The Biden Stakes

The most amusing TV shows in the US are broadcast on Sunday morning.  On most major networks and sports channels former football players and coaches analyze the teams and predict how the games of that day will develop, long before the first kickoff.  You can hear why the running game of one team will overwhelm the defense of its opponent, how the passing game of another team entirely depends on the physical condition of its main receiver, who didn’t practice all week, and what player matchups to look for on the various fields.  On Fox NFL Sunday Hall of Famer Howie Long, a former defensive end of the Raiders, has it down to a fine point.  When he’s done with his analysis all the plays have been made and the whole game has been played, giving you the feeling that you don’t have to watch the real thing anymore.  Something similar is going on with the first debate of the candidates for the Democratic nomination.  Today, on all channels pundits are forecasting whether it will be a civil event or not, who is going after whom and on what issue, and what the participants have to do to improve their standing in the polls.

We can learn that the real matchup is not between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders but between Sanders and Martin O’Malley, the former Governor of Maryland, who has been running parallel or left of Sanders for months now without getting any attention.  Nobody expects that her opponents will bother Hillary about her emails, but everybody knows for sure that the moderator, Anderson Cooper, will bring them up.  It is generally assumed that Sanders will call Hillary a flip-flopper on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and remind the audience of her original vote for the Iraq war before she called it a mistake, while Hillary’s riposte will refer to the fact that Bernie voted against the Brady Bill three times before he started changing his mind on gun control.  Other than on the debate part of the speculation is spent on the question whether Joe Biden will still enter the race, and if so, when.  One of the pundits declared that if he were Biden he would appear on every morning show today and then unexpectedly show up at the debate, but there was no Biden on the shows this morning and it appears that he’s still at the White House.

In an Op-Ed in the Washington Post this morning Professor Dan Drezner explains why according to him Biden is not going to run.  He has three excellent arguments: 1. The only political reason for a Biden candidacy is an imploding Hillary Clinton, and she’s not imploding, in fact her favorables have been going up a bit lately; 2. The media is beginning to tire of the Biden story, with the exception of that pundit of course, and 3. Biden can’t win, the most convincing point.

According to Drezner Biden is too much of a traditional politician to run for an office knowing that he cannot win.  If everything was rational in this world he would absolutely be right, but not everything is rational.  By not running Biden in fact accepts that his career is over, which is always hard, and he may have therapeutic reasons to run that make winning less important.

So all options are still on the table.  If  Hillary and Bernie both have a weak debate tonight Biden might still appear on all the morning shows tomorrow to announce his candidacy.  That pundit and I can probably agree that that would even be stronger than having done it today.

Hugo Kijne

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