Is Joe Biden simply running his campaign like Hillary Clinton?

Is Joe Biden simply running his campaign like Hillary Clinton?
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There is no doubt that Joe BidenJoe BidenLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Ex-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Parnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine MORE is an institution in Washington. He is a known commodity, comfortable and familiar with the inner workings of a city built upon customs and norms. As a former senator and member of the Obama administration, Biden would bring much needed experience and stability back to a country that has been crumbling into tribalism.

His supporters argue that his experience, combined with his appeal to both Democrats and Republicans, make him the safe choice in a general election. His detractors argue that his establishment ties and constant gaffes on the campaign trail make him a liability in what should be a slam dunk for Democrats. If all this sounds eerily familiar, it should. In many ways, his candidacy is a continuation of the campaign Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFormer Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info New Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar MORE ran in 2016. Indeed, like any good sequel, it even includes some of the same costars, namely Bernie Sanders and his legion of diehard supporters.

Like Clinton, Biden became the front runner the moment he announced his candidacy, weathering controversies that would prematurely end most campaigns. Light on inspiration and details, Biden is able to stay at the top of the polls with his ability to evade scandal and the electability argument that has yet to be tested. He is banking on a strategy that echoes back to the Clinton campaign run by Robby Mook. It involves winning back blue collar Democrats, disenchanted Republicans, and independent voters, while holding onto support from African Americans and progressives.

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This is no easy feat, especially in such a crowded primary. Performing well with progressives, while not alienating moderates, requires a disciplined messenger with the charisma to disarm detractors. That type of candidate comes around once every generation and, while Biden is charismatic, he has not yet mastered the discipline that is necessary to avoid purity tests. Surprisingly, however, his lack of messaging discipline has had virtually no effect on his status as the front runner. Biden has regularly outperformed the other candidates in almost every national and battleground state poll.

Heading into the Iowa caucuses, Biden is the candidate to beat. He would not be the first candidate to head into Iowa as the front runner, however, and leave Super Tuesday as a historical footnote. Like many front runners before him, one or more losses in an early state could prove devastating to his path to the nomination and could open the door to an alternative candidate. The campaigns of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg are banking on him underperforming in Iowa or South Carolina.

Much like Clinton, the inevitability of a Biden victory will likely last until it does not. Running a competitive presidential campaign cemented in the inevitability of a candidate is a risky move for anyone, but especially one who is so prone to gaffes. The former vice president has had to walk back statements on race, his time in the Senate, and a verbal spat with a voter.

Should Biden successfully make out of the primary and into the general election, the comparisons to the Clinton campaign will likely come to an end. The Clinton campaign, and most pundits inside the beltway, failed to take the candidacy of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE seriously. No Democrat will make the same mistake this time around. Beating Trump is the sole focus of every Democrat. The party will undoubtedly unite around whomever secures the nomination, regardless of where they exist on the spectrum of Democrats.

The same was not true for Clinton in 2016. The Sanders wing of the party never trusted Clinton and never coalesced around her after Sanders lost the primary. This dearly cost her progressive votes in the general election and contributed to her loss. Hopefully Democrats have learned from the shocking results that elected Trump as the 45th president of the United States. A decent portion of Republicans voted against Clinton but not for Trump. Democrats cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

In a few weeks, Americans will begin the process of selecting the next Democratic nominee. This cannot be explained as anything other than a referendum on the Trump years and the country that elected him. If Biden hopes to secure the nomination and recapture the White House, he must be able to keep Democrats united and avoid the distracting gaffes that have become synonymous with his campaign. Much like Clinton had the experience, Biden is qualified to be president on day one. A contest with Trump in 2020 should be an easy blowout for Democrats but, as we now know, anything can happen at the ballot box in a general election. For the sake of our country, I hope the sequel to 2016 has a very different ending.

Michael Starr Hopkins is the founding partner of Northern Starr Strategies. He served on the Democratic presidential campaigns for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Delaney. Follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.