What Makes Joe Run?

Joe Biden speaks with the media at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)
For the listless Biden, the finish line must look light years away

 Victorious presidential candidates need fire in the belly. Joe Biden’s burns as brightly as a birthday candle.

What makes Joe run? Why does this former vice president, age 76, seek the White House? Biden asked himself this very question.

Could I die happily not having heard ‘Hail to the Chief’ play for me?” Biden wondered aloud last month in Prole, Iowa. “Yeah, I could,” he answered, and explained, “It’s really, really, really important that Donald Trump not be reelected.” Would he be a candidate absent President Trump? Biden said, “I’m not sure, to be quite honest with you.” And what about serving as president? Biden said: “The longer I’ve been around, the less that appeals to me. I’ve watched up close and personal what eight years in the White House is like.”

Biden’s recent comments seem almost plagiarized from his remarks on July 18, 2013:

I can die a happy man never having been president of the United States of America,” Biden told GQ magazine.

Such words do not send campaign volunteers racing to the phone banks. With so many alternatives, Democrat activists and primary voters will find it hard to feel Biden’s fire in their bellies, when it’s dimmer than a pilot light.

Despite their wacky ideas, senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont (78 on Sunday) and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (70) are admirably energetic and passionate, especially for septuagenarians. Such zeal helps explain Warren’s recent buoyancy and Sanders’ persistence near the front of the pack, particularly after Hillary stacked 2016’s deck against him. Yes, Bernie. It was a rigged system.

The notion that the solidly liberal Biden is not a full-throated socialist and, thus, can beat Trump keeps him atop national surveys, though by a shrinking margin. May 12’s RealClearPolitics poll average found 41 percent of Democrats behind Biden. On Wednesday, he stood at 30 percent. Still, if Biden sees little rationale for his candidacy beyond not being Trump and drowsily continues to merit Trump’s nickname for him, “Sleepy Joe” might endure a final descent into Wilmington International Airport.

Even if Biden survives the endless, brutal primaries, will he have the stamina to confront Trump? Never Trumpers and Trump 2020 diehards agree on this: The 73-year-old president has the energy of a freshman senator. His 4 a.m. Twitter posts show that he needs little sleep. Trump seems unable to take more than an afternoon off. He is boundlessly enthusiastic and self-confident, perhaps to a fault, about his campaign, ideas, accomplishments, and proposals. This is as true now as in 2016, when Trump headlined 132 rallies between August 1 and Election Day. Hillary addressed just 63. As page 173 of the Mueller Report verified: “Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the [Trump] Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.” Once again, Russia did not clinch Trump’s victory. He simply outworked the Duchess of Chappaqua.

Trump’s boundless verve and 87 percent approval among Republicans — per a Tuesday Economist/YouGov survey — generate base-voter intensity. What if Trump’s fans swamp their precincts, and Democrats yawn about pulling the Biden lever in November 2020? For Republicans, this could smell like . . . victory.

Meanwhile, Biden’s gaffes have gone beyond merely poor political judgment, such as offering liberal primary voters warm words about his collaboration with segregationist, white-supremacist Democrats during his 36-year Senate career, including Mississippi’s James Eastland (Biden: “We got things done”) and his “great, great friend” South Carolina’s Ernest Hollings.

But even graver pratfalls have involved Biden saying that he was in Vermont while in New Hampshire, claiming that he welcomed Parkland shooting survivors as vice president (which he didn’t), seemingly forgetting Obama’s name last week (“President — my boss”), recalling that MLK and RFK were assassinated in “the late ’70s,” and also conflating three different occasions honoring a decorated G.I. into one imaginary “event.”

We choose truth over facts,” Biden recently declared. He later stated: “Details are irrelevant.”

Democrats should ponder whether Biden is strong and sentient enough for a general-election bid against the robust, wily President Trump.

Republicans should calculate if they are better off facing a seemingly beatable, far-Left but ferocious Bernie Sanders (2017 Americans for Democratic Action Liberal Quotient: 95) or Elizabeth Warren (2017 ADA: 100) or a reputedly unbeatable, slightly less-Leftist (2008 ADA: 80) but increasingly befogged Joe Biden.

For now, the former veep’s supporters should shout this slogan: Make Biden Awake Again.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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