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Tags: joe biden | elizabeth warren | democrats | primaries

History Suggests Biden's Fragile Frontrunner Status Doomed

History Suggests Biden's Fragile Frontrunner Status Doomed
Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addresses the crowd at The Galivants Ferry Stump on September 16, 2019 in Galivants Ferry, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Craig Shirley By Thursday, 19 September 2019 12:12 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Adlai Stevenson once said; "The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning."

It’s no hot take to say that Joe Biden’s political campaign isn't doing a very good job of accomplishing the former but is succeeding at the latter. His recent gaffes and debate performances have slowed his presidential aspirations yet Biden’s real challenge isn’t political; it’s historical.

Biden is fighting the twin headwinds of history; two past trends that err decidedly against his favor. The most complicated aspect is that they are emanating from his own party. These two powerful forces could overwhelm this, his last campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Primarily, in recent history, the Democrats have rarely nominated their front runner in non-incumbent years. Walter Mondale, the most liberal candidate running in 1984, was the frontrunner, but was easily waxed by Ronald Reagan. Reagan walked over Fritz in a 49 state pasting. Mondale did carry Minnesota, but he most likely did not take much comfort from it. When Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick labeled Mondale’s party as the “San Francisco Democrats,” at the 1984 GOP convention, that said it all.

The Democrats were holding their quadrennial gathering in the city by the bay. To say it was a smorgasbord of strangeness, to 1984 Middle America, would be an understatement. Each day, thousands of flamboyant LGBTQ members and others paraded for the benefit of the national TV cameras including “Sister Boom Boom,” a drag queen of note and of humor and a member of the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”

Sister Boom Boom once ran for local office in San Francisco with the slogan, “Nun of the Above.”

The party, that year, would have been much better off nominating Senator John Glenn of Ohio, a moderate and genuine American hero or Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, the candidate of “new ideas.” But Ronald Reagan drove the liberals of the Democratic Party around the bend and they rose up, took over the nomination process, and selected the one man who had little to no chance against the Gipper.

More recently of course was Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for 2016. She also lost after getting a hell of a scare from Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Al Gore was the 2000 frontrunner but he, despite continued liberal denials, lost as well.

Yet going back to 1960, John Kennedy was not the frontrunner: It was Adlai Stevenson or Lyndon Johnson or Hubert Humphrey who were all favored over the young New Englander. Even so, Stevenson was contemptuous of his fellow Americans. Once, a breathless woman told him, “All the intelligent people are voting for you!” to which he replied, “Yes ma’am, but I need a majority.”

In 1968, Robert Kennedy was the frontrunner, not the eventual nominee, Humphrey. In 1972, Senator Ed Muskie, a moderate from Maine, was the leading candidate, not liberal senator George McGovern.

Jimmy Carter was such a longshot in 1976, that for a time, he was known as “Jimmy Who?” Governor Michael Dukakis certainly was not the frontrunner in 1988 and Governor Bill Clinton was far behind Mario Cuomo in 1992 for their party’s nomination. 2004? Howard Dean was the early favorite, as was John Edwards, but the Democrats finally turned to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. 2008? Who’d ever heard of Barack Obama, except for his masterful remarks at the 2004 Democratic convention? Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner for 2008.

In pollster talk, a front runner gets what a front runner gets. Notice how Biden is stuck in the low 30’s to high 20’s? Which means up to 70 percent of Democrats oppose his nomination.

The second force against Biden is the “derangement syndrome” of the left inside his party. No one drove liberals in America more nuts than Richard Nixon. In 1972, they took over the party and nominated the one man incapable of defeating the hugely vulnerable Tricky Dick, McGovern. Same in 1984. No one in America drove liberals more crazy than Ronald Reagan. Again, liberals took over the party and nominated the unelectable Mondale.

No one in America, in 2019, drives liberals to distraction more than Donald Trump (some conservatives too), which explains the rise of Elizabeth Warren, one of the most liberal candidates in the field. Trumpistas are relishing the chance to reduce her to a one dimensional cliché if she is nominated, though she is doing a good job of making corruption her signature issue.

Biden has been poorly served by his campaign but even if he was the beneficiary of a superb staff, this still may not be enough for him to defeat the heavy hand of history — his fragile frontrunner status and the passion he doesn't inspire inside his own party.

Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian. His books include, “Reagan’s Revolution, The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started it All,” “Rendezvous with Destiny, Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America,” "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years," and “ Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan." He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, “December, 1941” and his new 2019 book, “Mary Ball Washington,” a definitive biography of George Washington’s mother. Shirley lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and the Reagan Ranch. He has been named the First Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater and will teach a class this fall at the University of Virginia on Reagan. He appears regularly on Newsmax TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Biden is fighting the twin headwinds of history; two past trends that err decidedly against his favor.
joe biden, elizabeth warren, democrats, primaries
Thursday, 19 September 2019 12:12 PM
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