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Politics

Joe Biden Heads to Iowa as the Clear Fallback Option for Democrats in 2016

September 12, 2013 - 6:00pm

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to head out to Iowa, the traditional home of the first presidential caucus, to take part in a major Democratic political event hosted by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in Indianola on Sunday. While he could still pull out of the event if the situation in Syria gets worse, Bidens scheduling of the event shows he is seriously contemplating making a third bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden ran for the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008 but failed badly both times. In 1988, Bidens tendency to shoot himself in the foot with gaffes came back to haunt him as his campaign never recovered from accusations that he plagiarized British politician Neil Kinnock in his speeches. In 2008, Biden simply couldnt keep up with the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In all 2016 polls, Biden is a solid second behind Clinton among possible Democratic candidates. Even more than Clinton, Biden is clearly linked with Obama with voters thinking more about his time as vice president instead of his almost four decades in Washington.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released this week shows overwhelming majorities of likely voters across the nation think Obama and Biden are in the same political ballpark. While 70 percent of likely voters think Obama is a liberal, 68 percent of them think the same of Biden, while 21 percent think both the president and the vice president are moderates. The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from Sept. 10-11 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

Biden gets mixed marks in approval polls though he generally gets high marks from Democrats. But even among the party faithful, Bidens numbers pale compared to Clintons. While Clinton generally holds leads over possible Republican opponents, the GOP candidates do much better when matched against Biden.

While he is excellent in mobilizing Democratic activists and is a solid grassroots campaigner, Bidens mouth still can get him in trouble. For example, this week, attacking Republicans as a Neanderthal crowd for opposing the Violence Against Women Act, Biden couldnt help resist but add, I think I understand the Senate better than any man or woman who's ever served in there.

Its a pretty debatable assertion as the likes of Henry Clay, Joe Robinson, Richard Russell, LBJ, Everette Dirksen and others understood the Senate very well. Even in Bidens own time in the Senate, fellow Democrat Ted Kennedy served longer and probably had more influence on policy and politics. Bidens boasting has gotten him in trouble before -- witness his bragging about his grades in college which proved hollow back in his first presidential bid.

While he did much better in his 2008 presidential bid than his 1988 one, Biden simply could never break into the top tier despite a strong series of debate performances. He could be in the same situation in 2016 despite his early dash to Iowa. Biden is a clear second choice for Democrats behind Clinton and Republicans will have a better chance against the vice president than they would against the former first lady and secretary of state.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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