But here’s the really fun part: Biden has a good shot at playing the spoiler. Because there’s a fact that Biden’s detractors and Clinton’s groupies are loath to acknowledge: Biden is the much better politician. It’s not that Biden is a fantastic politician; it’s that Clinton is a very boring one.
But that’s not all. Vice presidents have a terrible record of getting elected to the Oval Office on their own. George H. W. Bush was the first president since Martin Van Buren to be elected straight from V-POTUS to POTUS. (Also ominous for Democrats: 1988 was the only time in the last half-century that a party has won the White House for the third time in a row, a fact attributable to Ronald Reagan’s popularity and Michael Dukakis’s Dukakisness.) But vice presidents have more success securing the nomination. You have to go back to 1952 and Alben Barkley to find one who sought but failed to win his party’s nomination.
I’d be stunned if Biden actually beat Clinton in the primaries, but he doesn’t need to win to ruin things for her. Simply by running, Biden would contest Clinton’s claim of entitlement and light a match on the Hindenburg that is her “inevitability.” He would encourage others from outside the establishment to run against them both and to portray them as a pair of old-guard retreads who want the presidency out of a sense of entitlement.
“Obama by definition has lowered the bar of expectations for progressives,” says Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, who backed Clinton in 2007 and plans on supporting her again. “It’s clear to me she’s running.”
Clinton seems to have largely rehabilitated her image in the eyes of liberal primary voters and interest groups, a remarkable feat given just how bitter things got in 2008. Back then, many on the left flank of the party villainized her husband as a reckless narcissist who foisted NAFTA and financial deregulation on the nation, and skewered her as a calculating hawk who had cheered the Iraq War and helped pass George W. Bush’s regressive 2005 bankruptcy bill, among other alleged evils.