Can Joe Biden Upset Hillary Clinton?

A candidate of authenticity and experience could shake up the presidential race

Joe Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986, at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joe Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986, at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Is America ready for a president who was raised in an Irish Catholic tradition of social justice and faith, belongs to a close-knit and fiercely devoted family, has experienced profound human joy and tragedy alongside those he loves the most, is extraordinarily knowledgable about the ways of Washington and the world, is widely liked and respected by allies and adversaries on both sides of the aisle who served alongside him for decades in the Senate, has excelled in the vice presidency that was once called a puddle of warm spit by a distinguished predecessor who made much less of the post than he did, and embodies the gold standard for authenticity in an age when most citizens think most politicians are phony?

The man is Joe Biden. The time is now. The post is the presidency. The answer is yes.

Will he take the plunge? Joe Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Will he take the plunge? Joe Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

I am not suggesting Biden will or should run for the presidency or that I would support him if he does. But I suspect America would be a better place and the Democrats would emerge as a stronger party if he runs.

Joe Biden is political statesman of character and substance whose achievements throughout his career and qualifications for the presidency place him at the apex of American public life. He stands for a politics of intelligence, civility and public service and goodwill. A Biden presidency might well inspire some parents to suggest to their kids that they consider a career in what can be—but often is not—the noble profession of politics.

Joe, Hunt, Beau and Jill Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joe, Hunt, Beau and Jill Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

My advice to Biden would not be to run or not run, but to give at least two major addresses about the future of the nation and world at venues such as the JFK Presidential Library and Notre Dame University. As Pope Francis prepares for a visit to the U.S. that could have enormous influence in American politics, Biden could offer his most panoramic vision about world security, social justice, and economic equality and opportunity which would give him, and the nation, a clearer sense of whether he envisions a compelling program worthy of seeking the presidency.

The potential upside for Joe Biden is that he could combine the experience and electability of Hillary Clinton, the populist appeal of Bernie Sanders at a time when progressive populism is on the ascendancy, with the political persona of being a regular guy who cares passionately and deeply for the poor and working men and women.

Biden Family portrait with black lab Mo, photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden Family portrait with black lab Mo, photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden is the epitome of authenticity in politics. He radiates a sincerity and genuine commitment to the things he believes in. While cynical politicians may say Biden is gaffe-prone his supporters will respond—with good reason—that voters may view Biden as the unprogrammed candidate who is not a captive to public opinion polls, focus groups or synthetic words put in his mouth by consultants.

Which brings me to a brief word regarding Hillary Clinton, about whom hope springs eternal for Democrats and history provides reason for hope. She performs best when confronted by adversity. The Hillary Clinton who ran for president in early 2008 was eerily reminiscent of the Clinton who runs today. But when faced with the Obama challenge, around the time of the Pennsylvania primary she escaped the clutches of certain advisors who had held her back and became a more liberated, energized and authentic candidate who seemed to have fun campaigning.

Jill Krementz photographed Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden helping daughter Ashley blow out the candles on her fifth birthday. Looking on: nephew, Cuffe Owens, son of Joe's sister, Val, sons Beau (seated) and Hunt, and Joe Sr. (standing).

Jill Krementz photographed Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden helping daughter Ashley blow out the candles on her fifth birthday. Looking on: nephew, Cuffe Owens, son of Joe’s sister, Val, sons Beau (seated) and Hunt, and Joe Sr. (standing).

Had Clinton found her voice a month earlier in 2008, or had the primary season continued a month longer, she might well be finishing her second term today. Today Hillary faces adversity again from Republicans who have transferred their contempt for President Obama to her, from unforced errors she has made that have hurt her cause, and from a growing worry among many Democrats about the high levels of distrust she generates.

I believe it is a blessing that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has emerged as the progressive conscience of the Senate. She would be a party-lifting choice to be the keynote speaker at the next Democratic convention. Similarly it is a blessing that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has emerged as the progressive conscience of the 2016 campaign.

If Biden runs for president he would be a formidable candidate who would press Clinton to the limit. Whoever is nominated would be a stronger and tougher candidate of an energized party, as Obama was after the Obama-Clinton competition in 2008.

Can Joe Biden upend Hillary Clinton? Biden would be a decided underdog but stranger things have happened in presidential campaigns, and he could certainly pull off an upset victory in a campaign that has already seen surprise surges for candidates in both parties.

Joe Biden has earned the right to be seriously considered for the presidency. His vast experience, his achievements throughout a brilliant career, and the authenticity and goodwill that are the Biden brand offer great gifts to his party and the nation whether or not this good man becomes a candidate for president in 2016.

Brent Budowsky formerly served as policy aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex) and Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander D-Ark.), then Chief Deputy Majority Whip. He holds a law degree from Catholic University, and an LL.M. degree from the London School of Economics and writes a weekly column for The Hill.

Joe and Jill Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joe and Jill Biden photographed by Jill Krementz on June 9, 1986 at the Biden home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Can Joe Biden Upset Hillary Clinton?