Should Biden win, why do some assume he'll only serve one term?

Should Biden win, why do some assume he'll only serve one term?
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The media loves process more than anything else, so every vice presidential selection garners an overwhelming amount of attention. But the coming choice by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he is 'seriously' considering a capital gains tax cut Why Joe Biden is in trouble Harris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick MORE is being treated with an extra sense of anticipation, largely because, the reasoning goes, “Given Biden’s age, the VP will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee in four years.” Whether it's Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick The Hill's Campaign Report: LIVE: Trump from Gettysburg | The many unknowns of 2020 | Omar among those facing primary challenges Sens. Markey, Cruz clash over coronavirus relief: 'It's not a goddamn joke Ted' MORE (D-Calif), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for coronavirus over two weeks last month | Democrats deny outreach to Trump since talks collapsed | California public health chief quits suddenly On The Money: Administration defends Trump executive orders | CBO reports skyrocketing deficit | Government pauses Kodak loan pending review Harris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick MORE (D-Mass.) or Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthWillie Brown: Kamala Harris should 'politely decline' any offer to be Biden's running mate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' MORE (D-Ill.), or any of the dozen contenders being ranked and chronicled daily by the political press, there’s a strong assumption that Biden’s choice will be handed frontrunner status in 2024. That may be logical, but is it accurate?

People tend to not walk away from power. Kings and dictators usually try to hang on for life. Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNot a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' MORE in Russia and Xi Jinping in China have managed to install themselves for lifelong terms (or something close to it). Boxers almost always overstay their welcome: In fact, in September, 54-year-old Mike Tyson is scheduled to fight 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr., likely because both want the attention, money and stardom that comes with being relevant. The Rolling Stones still tour. Founders of successful startups usually hang around until they get kicked out by the board. Longtime CEOs, like Meg Whitman or Tim Armstrong, are always looking for a second or third or fourth act. 

Joe Biden has waited his entire life to become president. He’s run for the top job three different times and spent eight years under Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPandemic preparedness and response under a different president Wall Street Journal: Trump stretched law with executive orders, like Obama Trump's contempt for advice and consent MORE. Assuming the polls hold, it looks like he’s finally there. The president of the United States. Leader of the free world. Even with all of its recent flaws and faults, it is still the most powerful job in the world. Sure, it’s a stressful job and, yes, Biden is incredibly old to first begin serving in the Oval Office. But the allure is also overwhelming. The world almost literally revolves around you. Let’s say Biden’s term goes reasonably well, we’ve recovered from the pandemic within a few years and the voters are generally happy. Is he really going to walk away from all of that power and validation? Maybe he’s truly unique and selfless. But almost all of human history suggests no. 


Let’s say Biden does retire after one term. Do we really think that all of the power hungry Democrats across the country are just going to cede the 2024 nomination to Biden’s VP? Kamala Harris tried to take Biden’s head off in the debates; she may end up being his running mate. But if she’s not, is she really going to set aside her ambitions? Does Elizabeth Warren seem like the kind of person who defers to others? New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoGovernors air frustrations with Trump on unemployment plans State aid emerges as major hurdle to reviving COVID-19 talks Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for coronavirus over two weeks last month MORE (D) sees himself as a hero of the pandemic; is he really going to abandon his dream of being president — and topping his father’s record — simply out of deference to the vice president? Keep going down the list of governors, senators, members of the House and others — these people are ambitious. That’s why they’re contenders for the presidency in the first place.

Hopefully, for the Democrats, Biden will make a brilliant choice. Hopefully he’ll decide that one term is enough and the entire party will automatically rally around his VP in four years. All that requires is a full repudiation of human nature from both the new president and everyone else who wants to be president. 

Whomever Biden picks next week, take it with a grain of salt. The vice president has no real impact on the election itself. It’s possible that, again, given Biden’s age, his running mate will win the presidency in 2024, or assume it even sooner. But it’s equally possible — arguably even probable — that Biden’s choice will follow a long tradition of running mates with no real political future. So whether you like the choice or not, don’t fall for the bold declarations from pundits and columnists who we now know will likely be running the country all the way through 2032. All we’ll know is whose name is appearing alongside Biden’s on the ballot this November. Everything else is pure speculation. 

Bradley Tusk is Mayor Bloomberg's former campaign manager and the founder of Tusk Strategies and Tusk Ventures, a New York City-based political consulting firm and venture capital fund. Follow him on Twitter @bradleytusk.