The rise and fall of Joe Biden: 5 factors that have seen former Democratic frontrunner slip to fourth position ahead of Iowa caucus
The former vice-president was a frontrunner till recently but now falls behind even Pete Buttigieg. What caused the long-serving politicians' slip? Well, there are many reasons.
Not too long ago, Joe Biden was doing great as a Democratic frontrunner ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Having joined relatively later than his other top opponents, the former vice-president did well to take an early lead. The fact that the 76-year-old has been an establishment man and not many in this election season match his experience in the country’s political affairs. The fact that Biden also worked as deputy to Barack Obama, who is still popular among the Democrats more than any other leader, made his case look strong. An economic liberal who is also seen as a centrist on issues like immigration, Biden was being considered a viable alternative to the Trumpian order.
But just a few months ahead of the Iowa caucuses (February 3, 2020) — the first major test in the run-up to the elections — Biden has been found to have sunk to the fourth place in a number of polls — Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of polls as well as the new Quinnipiac Poll published on Wednesday, November 6.
As per Quinnipiac, Biden is holding onto 15 percent in Iowa as his support slides and he finds himself behind Elizabeth Warren (20 percent), Pete Buttigieg (19 percent) and Bernie Sanders (17 percent). The sliding numbers even saw Biden’s campaign playing down expectations in the Hawkeye State and putting the focus more on states like South Carolina and Nevada where the former vice-president has a hold.
But why did Biden suddenly witness this slide? Is the Iowa prediction a beginning of the end of the long-serving politician’s presidential aspirations?
There are certain factors that have hurt Biden mid-way into his campaign and till now, it has not looked able enough to stem the tide.
The Ukraine affair
The allegations of corruption against Biden and his son Hunter by President Trump have put him under impeachment scrutiny no doubt but they have also made it complicated for Biden’s own campaign. The Democratic camp has voices that feel that even though Trump’s administration is criticized daily as the most corrupt one in America’s history, the accusations against the Bidens — be it the former vice-president’s past conduct in Ukraine or his controversy-ridden younger son Hunter — are bound to put the senior Biden under a lot of uncomfortable questions.
Biden’s frequent counter-attack against Trump or the pledges that he will not allow anybody from his family or associates to hold positions in foreign companies show that there is a shakiness on Biden’s part in dealing with the accusations. Controversies and gossips around Hunter’s lifestyle had always been a potential threat to his father’s campaign and Trump is clever enough to attack him over it, leaving the Democrat to defend his family more than articulating his presidential vision.
Inconsistent stands on issues
One of Biden’s biggest drawbacks has been his inconsistent stands on key issues. The 78-year-old has expressed contradictory opinions on matters related to China or on abortion and especially, his flip-flops on supporting the Hyde Amendment have seen himself coming under more suspicion that conviction. David Axelrod, a chief strategist on former president Obama’s historic presidential campaigns, said such flip-flops are never going to be good and will only raise questions over Biden’s as well as his campaign’s performance. Biden perhaps is trying hard to discover a new self which is different from what the people have seen over the past many decades to establish himself as a moderate and bipartisan candidate in today’s highly polarized conditions but it hasn’t convinced many — be it Biden’s Democratic rivals or the orthodox elements in the party.
It might not match Trump’s humongous proportion, but Biden has certainly not earned a good name among many women who feel he touched them awkwardly and made them uncomfortable even though the acts were claimed to be not ill-intentioned. Biden is a representative of the old school which had its golden days when the #MeToo movement was still in the womb of the future. And today, even if he tries to bring back those days when the elders’ ‘uncomfortable touch’ were tolerated silently by the young girls and women, it could backfire.
Biden released a video conceding that “social norms are changing” and he will be mindful of respecting people’s “personal space." Biden can’t really afford to see himself at the receiving end of those who feel he sexualizes things, especially after Trump’s telling tales. It is true that there are Democratic voters who still feel that Biden’s old-school acts are nothing wrong and rather they make his brand unique as someone who still informally connects to people. But post #MeToo, that could be a dangerous choice to make for Biden.
Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it. pic.twitter.com/Ya2mf5ODts— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 3, 2019
Obama hasn’t endorsed Biden yet
This is a major blow to the Biden campaign till now. Given the former president’s stature in the present-day Democratic Party, an endorsement from him would have given Biden’s campaign a decisive boost. But Obama, who Biden had accompanied at the White House for eight long years and is known to have a rapport with, hasn’t given that magical touch yet. The undercurrents in the relationship between the former No.1 and No.2 in Washington are only visible from episodes. In the early 2000s, for example, Obama reportedly rolled his eyes at Biden’s constant babbling and wrote to his adviser in a three-lettered note: “Shoot. Me. Now.” The first black president also did not endorse Biden in 2016 and backed Hillary Clinton perhaps because he wanted America to continue making its historic firsts: a black president followed by a woman president. Obama’s words uttered in January this year that the Democratic leadership needs “new blood” also makes his intention clear. Biden, his rival in the 2008 presidential election, is not as close a political friend as personal.
The rise of Elizabeth Warren
As this pre-election season is advancing, one can increasingly see that Biden’s loss has been a gain for Elizabeth Warren, the only woman frontrunner. Earlier in the year, the Massachusetts senator had a single-digit favorability but now he has gone on to take a lead that Biden could find difficult to bridge. Warren, 70, has definitely been facing a tough going with her medicare plan, but yet she has stuck to her plan of bringing sweeping structural changes to curb corruption. Warren has likened her fight to bring political reforms to that faced by the civil rights activists in America’s history and is getting a good press.
big thank you to @TeamWarren for sending dinner to our dc headquarters. the team is very grateful (and started with the cookies first).— mike casca (@cascamike) October 2, 2019
She has also been able to raise money far more than Biden and hasn’t wavered in the face of strong criticism. She has also sent Bernie Sanders' campaign staff dinner and cookies when her rival candidate fell ill in early October and was appreciated publicly. Unlike Biden, Warren has not limited her arguments to Trump and all these are eventually working in her favor at the expense of Biden.