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Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not

Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not
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Joe BidenJoe BidenFear of insider attack prompts additional FBI screening of National Guard troops: AP Iran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries MORE now has the Democratic presidential nomination.

This is a real feat. He is, after all, 77 years old. He may even be a touch out of touch.

This also means that, come November, it is a stark choice: Him or Donald TrumpDonald TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT MORE.

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One will win. One will be president for the next four years.

But this may be one of the least predictable elections in recent memory.

No-one really knows where the coronavirus is going to leave us as a nation or how people will assess blame for the trauma it has caused.

It is obvious that by November we will still be struggling with its effects, even though they will hopefully be receding.

There will be a recession. Most Americans will be trying to adjust. They will be figuring out how to protect their health and their finances.

The government will have spent trillions of dollars trying to parry the impact of the crisis.

This will have helped. But the effects of having closed the country for weeks will still take a terrible toll on the lives of millions of Americans.

Who gets blamed — the president, his opponent, both, or maybe neither?

Conventional wisdom would assume that the party in power would shoulder most of the electoral harm. But this president has, on an almost daily basis, pointed the finger of blame at others.

There is no the “buck stops here” in this presidency.

For this president, the buck always stops elsewhere — in China or at the World Health Organization or at the doorstep of the governors, especially New York’s Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoGovernors say no additional vaccine doses coming, despite Trump admin promise Mississippi runs out of coronavirus vaccine as state expands eligibility Cuomo announces performance initiative to revive New York's arts economy MORE (D), or with his everyday foils Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Retired Army general: 'We can't have demonstrators showing up at a state Capitol with damn long guns' Graham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Graham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs MORE (D-N.Y.).

It stops with anyone but himself.

If he blames others loudly enough and often enough, a large segment of the population may believe him.

This seems to be the path the president has chosen to take. He has fully endorsed one element of President Lincoln’s famous axiom, which is that you can fool some of the people all of the time.

Thus Biden must also find a path a follow.

Pointing the finger of blame at the president may be one course as the nation sinks further into recession. But it is not an upbeat message.

The nation is craving leadership that bolsters our confidence that we will come out of this period of darkness with a chance to return to normal, healthy lives.

Biden has not shown that sort of energy so far.

His first act after securing the nomination when Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE (I-Vt.) withdrew from the race was to lurch to the left.

He quickly endorsed a warmed-over version of Bernie’s Medicare for All, a.k.a. nationalized medicine, and embraced Bernie’s idea of relieving many students from paying back their loans if they attended a public institution.

He continues to load on tired, “vote-buying” ideas for the hard left that will involve massive expansions in spending and regulation.

Having defeated the hard left in his party, he seems to actually want to be the hard left of his party.

Of course, the activist left is not so easily mollified.

They demand that Biden pick one of their own to be his vice presidential candidate. Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden to tap Rohit Chopra to lead CFPB, Gensler for SEC chair: reports Biden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Porter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector MORE (D-Mass.) or Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden-Harris team unveils inauguration playlist Trump approval rating relatively unchanged in wake of Capitol rioting: NBC News poll Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday MORE (D-Calif.), or former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) are put forth.

He has announced that under all circumstances he will choose a woman.

Whom he choses is critical because of his age, which leads many voters to surmise that there is a reasonable possibility his vice president will end up as president.

Thus a woman, his running mate must be. It is a nice piece of demographic politics.

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But the real politics of winning a national election is about winning the votes of independents. These may be mostly women, but they are not ideologues.

Independents across the country — but especially in the swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire — are not socialist or part of the elitist intellectual establishment.

Independent voters are first and foremost pragmatists who look to candidates to speak to their concerns.

Theirs is the language of addressing everyday problems that bedevil Americans as they try to do their jobs, raise their families and live a good and decent life.

This is something the bases of both the Republican Party and Democratic Party are not interested in. They care more about proclaiming their purity in pursuing the causes of either the hard left or right.

If there is a clear path to defeat for Biden, it is to put a “progressive” — a socialist by any honest name — on the ticket with him.

There are many other excellent choices who would bring credibility and substance to his effort, such as Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGoogle completes Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: Fringe social networks boosted after Capitol attack | Planned protests spark fears of violence in Trump's final days | Election security efforts likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress US Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots MORE (D-Minn.).

If Biden wanted to take a genuinely different and appealing path, he could skip politicians and choose a woman who has been successful in the private sector — someone who delivered on creating jobs and making things happen like Sheryl Sandberg or Meg Whitman, or even better former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Both Whitman and Rice are, at least nominally, Republicans and would create a true fusion ticket.

This would be an out of the box action that no one would expect from Biden, and it would thus give him a boost.

For Biden to beat Trump in November, all he has to do is let Trump beat himself and not cause voters to be distracted by his choice of running mate.

As Trump plays more and more to the emotions of his base, he is further and further distancing himself from those independents, especially women, who will decide this election.

Biden’s path to winning is simply to be the classic liberal he is and position himself as a fundamentally decent person.

Trump's most fervent followers love it when “Trump is Trump.”

Maybe Biden’s supporters, who have nowhere near the same intensity, might want to pause.

Stop trying to mollify a narrow base of the party that cannot possibly elect a president.

Rather, let Biden be Biden — a talkative, nice man, who has seen a great deal and knows how to govern in an orderly and substantive manner.

Such a candidate can appeal to the middle ground in American politics where all elections are won.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.