Will Bi­den run? He’ll tell us soon

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dr. Am­ber Man­ning, DNP, CRNP, FNP-C is lo­cal nurse prac­ti­tioner with over 16 years of nurs­ing and health care ex­pe­ri­ence. She works at Union Hos­pi­tal in pal­lia­tive care, car­ing for those with chronic ill­nesses and pa­tients who are at end of life. Al­bert H

— There is a com­pelling case for Joe Bi­den to run for pres­i­dent.

He is an an­ti­dote to Don­ald Trump. Knowl­edge­able, hon­est and de­cent, the for­mer vice pres­i­dent has a record, even in bit­terly po­lar­ized pol­i­tics, of reach­ing across the par­ti­san aisle, and he gen­uinely cares about the strug­gles of Amer­i­cans left be­hind.

There also is a com­pelling case against Joe Bi­den run­ning in 2020.

At 77, he would be the old­est ma­jor-party nom­i­nee in U.S. his­tory. If suc­cess­ful, he would be four years older than the el­dest U.S. pres­i­dent ever to be elected (Ron­ald Rea­gan was 73 when he won his sec­ond term in 1988).

But if Bi­den failed, he’d go down as a three-time loser in pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics. He him­self has been en­cour­ag­ing po­lit­i­cal new­com­ers, call­ing for fresh faces.

In pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with top politi­cians, he’s made his case — both ways. He says he won’t be a Ham­let — he’ll make a de­ci­sion early next year. More than Bernie San­ders or any­one else, he will frame the 2020 con­test with his de­ci­sion on the Demo­cratic side, where more than a dozen con­tenders will be in the start­ing blocks.

Right now, Bi­den is po­lit­i­cally om­nipresent, al­ready cam­paign­ing in 21 states for 50 can­di­dates, cov­er­ing the party’s spec­trum. A year ago he stumped for Doug Jones, the moder­ate con­ser­va­tive who won a spe­cial Se­nate elec­tion in Alabama, and this fall for cen­trist Se­nate can­di­dates like Phil Bre­densen in Ten­nessee and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, as well as for lib­er­als Sher­rod Brown in Ohio and Wis­con­sin’s Tammy Bald­win.

He is also a wel­come pres­ence in House con­tests. I have been to more than a dozen states this sea­son and talked to a score or more of House Demo­cratic chal­lengers. Pri­vately, a sur­pris­ing num­ber say they want Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton to stay away; a few say that about Barack Obama, the most pop­u­lar politi­cian in Amer­ica.

All would wel­come Bi­den. In Florida last week he held three big pub­lic ral­lies for top Democrats; Hil­lary Clin­ton was in for pri­vate fund-rais­ers.

Bi­den was plan­ning to run last time be­fore his son Beau, the at­tor­ney gen­eral of Delaware and a po­lit­i­cal su­per­star, trag­i­cally died of brain can­cer in 2015. He be­lieves he would have won, ap­peal­ing to some of those work­ing-class vot­ers who de­fected to Trump.

On the stump, he gives a rous­ing pitch with some vin­tage Bi­den: “What the hell is hap­pen­ing?” he asks at a Jack­sonville rally last week for top Florida Democrats. “Take your coun­try back.” He has lots of fans: “I’m with Un­cle Joe,” said Janet Pat­ten of St. Au­gus­tine.

He’s very ca­pa­ble of mis­steps. Ear­lier this year, re­fer­ring to Trump’s of­fen­sive com­ments about women, Bi­den said if he were younger he’d like to “take him out be­hind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” This fall he has been a bit more care­ful. Last week he started in on the Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date, Ron DeSan­tis, who has made racial slurs, and caught him­self: “I’ve got to be care­ful.”

He doesn’t dis­guise his con­tempt for Trump, say­ing the pres­i­dent “takes the word of thugs” like Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Bi­den sees a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence in kind, not de­gree, from his pre­vi­ous pol­icy dif­fer­ences with the Rea­gan and Bush ad­min­is­tra­tions. For­eign lead­ers have told him the United States no longer is re­li­able.

Se­nior politi­cians and for­mer top na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have told him he leads in the polls, can unify most of the party and knows how to gov­ern, thus it’s im­per­a­tive he run to end the Trump night­mare.

He looks in great shape, but the age is­sue won’t go away. If he runs he may try to counter that by pledg­ing to serve only one term to clean up the mess or, more likely, to tap a younger, fe­male vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date early on.

Still, a num­ber of the can­di­dates he’s stump­ing for are call­ing for a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers and new ideas. Some of this may be op­tics. The best is­sue for Democrats right now is de­fend­ing Oba­macare’s pro­hi­bi­tion on dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, but for those crit­i­cal of Bi­den’s can­di­dacy, this is a fa­mil­iar re­frain.

Bi­den knows a cam­paign will be pun­ish­ing and, if against Trump, vi­cious. He has made some money: He is en­joy­ing the com­forts of a beach house for his ex­tended fam­ily and has re­sources to as­sure Beau’s chil­dren are taken care of. There is the mag­nif­i­cent Penn Bi­den Cen­ter for Diplo­macy and Global En­gage­ment that the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia has cre­ated in Wash­ing­ton.

His fam­ily has given him the green light but the resid­ual ef­fects of his son’s death re­main. He fig­ures he has about 10 more good years, and does he want to spend them in the pres­sure cooker of cam­paign­ing and gov­ern­ing? As a two-time pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and af­ter spend­ing eight years as vice pres­i­dent, he knows it takes 100 per­cent.

He’s not there yet. And three months is a short time to get there.

WASH­ING­TON

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