Biden’s experience is his greatest asset and biggest liability

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The Democratic contest for president is about to shift into high gear. After biding his time, the former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly about to take the plunge. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is back with a bang. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke looks ready to bounce into the fray and add to the impressive list of Democratic presidential hopefuls. The entry of the three Killer Bs marks a new level of intensity. All three candidates especially Biden offer a clear contrast to the incumbent President Trump.

Americans like to do a 180 when they replace a president. The race for the White House is usually a referendum on the incumbent and if the president is unpopular, voters will want to try something completely different.

{mosads}Nixon’s imperial presidency begat a president, Jimmy Carter who carried his own suitcase. An outsider, Bill Clinton moved into the White House vacated by the ultimate political insider George H. W. Bush. Then in 2008, an outsider with a unique personal background and a thin political resume, Barack Obama followed the scion of one of the royal families of American politics, George W. Bush into the White House.

Vive la difference

Trump became president without any government experience and continues to make rookie mistakes after two years on the job. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proved that experience leads to performance during her battle over the wall with the clueless president.

Joe Biden — former vice president and former U.S. Senator, elected when he was 29 years old — is about as different as you can get from Trump. Trump is a babe in the political woods while Biden has a political resume longer than a receipt for a purchase at a CVS.

Americans don’t pay much attention to foreign policy during presidential campaigns but they should. Presidents have much more freedom to operate independently of Congress in foreign policy than in domestic policy.  International relations is the area where chief executives can have the most impact.

Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience has been a serious liability. His foreign policy has been erratic and unproductive. Trump has been long on bluster and short on results. He has tarnished relationships with our closest allies in the world. His bromances with dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are embarrassing and they undermine our nation’s democratic values. He has wavered all over the place on key military issues like the presence or absence of American troops in Syria and Afghanistan.

Biden would be a steady hand in a tumultuous world after Trump’s erratic tenure. Biden has a wealth of experience in the world arena. He served a member and as chairman of the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee in the U.S. Senate. As vice president, he served as a national security adviser and trouble shooter for President Obama. This kind of expertise is invaluable in a world full of threats to American national security.

Biden’s experience is his greatest asset and his biggest liability. Biden and Bernie Sanders have experience to spare. Both candidates are in their 70s and combined the two men have served in federal office for 74 years. Biden served 38 years as a U.S. senator from Delaware and eight as Vice President, while Sanders has 28 years of congressional experience representing Vermont. But Sanders has been an outsider and a congressional hair shirt during his tenure. Meanwhile, Biden has worked effectively within a system that most Americans don’t think works for them.

Biden’s battle begins

The former vice president has taken his sweet his time before an official announcement of his candidacy. He had family and financial concerns about his candidacy. Last week Biden announced that his family had cleared him for takeoff. The other consideration was his capacity to raise the millions of dollars, it would take to mount a successful presidential campaign.

Biden had trouble raising money for his two unsuccessful presidential campaigns. This time he will find it difficult to compete financially with Bernie Sanders.

Sanders supporters may not be rich but they are young and passionate are addicted to social media, which makes it easy for Bernie to tap their Paypal or Venmo accounts. That’s why Sanders was able to raise $5.9 million dollars within the first 24 hours of his announcement. This big haul included approximately 225,000 donors averaging about $27 per contribution. These small donors are worth their weight in gold because Sanders can go back to them time and time again before these donors hit the legal contribution limit. 

Biden’s supporters have more money but they’re not as passionate or accessible on social media. Biden has to rely on fundraising events and big donors who are suspect in the minds of the rank and file primary voters who hate big money in politics. The advantages that Sanders has in social media and money will make the campaign challenging for Biden.

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum

Because of his long tenure and extensive service, Democrats view Biden fondly as an elder statesman. But popularity doesn’t automatically translate into votes for the former vice president. 

Biden was the most popular Democratic presidential candidate in a national poll conducted by Monmouth University in December but his popularity outstripped his vote by a wide margin. Eight in 10 (80 percent) of the potential primary voters liked him but only three in 10 (29 percent) said they would vote for him. Sanders had a similar problem with much regard (68 percent) but with relatively little support (19 percent). 

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The gap between popularity and support is a sign of vulnerability. These gaps create vacuums for the other Democratic aspirants to fill as they become better known to primary voters. Biden and Bernie start the campaign as the front runners but they both will need to hold on for dear life as the challengers emerge.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at, a social media network for politics.

This is the fifth piece in a series of profiles by Bannon on 2020 Democratic hopefuls. Read his analysis on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Tags 2020 election Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Beto O'Rourke Bill Clinton Brad Bannon Democrats Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Joe Biden Kamala Harris Nancy Pelosi

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