats. Here in Iowa I met literally hundreds of Democrats who were very interested in Biden and hoping he would run. Now they will need to pivot to one of the other candidates. Some may actually look at former Baltimore mayor and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Most will distribute themselves between Clinton and Sanders.

Third, the Republicans are very disappointed. I spoke to and emailed with several of my best GOP connections and they were very excited about a Democratic Party split three ways. That would weaken the front-runners and to some extent pit Clinton and Biden against each other. Now the Democrats enjoy the advantage of a small field. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee proved unprepared to run in the first Democratic debate and Webb has already dropped out.

Biden will certainly remain a source of irritation for Clinton especially on how to deal with the Republicans. Clinton called them the enemy in the Democratic debate perhaps as a joke but she has certainly been seen as the biggest target of Republicans. Biden thinks Democrats should work across the table with the opposition. There is also irritation over whether Biden supported the raid on Osama bin Laden or not which Hillary Clinton says she fully backed.

Overall the take away is that the Democratic campaigns will now be much more aerodynamic as it were with the turbulence of Biden removed from the flight path.

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