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Joe Biden is best hope for Democratic Party in 2020

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Ten weeks away from a midterm election that will determine whether Donald Trump faces a Congress of sharp oversight or blind obedience, let’s leapfrog ahead to 2020. Because it’s never too early to contemplate the fate of the nation.

Should the Democratic Party nominate someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? Or groom a younger candidate? Or a candidate reflecting a certain diversity, geography, ideology?

Here’s a novel concept: Stop ruminating over too old or too young, too left or too right, and focus on picking a nominee with the best chance of beating Trump. Helmuth von Moltke, the 19th-century head of the Prussian army, observed that “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” The Prussian was prescient: 2015 and 2016 showed us how true that is of any political campaign that’s faced off against Trump.

Which is exactly why Joe Biden may be the best of the bunch.

When I chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I’d brief President Obama and Vice President Biden on House races. Obama would process the information in a studious manner, nodding as he leafed through my presentation deck. Biden would spread his knees and pitch forward, as if diving into the data.

Then we’d go into his office and delve even deeper. He wanted to travel to House districts where he’d have the greatest impact.

So we’d chart the path: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and others. Those states had pools of once-blue, middle-class districts. Now those pools were frothing and rust-colored, the tide having shifted towards the Republicans. Biden innately connected with these communities. He could stem that tide.

Their neighborhoods, factories, downtowns have been buffeted by automation, globalization and an increasingly marginalized middle class. In these places, Donald Trump tapped into voter anxieties destructively, summoning people to fear with a dog whistle. But Biden’s “genesis story” — that narrative explaining who he is, where he came from and what he’s about — is palpable in these places. Trump scares-out his vote by lying, conniving, mocking, blaming, dividing; Biden turns-out his vote with authenticity and dignity.

Here, Biden reverses the Trump tide. Consider Pennsylvania: Trump snatched its 20 electoral votes by a measly margin of 44,000. The day before the election, he held a rally in Scranton, proclaiming: “They say we’re tied in Pennsylvania. I don’t think so. I think we’re going to blow them out tomorrow.” It ended up being a virtual tie statewide, but a Trump blowout in northeast and central parts of the state. If Biden, who was born in Scranton, flips Luzerne County (which he and Obama won in 2008) and fortifies Lackawanna (which voted heavily for him and Obama in 2008 and 2012),  he conceivably wins Pennsylvania. Then he can continue his path through Michigan (which Trump won by 0.22 percent), Wisconsin (Trump by 0.76 percent), Florida (Trump by 1.2 percent) and keep Ohio competitive.

Even if Biden doesn’t beat Trump in these areas, he forces battle there, distracting the president from trying to reclaim now remorseful voters who gave him the benefit of the doubt in 2016. When I’m asked the inevitable question about who Democrats should nominate, I ask back, “What do you think about Joe Biden?” A surprising number of Republicans offer their support; young voters have an attachment to him. But there are skeptics.

Some say, “Isn’t age a factor?” What’s better in 2020 — 78-year-old Biden who just defeated Trump or a younger candidate who didn’t? Also, what’s better — a functioning adult of any age or 74-year-old President Trump taking his second oath of office and completing his sweep of the Supreme Court?

Then there’s the concern that Biden “talks too long.” Have we not learned the danger of 280 characters in a tweet? Is a guy who occasionally grows verbose worse than a president who succinctly boasted that one of his assets is “being, like, really smart”?

Finally, there’s the understandable concern for a ticket reflecting the nation’s diversity. That is important. And I’m for a person of any color that beats orange. The Democratic Party has a vibrant youth and diversity movement. There’s a critical place for them, both now and in the future. But they must demonstrate a proven ability to blaze a path to an Electoral College majority.

The path is in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It’s in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida. It’s uphill, uneven — and well travelled by Joe Biden.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist whose latest book is “Big Guns.” Follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael and on Facebook @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags America Bernie Sanders Democrats Donald Trump Election Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Politics President Steve Israel

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