Biden bid could be a bonus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Dallas Morning News

Even as the national spotlight shifts their way this week, Republicans who long for fewer than 17 presidential candidates might view the Democrats’ side with some envy.

What race? Exactly. Other than for the most liberal Democrats, the idea of Bernie Sanders standing under a shower of convention balloons is a bridge too far. That leaves a Hillary Clinton coronation as their most likely option, no offense to Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, Sanders or that fellow from Rhode Island.

Why, then, did the news this past weekend focus on a different Democrat weighing whether Clinton’s sagging poll numbers and rising negatives create a narrow lane to the nomination? Normally, a sitting vice president would be a legitimate option to run.

Is Joe Biden that option for 2016?

Reports say he’s considering it, influenced by encouragement from his dying son, Beau. Someone leaked to Maureen Dowd some very intimate details of the Bidens’ conversations before Beau’s death from brain cancer May 30, which The New York Times’ columnist was only too happy to relate:

“Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed,” she wrote. “But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.

“Hunter also pushed his father, telling him, ‘Dad, it’s who you are.’”

It has drama. Does it also bear the ring of truth?

If so, the garrulous, gregarious Biden — Barack Obama’s VP and for 36 years before that a U.S. senator from Delaware — may never benefit from better timing. Clinton dominates polling among Democrats, but her standing among independents or general election what-ifs is weakening. That’s not the same as saying she would lose; it does lead a careful Democrat to consider alternatives.

Recent polling from Quinnipiac University could reveal trouble ahead. Clinton trailed three possible Republicans — Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio — in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, key battleground states. …

Biden’s attractiveness should rise in direct proportion to Democrats’ angst over Clinton’s weaknesses. In the end, it would be no surprise if her well-funded and disciplined campaign prevailed into the general election.

Still, a Biden challenge could help ratify her choice among the party faithful and possibly bring out some of the enthusiasm and fire lacking so far.