Budowsky: Why Biden shouldn’t run, and won’t


There may be a very long-shot pathway to the presidency for Vice President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles MORE in 2016, but running as a vulture candidate — whose candidacy would be premised on the bet that the partisan vendetta of personal destruction being waged against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPennsylvania GOP authorizes subpoenas in election probe We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE by Republicans succeeds — is not that pathway.

Like so many Americans, I share an enormous respect, admiration and affection for Joe Biden. He is an exceptionally good and decent man. He has excelled in every endeavor of public service that he has undertaken throughout a distinguished and exemplary career. He would make an outstanding president.


Had Biden announced his candidacy many months ago and articulated a powerful progressive rationale for his candidacy, I might have supported him. He didn’t, and the sole premise driving talk of a Biden campaign today is a negative premise that is unlikely to happen, i.e. that the campaign of Clinton will implode. 

Whatever he may say, announcing his candidacy now would be a virtual declaration of war against Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and millions of ardent women who believe the Democratic front-runner is under a vicious and slanderous partisan attack aimed to destroy the prospects for the first woman president, who is also the most qualified candidate in the field today. Many Clinton supporters would consider Biden a vulture candidate trying to ride the horse of right-wing attacks to power.

Is there a groundswell of grassroots support for Biden announcing his candidacy? No. There is no grassroots movement of any size, scope or magnitude that yearns for him to run, volunteers to work for him, or makes large numbers of small donations to draft him.

I have great respect for those organizing the Draft Biden campaign but there is no measurable surge of grassroots support for a Biden candidacy, no publicly known surge of donations, no Facebook or Twitter sites that I can find that draw more than a modest number of participants, and no large Draft Biden events as there were for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Has Biden articulated a clear and powerful vision that offers a rationale for running that distinguishes him from President Obama, Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)? No. This is not Biden’s fault. As a sitting vice president, he has severe limitations about what he can say that diverges from the president he serves. This limitation would not go away if he were to run — it would be magnified. 

Does Biden have strong institutional political support from major party players such as governors, mayors, state party chairmen or members of Congress who believe in his potential candidacy so deeply that they are willing to publicly state today that they would endorse him if he runs? No.

Lacking a large grassroots donor base, will Biden attract a substantial number of large donors capable of financing a national campaign against the powerful national organization supporting Clinton or the vibrant grassroots movement supporting Sanders? No. Many large Democratic donors are giving to Clinton, others are holding back watching events unfold, but few will support an intraparty war against the Clintons.

It is true that Clinton has challenges to overcome, that she is going through a rough patch that is common in presidential politics, that many Democrats are privately nervous at this time, and that she made a mistake using a private email, which she herself has acknowledged.

My view is that while it is theoretically possible that a bombshell emerges from the email issue, the probability of this happening is 5 percent or less. Meanwhile Republicans, driven by Donald Trump, are taking extreme positions similar to the National Front extremist parties in Europe that many women and Hispanics believe constitute a war against women and Hispanics — something that will ultimately bring waves of support to Clinton, who many see as their champion. 

Where is the lane on the track for Joe Biden to run in the Kentucky Derby of presidential politics? There is no such lane. It would be a huge mistake for the former Delaware senator to run what many would consider a vulture campaign for his political advantage without a noble and compelling rationale or enthusiastic base of grassroots support that does not exist.

Anything can happen in national politics, and if Armageddon strikes the Clinton campaign — which, again, I believe is highly unlikely — Biden should remain above the fray and be available if needed.

If Biden runs he will engender substantial ill will from many Democrats. The same media that touts him today, promotes Trump and gives a megaphone to defamations against Clinton will ultimately turn against Biden in a New York minute.

Joe Biden is a very smart guy. My bet is that he realizes this and will not let himself be used to foment a civil war among Democrats, and provide a great service to Republicans who have good reason to fear a Clinton candidacy.


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net